Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Dodge was best known for its compact Dart, a simple car with an iron constitution and a few hot-rod models that gained a strong following among enthusiasts. Dodge tried to recapture those fond memories with the 2013-2016 Dart, albeit with less success.
The modern-day Dodge Dart was a compact sedan whose basic structure, suspension and steering were derived from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a sporty hatchback sold in Europe. But there were differences. The Dart was not only much bigger than the Alfa, but it was also larger than its myriad compact car competitors. Only VW's Jetta came close. As a result, the Dart had more passenger space and made you feel as if you were driving something more substantial than an ordinary compact car.
The Dodge Dart offered sharp steering and commendable handling as well as a degree of quality, feature content and mechanical sophistication that greatly exceeded that of previous small Dodges. We felt the Dart deserved consideration based on its sizable cabin and trunk, user-friendly electronics, big-car driving character and ample feature content. On the other hand, the front seats weren't very comfortable, the base engine was slow, and the higher-performance versions suffered from a harsh ride and lack of refinement. Ultimately, the Dodge Dart was never more than a midpack player that fell short of the competition on several fronts.
Used Dodge Dart Models
Chrysler sold the modern-day Dodge Dart from 2013 to 2016. The original model lineup consisted of SE, SXT, Limited and GT models. In 2014, Dodge added a midlevel Aero trim, similar to the SXT but with low-rolling-resistance tires and other fuel economy-enhancing features. A new Turbo model, similar to the SE but with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, joined the lineup in the Dart's final year. SE models were fairly basic: Nice-to-have features such as air conditioning, cruise control and power locks were relegated to the options list, although higher trim levels were nicely equipped. The Dart offered a lengthy and varied options list, which gave buyers who were willing to custom-order a car the ability to fine-tune it to their tastes. But it was difficult for buyers to find the features they wanted on cars in dealer stock, a problem that persists when you're buying used.
Dodge equipped base-model Darts with a 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter non-turbocharged engine with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. Power was a problem. In Edmunds testing, a 2.0-liter Dart took 9.9 seconds to get to 60 mph, and that was with a manual transmission. Other models featured a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that delivered the same 160 hp, but with 184 lb-ft of torque instead of the 148 lb-ft of the 2.0-liter version. It was much quicker, hitting 60 mph in 8.3 seconds with a manual transmission and 8.6 seconds with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, which unfortunately suffered from lurching low-speed acceleration.
Dodge also offered a 184-hp 2.4-liter engine (standard on GTs from 2013 and SXT and Limited models starting in 2014). It too was an improvement over the 2.0-liter engine: We clocked an automatic GT to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. But the fuel economy (26-27 mpg combined) was middling for a compact sedan.
The Dodge Dart's biggest advantage was its size. Though not terribly large on the outside, the Dart offered generous legroom for rear passengers. We liked the Uconnect stereo interface, and handling was another high point, especially in GT trim. But the engines either delivered lukewarm acceleration or poor fuel economy, and the sportier models had a harsh ride. Comfort was another frequent complaint, with few backs and bottoms that seemed to fit comfortably into the Dart's front seats. Overall, the Dart didn't do enough to distinguish itself, and it was no surprise to hear that Dodge was discontinuing it after the 2016 model year.