Minor updates abound for the 2014 Dodge Dart, even though the compact sedan was all-new for 2013. The range-topping Dart GT model debuted in late 2013 with a new 2.4-liter I-4 engine and a traditional six-speed automatic; the 1.4-liter turbo feels just as powerful (despite a 24-hp deficiency), but the automatic makes the driving experience much more enjoyable compared with the clunky dual-clutch automatic transmission that's offered with the turbo. The 2.4-liter is also now standard on all 2014 Dart models except for the base Dart SE and the fuel-sipping Dart Aero. The front seats have also been resculpted for better comfort, and the dashboard material has a new texture that's less reflective...
When the Dodge Dart debuted in 2013, it marked the first all-new model created under the Chrysler/Fiat tie-up. Using a modified version of the platform from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dart blended American design and engineering with Italian driving dynamics. It worked. From behind the wheel, the Dart is reminiscent of an older Saab 9-3 or a first-generation Audi A4: a little quirky, on the larger side of compact, and reasonably fun to drive. There's a certain European character in the nimble handling, well-weighted steering, and tweener size. However, some of the character comes from the long throws of the six-speed manual transmission and a fair bit of turbo lag from the optional 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The Dart is also a competitive player in the compact-sedan segment thanks to the availability of numerous upmarket technologies. The optional eight-inch touchscreen has crisp graphics and is quick to respond to user inputs. The Garmin-based navigation system is simple to use with clear directions and bright colors. LED taillights are standard, and Dodge's characteristic "racetrack" taillights (which run across the trunk) are standard on all but the base Dart SE. Slick LED interior lighting, automatic windshield wipers, xenon headlamps, blind-spot monitoring, and a backup camera are all available. A reconfigurable, seven-inch TFT screen in place of an analog speedometer is standard on Dart Aero, Limited, and GT models.
The compact-car segment represents more than fifteen percent of all new-car sales. Dodge's entry in the segment, the Dart, uses architecture from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta -- a benefit of being part of Fiat's family -- and resurrects a name from the 1960s and '70s. The new car greatly improves upon its compact Dodge predecessors, the Caliber and the Neon. The Dart is larger all around than its overseas sibling and is wider, longer, and taller than most compact sedans. There are three available engines, all paired with a Fiat-sourced six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. The 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines are available with a six-speed automatic transmission, and the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is available with a Fiat-designed six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The traditional automatic is silky-smooth and unobtrusive in its action, but the dual-clutch is clunky and greatly detracts from the Dart's otherwise good driving dynamics. There is also the Dart Aero model, which uses the 160-hp 1.4-liter turbo, either transmission, and a host of aerodynamic modifications to increase fuel economy to 28/41 mpg city/highway with the dual-clutch or to 27/39 mpg with the manual. Fuel economy for the 2.0-liter is rated at 24/34 mpg or 25/36 mpg (automatic or manual); the 2.4-liter is rated at either 21/30 mpg for the automatic or 23/33 mpg for the manual. We wish that the 1.4-liter turbo were available with the traditional automatic, as the smaller engine packs as much punch as the larger 2.4-liter but uses less fuel.
The Dart has a smooth and well-controlled ride, and it feels both more substantial and more capable than most of its competitors. That said, the Dart doesn't render other choices in the compact-car segment, such as the Mazda 3 and the Ford Focus, any less desirable.
Competition is fierce in this group, but with the Dart, Dodge can put up a good fight.
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Ford Focus
- Kia Forte
- Mazda 3