We were surprised when a neighbor came running over to look at the bright orange (actually called Heather Orange) when we stopped to pick up our mail from the neighborhood postal boxes. She drives a Toyota Avalon and the Dart didn?t seem like her kind of car.
“Is that the new Dart?? she asked excitedly.
She explained that her father had rebuilt one of the early Dodge Darts from the 1960?s to like-new condition, and how much they had loved it. Obviously she knew her cars, because only thing like the original was the small Dart logo on the lower trunk lid.
Last year when the Dodge Dart was introduced, it was the first Dart since the original name was retired in 1976. The 2013 Dart was entirely new car from the ground up, so it?s essentially unchanged for 2014.
It?s a whole new kind of Dodge developed by the newly established global Chrysler and Fiat group ? built on Fiat Group architecture. The design is contemporary with more of a European flare, but the crosshair grill and taillight treatment says ?Dodge? by design and by label.
?The Dodge Dart was a dream to design,? said Joe Dehner, Head of Dodge Design ? Chrysler Group LLC. ?The Alfa Romeo-based architecture allowed us to design an exterior with great proportions that say ?fun-to-drive? when you look at it. Add in the Charger-inspired ?racetrack? tail lamps, a new, sleek crosshair grille and piano black accents, and it all adds up to a performance-inspired design with just the right amount of attitude.?
The Dart?s interior is simple and well-organized with four focal points, counting the large number of controls mounted on the face and backside of the steering wheel. In addition to a typical- looking instrument cluster and climate controls mounted low on the center stack, there is the massive 8.5 inch Uconnect touch screen mounted above the center stack. The Uconnect system is one of the most user friendly communications and entertainment systems in the business and is a step up from most competitors. We especially like the quick response times, large icons and sharp images.
The Dart shares DNA with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in the form of a stretched and widened platform. Alfa?s are noted for their excellent handling, and the relationship pays big dividends for the Dart with impressive handling and precise electric steering. The Dart whipped through the mountain roads, feeling more like a rear drive car than the front wheel drive it is.
Under the hood, the Dart is pure Dodge, however, with three engine choices. The 2014 Dodge Dart engine lineup includes a 160-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder Tigershark, a 160-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder MultiAir? and a 184-hp 2.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on all three engines and the six-speed automatic is an option on the two larger naturally aspirated engines. There?s a manually shifting dual dry clutch transmission available as an option on the turbocharged 1.4-liter engine.
Our Dart Rallye test car was equipped with the 2.4-liter Tigershark with MultiAir? four-cylinder engine with the six-speed automatic transmission and manual shifting linkage. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in just over eight seconds. Fuel economy is listed by the EPA at 23 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. We averaged 27.5 mpg during a week of mixed driving conditions including a few jackrabbit starts.
There?s a Dodge Dart for nearly every budget and taste. The Dart is offered in five trim levels: SE, SXT, Aero, GT and Limited. The Aero has been tweaked with aerodynamic enhancements and other modifications that put it into the 40 mpg or better club. The Aero gets an EPA rating of 28 mpg city and 41 mpg highway.
The Dodge Dart pricing ranges from $17,490, including the destination charge, for the SE up to $23,990 for the Limited. Fully loaded, the Limited price tops out at $27,319 when equipped with all the available options. The SXT with Rallye Appearance Package, which we tested, had a base price of $19,490. The Customer Preferred Package with 8.4-inch Uconnect navigation, Rallye Appearance Package, six-speed automatic transmission, SiriusXM satellite radio and Uconnect services (traffic and travel aids) brought the bottom line price to $22,520.
The Dart comes in a wide variety of colors and trim options in addition to the large section of available features. The personalization is further facilitated by the more than 150 customization options offered by Mopar specifically for the Dart.
Dodge engineers placed a heavy emphasis on safety features for the new Dart. From a structural standpoint, the Dart has 68 percent high-strength steel, which helps lighten the vehicle and make it more ridged or solid. Active safety features include equipment like 10 airbags, blind spot monitoring, Rear Cross Path Detection, hill start assist, parking aids, rearview camera and Electronic Roll Mitigation along with a long list of accident prevention equipment.
We give 2014 Dodge Dart gets high marks for its fresh styling, European manners and frugal engines. A little more horsepower and torque would be a nice addition, though. But overall, we think it?s a good car at a good price.