Possibly one of the most eagerly anticipated models of 2013, and the first child of the Chrysler-Fiat marriage, a union that although is still in its honeymoon period, it has already shown lots of promising good things coming down the pike and made the Dart singlehandedly earned Fiat an ownership increase of a shade over 5%, lifting its controlling interest to 58.5%. Furthermore, this new vehicle also represents a return to form for Dodge compact cars, a great thing for Chrysler because they have not had a player in the compact-sedan market, which significantly makes up 85% of compact sales, since the Dodge Neon left the lineup in 2005.
The new 2013 Dodge Dart compact car rides on a modified Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform and is available in six trim levels: SE, SXT, Rallye, Aero (most fuel efficient) Limited, and R/T. We were fortunate a couple of weeks ago to test the Rallye edition, and all we can say is that we had this perpetual smile on our faces for all 7 days, so here is a warning from us to you: If you wanna get behind the wheel of a fun, good looking and nimble car, you must include it in your list of new car choices – you will also be happy to learn that the Dart is priced rather competitively, the base price for the standard SE model starts at $16,000, while our Rallye review unit has a base price of $18,000, but after all the toys and sporty upgrades inside and out were added up, the MSRP on ours shot up to $24,685. For that price our test vehicle had a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (a $1,300 option on the Rallye) that offered 160 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Other engine options include a 2.0-liter four cylinder that also gets 160 hp but offers much less torque (148 lb.-ft.), and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that is reserved for the R/T trim making 184 hp and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. Transmission choices are just as vast with a six-speed manual transmission standard on all models, a six-speed automatic available with the 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter engines and a six-speed dual dry clutch automated manual transmission available only in conjunction with the 1.4-liter turbo.
With this many trim levels and combinations, Dodge has a Dart for almost every potential buyer possible, and our test model was a pleasure to drive for that week. From its exterior styling, performance and fuel economy to interior comfort and convenience, this ‘Americano/Italiano’ compact machine is right up there in every aspect of the game with the competition.
One of the key features of the 2013 Dodge Dart is Chrysler’s first use of a dual-clutch automatic trannie (DDCT – Dual Dry Clutch Transmission), essentially an automatically shifted manual transmission. Dual-clutch automatics are usually quicker and more efficient than conventional automatics because they shift near-instantly and there’s no fluid coupling — standard automatics spin a fluid to move power from engine to wheels, but the DDCT has a full mechanical grip. The one in the Dart is a Fiat unit, using the same gearset as the manual transmission.
Without a doubt, this new Dart completely and totally separates itself from its compact-car competition, in the interior department. It feels amazing, plush and more like that of a midsize car than a compact, with ample front-seat space and rear-seat legroom. The seats are excellent, with the front buckets being class leaders, with good side bolstering and seat bottoms that keep you planted. The instrument panel has a 7″ Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display in the center of two analog gauges. The display can be configured in a variety of ways, including a digital speedometer, or another analog gauge and the vehicle-information message center. Surrounding the entire IP is what the designers call a “lit floating island bezel.” In essence, it’s a thin strip of light that highlights the IP. The RALLYE we had for the week had the Uconnect 8.4″ touch screen with voice command to handle navigation, Bluetooth phone connection and the sound system. The heating and cooling controls are simple dials located below the large screen that dominates the center stack.
Interior storage is good throughout, with a glovebox large enough to hold a laptop computer, the front seat cushion flips up to reveal a large storage area and the door pockets all have deep storage pockets. The 60/40 rear seats fold down to open up the trunk, creating an even larger cargo area.
The 2013 Dart scored a five-star rating in both the overall frontal and side-impact crash tests, giving it an overall five-star score. It comes standard with 10 air bags and uses one of the auto industry’s highest content-ratios of high-strength steel, according to the automaker. “The 5-star safety rating is further evidence that the all-new Dodge Dart is much more than a stylish, fun-to-drive vehicle,” said Chrysler U.S. sales CEO Reid Bigland. “The Dart represents genuine value, which we at Chrysler recognize is a precious commodity to consumers.”
This is a significant vehicle for Chrysler, so much so, that they have gone plenty out of their parameters and ways to make this car a big deal for them. And with the attractive base price, the countless combinations of goodies and options and the solid EPA numbers, this amore Italiane macchina will definitely be a winner for a company that on June 10, 2009, emerged from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy directed by the U.S. government, and by all accounts is zooming along the right path of total success!