Is the new Dodge Dart a good car? First drive
Dodge Dart SXT
1963 Dodge Dart. Photo: Chrysler
Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Photo: Fiat
The Dart is back. With this new model and the old name, Chrysler hopes to revive its presence in the compact car segment.
The new Dodge Dart is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform that has been stretched and widened for the North American market. Alfa Romeo Giulietta is an Italian compact luxury car sold in Europe for $27,000-$40,000.
Compared to other compacts, the Dart is a couple of inches wider and as a result, it offers best in class hip and shoulder room in the front. It is also heavier (3242 lb. for 2.0L auto) and feels more substantial on the road. The Dart's safety ratings are among the best in its class: five out of five stars overall in the NHTSA crash tests and Top Safety Pick from the IIHS.
Handling is another strong point; all Dart trim levels except the base SE are equipped with wider 225 tires for excellent road holding and braking (most compacts have 205 or 215 tires).
Unusual for a compact car, the Dart offers a giant 8.4-inch center touch-screen display that is available on all but the base SE trim levels. And if you want your Dart to be original, there are 12 exterior colors and 14(!) interior color and trim combinations.
The Dart is built at Chrysler Belvidere Assembly Plant in Belvidere, Illinois. For 2013, The US and Canadian MSRP starts at $15,995. The US nicely-equipped 2.0L automatic Rallye trim will come to just over $20,000 without destination.
Fuel Economy: The 2013 2.0L Dart automatic is rated at 27 mpg combined or 24/34 mpg (9.8/6.9 L/100 km) city/highway. The 1.4L turbo Dart auto with Aero package gets 28 mpg city and 40 mpg highway (8.4/5.9 L/100 km).
Inside: First thing you notice opening the door is how substantial it feels - something that is you'd commonly see in luxury cars.
The 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen available in SXT, Rallye, Limited and GT controls the radio, CD or iPod, phone and optional navigation. It also displays the optional back-up camera (available in all but SE trims) when reversing.
Another 7-inch display, integrated into the instrument panel (available on Limited and R/T) can be configured to show things like a digital speedometer, turn by turn navigation and fuel economy.
The driver's seat height is adjustable and the steering tilts and telescopes, so it's easy to find a comfortable driving position.
Some of the interior materials are not of the highest quality, but this didn't bother anyone. Rear seat space is about average for the class. The rear seats fold down to accommodate longer cargo items. The trunk is rated at 13.1 cu. ft.
Handling and performance: On the road, the Dart handles comfortably. The ride is compliant and quiet; minor imperfections are filtered out, but you will feel larger bumps. Braking is very good. The Dart feels very stable at high speeds. The 2.0L engine is adequately powered, but the 6-speed automatic transmission is clearly configured for better fuel economy. However, when pushed, the car feels lively and fun to drive; it accelerates quickly and holds the road well even with 4 adults inside. We test drove the Dart back to back with Mazda 3 that is considered the leader in terms of handling among the compacts. The overall handling was comparable, but with wider tires, the Dart had more grip and better braking. The lighter Mazda 3 on the other hand, felt more agile.
Safety: All Dart models come with disc brakes all-around, standard Antilock brakes, Stability Control, Traction Control and 10 airbags. In the NHTSA crash tests, the 2013 Dart received five out of five stars in both, frontal and side crash tests, with five stars overall. This is actually one of the best marks in the class, better than Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Elantra.
Mechanical: Three 4-cylinder engines are available: the base 160-hp 2.0-liter DOHC Tigershark is standard on SE, SXT, Rallye and Limited; it comes with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. For buyers looking for fuel efficiency, there is an optional 160-hp 1.4L MultiAir intercooled turbocharged motor available on SE, SXT, Rallye and Limited. It comes with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed dual dry clutch automated manual transmission. Dodge Dart GT is fitted with a 184-hp 2.4-liter MultiAir 2 Tigershark engine. The 2.0L and 2.4L motors can run on regular gasoline; premium 91 or higher is recommended for the 1.4L turbo.
The Dart has MacPherson struts in the front and European-styled bi-link independent rear suspension. The steering is electrically-assisted.
Timing belt or chain? The 1.4L turbo engine has a timing belt that according to the 2013 Dart owner's manual needs to be replaced every 150,000 miles or 240,000 km. Both the 2.0L and 2.4L engines have a timing chain.
Pros: Safety ratings, road holding, braking, substantial road feel, styling, quiet compliant ride, large center display.
Cons: Some interior materials could be better, fuel economy for 2.0L engine, the front seats are not the most comfortable
Overall Chrysler needed a competitive entry into the small car segment and with the new Dart they succeeded at that. We showed the Dart to many people and the general reaction was that of a pleasant surprise; as somebody put it: "Oh, I didn't know Dodge makes such a nice product!" Even people who prefer imports were impressed. Everyone liked the sporty styling, roominess in the front and the 8.4-inch center display was certainly an attention grabber. Some reviewers liked the substantial feel of the doors; others pointed out the nice sound of the exhaust. Of course, good safety ratings, confident handling and solid feel on the road are a big plus. All in all, if you're in the market for a compact sedan, Dodge Dart deserves consideration.
What is MultiAir technology? In a conventional engine, the intake valves are opened and closed mechanically by the camshaft and the valve opening or valve lift is always the same.
Fiat MultiAir technology
Ideally the amount of valve lift should increase at higher engine RPMs and decrease at lower RPMs. Some car manufacturers use mechanical means to vary the valve lift (e.g. Honda VTEC, Toyota VVTL-i). Fiat's MultiAir technology controls the valve lift electronically by modulating the hydraulic pressure. In the MultiAir engine, the intake valves have no mechanical connection with the camshaft. Instead, the camshaft pushes small pistons creating hydraulic pressure that opens the intake valves. The electronic solenoids control the amount of hydraulic pressure, thus controlling the amount of valve lift. The advantage of this system is that the valve lift can be adjusted continuously rather than in steps, potentially eliminating the need for a conventional throttle valve. Of course, this system relies on engine oil to transfer hydraulic pressure, meaning it's important to keep engine oil clean and topped up.
Maintenance According to the 2013 Dart owner's manual, Dodge recommends using 5W-40 synthetic oil in the 1.4L turbo engine and 0W-20 in the 2.0L and 2.4L engines.
What is the recommended oil change interval? The 2013 owner's manual doesn't specify the interval for regular oil changes. It says that the oil change indicator system will display the message 'Change Oil' automatically; the interval is calculated based on the driving conditions. The oil change indicator needs to be reset after performing the scheduled maintenance.
How to reset the oil change indicator? The procedure is described in your owner's manual (page 297 in the 2013 Dodge Dart OM).
More on maintenance:
| 10 simple tips how to keep
your car running longer »
| Easy car maintenance
checklist with photos »
2013 Dodge Dart Specifications
| Overall length:
| 183.9 in (4,672 mm)
72.0 in (1,830 mm)
57.7 in (1,465 mm)
106.4 in (2,703 mm)
|Turning diameter (curb-to-curb):
|| 17-in. wheels: 36.5 ft (11.1 m)
18-in. wheels: 37.7 ft (11.5 m)
|| 1000 lb. (454 kg)
|| 13.1 cu. ft (0.37 m³)
| Standard on SE, SXT, Rallye and Limited:
Optional on SE, SXT, Rallye and Limited:
Standard on GT:
| 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 16-valve
variable valve timing DOHC Tigershark
160 hp @ 6,300 rpm
148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
1.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 16-valve
turbocharged intercooled SOHC MultiAir
160 hp @ 5,500 rpm
184 lb-ft @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 16-valve
SOHC MultiAir 2 Tigershark
184 hp @ 6,250 rpm
171 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
|EPA Fuel Economy* (US mpg, L/100 km):|
| 2.0L manual:
1.4L turbo manual:
1.4L turbo automatic:
| city: 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km)
hwy: 36 mpg (6.5 L/100 km)
city: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 34 mpg (6.9 L/100 km)
city: 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 39 mpg (6.0 L/100 km)
city: 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 37 mpg (6.4 L/100 km)
|| 2.0, 2.4 L: Unleaded regular, 87
1.4 L: Unleaded premium, 91 or higher
|Fuel Tank Capacity:
|| 15.8 US gallons (60 liters)
|Engine oil capacity:|
|2.0 L 4-cylinder engine:
1.4 L 4-cylinder engine:
2.4 L 4-cylinder engine:
|5.0 US qt (4.7 liters)
4.0 US qt (3.8 liters)
5.0 US qt (4.7 liters)