When Chrysler got together with Fiat a few years ago, many were skeptical that the marriage would produce anything worthwhile. Those skeptics are probably single. What the Chrysler-Fiat paring has produced are some the better cars on the market today. They’re not flashy supercars, just well built machines priced reasonably that look good and perform well on the road.
The 2013 Dodge Dart is a perfect example of that. As we learned after a recent week with a 2013 Limited model, Dodge has yet another entry that performs well, is reasonably priced and seems well put together.
The Dart, first introduced in 1960 was a mid-sized model that was a steady seller for Chrysler up until 1976 when it was replaced by the Aspen. For those of us who came of age in the 1970s many Dodge cars were less than memorable; the Aspen in particular was boxy slow moving breast owned by a friend’s parents who allowed us to take it on the weekends after we both earned our drivers licenses. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly a chick magnet. My how times have changed.
The reintroduced Dart still fits into the mid-sized category. Based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in Europe the new Dart is far from the old Dodge boxes of the 1970s. It’s like having an Italian cousin who wears a lot of bling and spices up your family reunion. The new style looks good, as it should, and considering the reasonable price of $25,190 for the Limited model we tested it’s packed full of features . They include parking assist with the always welcomed rear view camera and blind spot indicator, leather wrapped seats and the UConnect system with sat-nav which among today’s carmakers is one of the best infotainment systems on the market.
The entry-level engine, a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter I-4 with 160 hp mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, won’t exactly put you back in the seat. The power can sometimes be lacking but not dangerously so; it’s like getting your lazy teenager to get up and mow the grass, sure it will get done just not right away. Perhaps the engine lag is due to the gearing so that the fuel mileage, 24 mpg in the city, 34 on the highway is achievable. And that’s a shame, because despite all the positives about the little Dart, the lack of power in engine really does bring it down.
However, there is a trick to getting up and going. Using the manual feature on the automatic and letting the driver decide when to shift will make the Dart come alive; it’s like Clark Kent taking off his glasses and jumping into a phone booth. If there were a mode for sport, one that stiffened the suspension a bit, then the body roll evident when trying a high speed corner would no doubt be much more comfortable. IF the engine had just a bit more get up and go, this car would be a winner.
So the base engine does lack in power, but if you are looking for a sports car then move along there is nothing to see here. What the Dart does deliver is a comfortable ride, decent handling, fuel mileage and enough features to make the everyday commute a pleasant one. There is a model of the Dart with a 1.4 liter turbo charged powerplant. While we didn’t test that we suspect the extra 20 or so horsepower may just make the difference.
If you keep in mind that this isn’t a sports car designed for use on a track and are willing to give up and bit of get up and go, then the Dart is worth a look. Just don’t plan on winning any stoplight-to-stoplight drag races.
The 2013 Dodge Dart Limited
Base price $20,790
Price as tested $25,190
Vehicle layout front engine, fwd, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine (as tested) 2.0l/160-hp/148-lb-ft dohc 16-valve i-4
Transmission (as tested) 6-speed automatic
0-60 mph 9.9 sec.
Quarter mile 17.4 sec @ 81.1 mph
Fuel mileage est.: 25(city) 36 (hwy)
Fuel mileage as tested: 26 (mixed conditions)
Wheelbase: 106.4 in
Length: 183.9 in
Width: 72.0 in height: 57.7 in
Curb weight: 3266 lb
Front head room 38.6 in.
Front hip room 54.8 in.
Front leg room 42.2 in.
Front shoulder room 58.2 in.
Rear hip room 52.6 in.
Rear head room 37.0 in.
Rear leg room 35.2 in.
Rear shoulder room 56.1 in.
Basic 3 yr./ 36000 mi.
Drivetrain 5 yr./ 100000 mi.
Roadside 3 yr./ 36000 mi.
Rust 5 yr./ 100000 mi
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