By on June 11, 2012

The last time Chrysler made a serious attempt at the C-segment was in 1995 with the Neon. High initial sales were soon followed by less-than-stellar crash scores, a redesign that put off buyers, the death of the Plymouth brand, and the unholy offspring that was the Dodge Caliber. With Fiat needing to add a “40 MPG CAFE” vehicle to the fleet to continue their acquisition, the Dodge Dart was born. This first fruit of the Fiat/Dodge marriage isn’t just a rebadged Alfa Romeo Giulietta (pronounced Juliet-ta), and there’s a reason for that. Dodge wants a bigger part of the pie since sedans account for 80% of the compact segment. Rather than “sedanify” the Giulietta, Dodge took the extra step of crafting an entirely new vehicle that shares little with the Italian organ donor. Can some Italian spice give Dodge what they need to compete with the growing compact sedan segment? Dodge invited us to a regional preview event to find out.

Exterior

I used to be a Mopar man. My folks have bought them for years and my first two new cars were a 1997 Eagle Vision and a 2000 Chrysler LHS. Keeping that era of Pentastar product in mind, the Dodge Dart fits right in with a tail straight out of the 1999 Dodge Intrepid. Before you flame, I think the look is far more attractive than many small cars on the market. What sets the Dart apart however is the aggressive front end with a broad grille and ginormous headlights. The front end styling is almost enough to make you forget this is the C-segment. So far, so good.

Interior

Inside the Dart you’ll find a cabin light-years ahead of the Caliber. While there are still plenty of hard plastic bits to be found, the cabin actually has more soft touch points than the Cruze or Sentra. While the styling may turn off some customers, the thick-rimmed steering wheel might hook some swing-voters. Dodge either has high sales goals or isn’t concerned about dwell time on dealer lots as there are around a dozen different interior trim color and style combinations. I’d call that good for the shopper, questionable for the profitable future of the Dart. Base SE models skip air conditioning and power door locks and use a lower grade of seat fabric to keep prices low. A quick look at the lineup indicates that Dodge expects the $17,995 SXT model to be the volume seller as it has the usual mix of equipment shoppers demand like A/C, keyless entry, folding rear seats and a sextuplet of speakers and a few extra cup holders. Despite considerable improvements, the Focus and Elantra are still better places to spend your time, but I’d rather be in the Dart than a Mazda 3 or a Cruze.

Infotainment

If you love gadgets, the Dart is the compact car of choice. With the exception of a self-parking feature like Ford’s Focus, the upper trim levels of the Dart allow some snazzy features you won’t find elsewhere in the segment. Starting with the Limited trim, the speedometer in the gauge cluster is replaced with a 7-inch LCD that is highly customizable. Unlike the LCD gauges Mercedes, Jaguar and Land Rover use, this one does more than just display a picture of a dial. Aside from navigation and infotainment displays, the system also doubles as the trip computer. Dodge also decided to allow a decent amount of customization from color choices to what date you see and where you see it. Also standard on the Limited model (optional on SXT and above) is Chrysler’s 8.4-inch uConnect system. Our brief time with the system showed that Chrysler has worked the Apple iDevice bugs out of the system. uConnect 8.4 now offers full voice command of your iDevice allowing you to say “play song, Red Solo Cup” and have the system do your bidding. The system works as well as Ford’s MyTouch but is far more responsive than Ford’s slow system.

Drivetrain

Despite the PR folks not commenting on the long rumored 9-speed transmissions, there was plenty of new metal to see under the hood. First up is the 2.0L engine. This is related to the Caliber’s 2.0L engine but only shares 20% of the parts. Most of the changes relate to smoothness and noise control, but power does get a slight bump to 160HP and 145lb-ft of torque. Next up is a 1.4L turbo Fiat engine almost directly transplanted from the Alfa. This “MutiAir” engine cranks out the same horsepower as the 2.0L but trumps with 184lb-ft of twist. Next up is the 2.4L engine (in the R/T model) which gets the same NVH improvements and incorporates MultiAir to boost power to 184HP and 171lb-ft of twist. MultiAir is Fiat’s way of saying that the intake valves on the 1.4L and 2.4L engines are actuated via solenoid-actuated hydraulic chamber that sits between the valve and the cam (at least on the 2.4L. The 1.4L doesn’t have an intake cam). The result is more controlled valve lift, the ability to remove the throttle body and some seriously complicated plumbing. What’s the reliability going to be like? Your guess is as good as mine. If you want to know more, check out this video. All engines can be mated to the 6-speed Fiat manual transmission while the 2.0 and 2.4 get the option of a 6-speed Hyundai-sourced slushbox and the 1.4 can be had with Fiat’s 6-speed dual dry clutch transmission.  How about that SRT Dart? The PR folks won’t say a word.

 

Drive

We had only a limited time and about 25 miles behind the wheel of two Limited trim Darts, so bear that in mind. The Dart uses a modified version of Giulietta’s suspension setup. If you think that gives you European handling, think again. The Dart weighs about 300lbs more than the Giulietta and the engineers softened the suspension and used softer bushings all around. While our brief cloverleaf-on-ramp-skidpad tests revealed admirable grip and less body roll than I would have assumed, the Dart loses its composure rapidly on broken pavement.

The base 2.0L engine and the 6-speed automatic are a the combination most owners will end up with. The pair work well together and never felt flustered in city traffic. The 1.4L turbo is more engaging and since it has more torque than even the 2.4L R/T engine it would be my engine of choice. The manual transmission had surprisingly long throws which I found cumbersome and tiring. Fortunately clutch pedal feel is good with a medium firm spring and very linear engagement. The 1.4L turbo didn’t suffer from turbo lag like some forced-induction mills and the extra twist is a welcome companion making the manual transmission easier to live with in real-world driving. Dodge didn’t have a dual clutch transmission available to test, so check back for a full review when the Dart starts shipping.

A wise man once told me that everything in the $12,000-$120,000 vehicle market competes on value. The question that kept coming to the lips of the masses assembled was: would you buy the Dart over X? The response was usually a long pause followed by a soft no. It’s not that the Dart is a bad car, it is solidly class competitive. So what’s the problem? Given a choice between the Ford Focus and the Dart, or the Hyundai Elantra and the Dart, the Dart comes in second. Why? Brand image.

Hyundai has spent the last decade producing consistently better products, but that’s not the entire reason for their recent success.  While the Darts offers more “whiz-bang” than the Elantra, the Korean alternative is slightly better put together and cheaper. That’s the hook. If the Dart was even $1,000 cheaper it would be one of the best choices in the segment. Still, if you’re in the market for a compact sedan, the Dart should be towards the top of your list, certainly above the Corola and Cruze. If you’re a tech-lover, place the Dart higher on your list, if you’re a technophobe, drop it to the middle.  Either way, be sure to stop by the Ford and Hyundai/Kia dealer before you import something from Detroit.

 

Dodge invited us to a regional event and allowed us unaccompanied drives in two pre-production Dodge Dart Limited vehicles.

Oddly enough, free beer and BBQ was also on tap.

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146 Comments on “Pre-Production Review: 2013 Dodge Dart...”


  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Even over the Focus with its troublesome auto clutch tranny?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Well, remember that the Dart will also have a double clutch transmission with the 1.4 engine. The enthusiast model seems to be that 1.4, so go figure.

      • 0 avatar
        drksd4848

        Brand image? Seriously? Brand image? Come on dude… A better reason for YOU would be “I would not recommend it because the sky is blue”

        That’s kind of disappointing on YOUR part. Lower 5th review. Really.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      You can always get the Focus with the 5-speed. It saves you $1000 and is a good transmission. Otherwise, Ford has reprogramed all the DCTs. The TSB covered anything with the DCT, and all new-builds have the update.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      You mean the one that was TSB’d half a year ago and, last I checked, fixed?

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        not according to some videos I’ve seen on Youtube, lots of folks not happy with update.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Mine was recalled. I was having some shifting hesitation, but nothing terrible. After 1500 miles since the fix I haven’t had the issue. I am well aware that some people have had disaterous experiences with the transmission. Our Focus is my wifes daily driver and she likes it better than our GTI, especially for commuting. I still advocate for the 5 speed in the Focus is you are worried about the DCT.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        I haven’t had a hiccup since the update, although even before the update I didn’t notice much of an issue. I’m OCD as all get-out, too, so you’d best believe I’d have noticed and complained. ;)

  • avatar

    Sorry to hear about the suspension. I hope to drive one of these within the next week.

    Owners of the FIAT 500, which also has a MultiAir engine, have reported virtually no repairs so far through TrueDelta’s survey. But the cars are still very young.

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Our figure-eight guru and testing director Kim Reynolds is a man of few words, but he had several after testing the Dart. His first were something to the extent of “This is just an awful car.” Keep in mind this is only truly relevant to its at-the-limit handling. “It is completely uncomposed and sloppy. It doesn’t do anything well out there.” After trying it myself, I was forced to agree.

      Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1206_2013_dodge_dart_limited_first_test/#ixzz1xbI5v6tL

      The Dart isn’t a drivers car, and it is a heavy, cramped, thirsty car for anyone else. The 2.0 is the slowest car Motor Trend has tested in years. The 1.4T is about as quick as a Focus at the expense of mileage in the 20s on the highway at the speed limit. The review linked to is one of the most negative I’ve seen in the special advertising supplements that pass for car magazines these days.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The market will correct the $1K over pricing quickly. Much as it did with the 2012 Honda Civic which looks expensive until you realize that Edmunds TMV is well below invoice. Much the same will happen to the Dart pricing.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Chrysler just has too many wounds to heal with their customers – old and prospective. The ultradrive was the first and the 2.7L fiasco was the last. People, me included, just don’t trust them. The impression I got from the tranny and engine issues was that they didn’t back up their products and cost their customers too much money that could have been better spent on a Toyota or Honda in the first place.

    We owned a 1996 Intrepid, and as it got almost 60K on the clock, I got nervous about the transmission – which still worked well – and decided to get rid of it before problems began, which I expected the next day due to fear and what I read.

    The dealer left a bad taste in my mouth when I was told the water pump was leaking, but I saw no evidence of that. This was at 42K. They also suggested a timing belt, too. This was the 3.5L engine. Chrysler did pick up half the tab, but it left a bad taste in my mouth and never went back to them again. They went out of business a few years ago.

    So, long story short, as much as I like what they are doing, I simply do not trust them and would not buy their products right now. Let someone else do their beta-testing who either has deeper pockets or is dumber than me.

    Fiat who?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Zack, I think you hit the nail spot on. That’s my problem. The Dart is a good alternative, but it isn’t the best in the class. If it was best in class across the board AND well priced, then Dodge could have some serious momentum given time.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Right, but how do you define “best in class”? If you’re a hyper-miler, you might think a Jetta TDI is “best in class.” If you’re after Euro feel, a Ford Focus or Mazda 3 would be good choices. If you’re going to drive the wheels off the thing, a Civic or Corolla would be good moves.

        Basically, it sounds like the Dart is aimed at buyers who prioritize style, comfort, quiet and features – the same folks who’d buy a Cruze or an Elantra. That’s not a narrow slice of the market to go after.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        The issue being perceived reliability.

        How a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla could be considered any more or less reliable than my 2012 Ford Focus I guess I don’t understand. In fact, given the car I drive is about a year old, I wouldn’t think reliability data would be available on it at all. Ditto for the Civic. The Corolla you could pull reliability data from, I suppose. But you could also pull reliability data off of a 25 year old Ford Crown Victoria. Doesn’t mean it’s worth buying, either way.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Good god man, that was almost 20 frickin’ years ago. That old Chrysler doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s 2012. Get yourself a calendar.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Your talking about a B&B community that continues to drag out the 1982 Cadillac Cimmaron – that was 30 years ago, twenty years ago is not long enough for forgiveness (and in the case of the God awful Mopar 2.7, that hatred is probably well warranted)

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @APaGttH:

        Every time Cadillac talks of producing the Converj based on the Volt, I’ll bring up the Cimmaron. Foolishness dies hard.

        As for Dodge, I’m very optimistic about the Dart. I’ve had mixed experience with Chrysler, but I’d definitely try a Dart.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Cimmaron was an extreme case of badge engineering and ultimately was more of an sales embarrassment than an design or engineering failure. The 2.7 debacle was an example of a complete design and engineering failure but oddly somewhat a sales success of the time. People affected by this are right to be a bit leery of Mopar’s offerings.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Well let me drag out a Dodge that would be 46 years old now. My Dad bought a 1966 Polara with 36k miles for $930 in 1970. Served four kids through college and summers was the tow vehicle for a roofing company trailer. Sold about 1980 with 150k miles for $150, to a mechanic who drove away in it. Solid lifter 318. Great car. YMMV in the intervening years.

        If the Dart had a Giulietta suspension tune, I’d at least drive one when my current car goes pins up.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The old Chrysler is still extant on every JD Power and Consumer Reports quality index. Sponsored post?

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        @gslippy

        The Cimmaron was the worst of badge-engineering/swapping.

        The Converj/Volt is a whole different matter – platform sharing, but completely different sheetmetal and interiors.

        Basically no different than what Toyota does with the Camry/ES/RX or the entire Acura lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        Tinker

        And after Chrysler has been eaten by Fiat, you think they’ll improve? I used to own a Fiat, and yes, it was 35 years ago. You don’t forget that treatment.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      Agreed. Just like in Hyundai’s case, it takes a couple of generations of good cars before sales can take off. That’s how reputations work. That means you HAVE to release a good product and suffer through 10 years of little reward. After that, it’ll start paying off.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        But the mentality that ruined these companies is still alive and well, just different names, same philosophy.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        That’s not necessarily the case these days (things move a lot quicker now).

        Look at Kia where sales have surged in just 1G with the current Optima and Sorento, as well as the Soul (the new Forte which is due next year should also kick up sales a notch).

        Same goes for Chrysler/Jeep with the either new or refreshed lineup (granted, some of the big sales increase is due to sales downturn from Chrysler’s bankruptcy).

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      While the 2.7L certainly got off to a bad start, the issues were corrected within a few years. The early 2.7L engines had a poorly designed PCV system that when combined with the all-aluminum engine’s poor heat rejection contributed to sludge.

      The PCV system was redesigned and the API released a newer oil classification that was more sludge resistant – those two things basically solved the sludging problem. I have a 2003 vehicle with a 2.7L – it runs perfectly and is spotless inside.

      I realize for most people it was too little too late, but the problems were solved and the engine went on to be fairly reliable.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Good for you – you have the 2003 2.7L version – the “fixed” edition. From 1998-2002, those owners were stuck.

        Truth be told, I haven’t heard of any recent engine or tranny problems with Chrysler, so perhaps they are on the mend? What is wrong with them that they are continually on the bottom of CR’s ratings as to quality?

        We are impressed with their recent upgrades and offerings.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        @Zack

        Prior to last year, many of their cars were crap.

        Fiat came in, cleaned house and updated the interior, ridiculously so, for pretty much every car CJD sells. They are much better, now.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    Net of incentives I bet the Dart would come in cheaper… Detroit always uses the hook that if price becomes the main item in play (when all of the other sales-hooks fail) that there is always more money on the hood than the Korean/Japanese alternatives.

    This holds true even with the turnaround in management since the main driver of this tended to be with the dealer network rather than something corporate wanted to do. The sales guys always talk about how they can sell a sporty feel, premium audio, etc. But we all know it frequently comes down to dollars – and that’s when you need cash on the hood.

    • 0 avatar
      alluster

      @holydonut “…there is always more money on the hood than the Korean/Japanese alternatives.”

      And you know this how? Average discount below msrp across all trims by model from truecar.com.

      Cruze – $14
      Focus – $278
      Elantra – $252
      Corolla – $207
      Civic – $832
      Sentra – $1603

      See how the civic carries the biggest discounts, for a car that already has the lowest MSRP and also the newest among the bunch. The Dart will not be discounted much. Dodge has earmarked very few for production which is the right thing to do because there will be a lot of resistance from consumers for a Chrysler compact. Dodge would have to keep on improving until perceptions change. The fact that people walk into a dealership, look at a turd of a vehicle like the Corolla or any Acura for that matter, and say “I will pay for that” is reason enough for Dodge to limit production.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I’ll agree with Alex that for all the hype the Cruze didn’t do it for me. The Focus is really nice and I’d strongly consider buying one soon as the titanium trim comes with the manual. That said, I’d like to drive one of these, even if I have zero confindence that Dodge can make anything as-good, if not better, than Ford.

    My experience with Chrysler has been very poor rental car fodder and IMO absolute garbage minivans that sell on price alone being the market is Chrysler and expensive Japanese offerings. Can they compete in a segement with good options out there at competitive pricing, we shall see.

    So, side note, what was this press event? Surely not the one that the sex blogger went to?

    • 0 avatar

      The Titanium trim is now available with a manual.

      Alex notes that this was a regional drive. The sex blogger attended the earlier, national press drive.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      They are currently accepting orders for the Titanium with the manual. I think deliveries for customer orders start around September.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Why wait for the Titanium trim? Get a hatch with the five speed and sport package, skip the touch sensitive dash, and you’ve got the best all-around compact you can buy.

      • 0 avatar
        SV

        A Titanium manual without MyFordTouch would be ideal (well if we’re talking about ideals, throw in a 6-speed and EcoBoost), but yeah as it is the SE Sport 5-speed is the sweet spot.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        6 speed + EcoBoost is the ST.

        The ST1 package doesn’t have MFT. However, at this point MFT is no longer anything to avoid. The March major performance update has eliminated the slow responsiveness and random crashiness of the system. The Focus version of MFT also has dedicated hard buttons for climate and audio control.

      • 0 avatar
        SV

        I was referring to the 1.6EB as an intermediate option, but the ST works too.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        I’m sure the EB 1.6 will make an appearance sooner or later in the Focus. I’ve been very impressed with that engine in the new Escape. I figured it would be OK, but it’s noticeably more responsive than the previous 2.5 I4 and much much quieter under load. I think I’d still personally opt for the 2.0, but the 1.6 will handle anything that 90% of Escape customers could want or need.

        Now Ford just needs to throw it into the Fiesta for a sub-$20K hot hatch.

      • 0 avatar
        SV

        Well, Europe’s definitely getting a Fiesta ST with that very setup, but the US looks like less of a sure bet at the moment (there have been prototypes testing here and there was a US-only concept, though, so I’m putting our chances at 85%). You’d know better than me though.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    For me, exterior and interior styling are very important. The Dart has both from what I have seen in photos. When they show up on the lot, I will take a trip to my local Dodge dealer to see for myself. I haven’t done that since I ordered my ’94 Ram.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I can’t help but look at those photos and think that a few more bucks for a different steering wheel (or even just a redesigned airbag pod on the existing wheel) would add about $1,000 to the perceived value of the interior. I remember when Mazda put Nardi-branded wheels in their cars and the difference that made. As the part of the car you interact with and stare at every time you get in and drive the car, this is a bad place to go parts hunting in the Caliber warehouse.

    A question, does the 1.4 Turbo exhaust sound even remotely as awesome in the Dart as it does in the Abarth Fiat 500?

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    “If the Dart was even $1,000 cheaper it would be one of the best choices in the segment.”

    $1,000 is a pittance in the context of a new-car purchase, so whoever lets such a symbolic sum decide what brand’s car to purchase is someone who doesn’t care about cars. Period.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    That IP is full of win. I love the simplicity of it. It would have been perfect had they actually given it some real gauges rather than that flat screen cluster boredom.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I think the lower trim levels have ‘real’ gauges. Dodge is tending to show the better-equipped cars first. That flat screen costs something extra.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    Chrysler’s virtually a new company. I predict a huge sales success for this car. My considerable experience in the car business gives me far more confidence in the old Chrysler than Ford and today’s Chrysler is becoming the industry standard for improvement. The Dart will crush the Focus just like the Charger crushes the Taurus and 300 crushed Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      In the real world, the Fords worked better than virtually any competitive Chrysler.

      And it’s easy to become the “industry standard for improvement” when you are starting out from BELOW the basement.

      • 0 avatar
        billfrombuckhead

        Which Fords work better? The Grand Cherokee and Durango crush the Explorer/Edge whatever. The Ram Hemi crushes V8 F150′s.

        Now the Focus is in the rearview mirror as well.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I wouldn’t hold my breath just yet on Chrysler superiority vs. Ford or anyone else. I suppose anything is possible and I think the Dart is going to be a home run, but its too early to tell.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The F-150 is a superior vehicle to the Ram. It’s better built, more reliable and an overall better vehicle to drive.

        I’m sure that the Dart will “crush” the Focus, just as the Shadow/Sundance was going going to “crush” the first-generation Escort, and the Neon was going to “crush” the second-generation Escort, and Caliber was going to “crush” the Focus…

        Every few years – starting way back in 1957 – Chrysler brings out a dazzling, stylish new vehicle that is going to “crush” the competition, and does so right up until…it starts falling apart. Which generally happens long before it happens to competitive vehicles.

        Yes, I’m sure that this time will be different, no doubt about it. Just like Lucy will finally let Charlie Brown kick the football…

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      In most volume segments, Ford has better product.

      Fusion, Focus, Escape, F-150 are all miles better than thier Chrysler counterparts. I’d take a Charger/300 over a Taurus/MKS, but in the medium/large CUV segment, I think the Flex is the best thing out there.

      I want Chrysler to do well, but the Focus is a really good car. Bold proclaimations of the Dart vanquishing the Focus are silly at this point.

      • 0 avatar
        billfrombuckhead

        Chrysler has been gaining marketshare on Ford for over a year because they build far more desirable cars and I predict the Dart will do the same damage to Focus that other new Chrysler products have been doing to Ford. Besides a Mustang, what Ford cars or SUV’s do customers really get excited about? Not much.

        The Grand Cherokee/Durango/Wrangler are far more desirable vehicles than any Ford SUV, CUV, wagon or Lincoln hearsemobile.

        The Chrysler 300 lineup with rear wheel drive and the choice of HEMI and Pentastar with the ZF 8 speed just defeats the whole Lincoln sedan lineup and probably will for a long time.

        Charger vs Taurus and V6 Fusion. Dodge Charger has earned a loyal following Taurus will never match. How many customized Dodge Chargers do you see? Many people like these cars including the police. Charger is now winning the cop car wars as well.

        Want to bring up the Flex vs the world’s best selling minivans? Just buy a Routan if you don’t want to be seen in a Chrysler product.

        Ford is a truckbuilder that outside the Mustang heritage franchise makes volume appliance cars and can’t do much else. The ongoing disaster at Lincoln is damning proof of this assertion. Even the Ford Ka is really a Fiat.

        Ram truck now has it’s first industry leading 6 cylinder drivetrain since the slant six and the Torqueflite, I predict that combined with the Dart and more availability of ZF transmissions, Mopar will land some serious body blows on Ford in 2012-2013.

      • 0 avatar
        SV

        Oh for crying out loud.

        “Besides a Mustang, what Ford cars or SUV’s do customers really get excited about? Not much.”

        Considering the Focus is up 43% year-to-date, it’s safe to say consumers are “excited” about it. The Fusion is having ANOTHER record year despite being at the end of a long lifespan. Not to mention Explorer up 11%, Edge up 10%, even Taurus up 5%…

        “The Grand Cherokee/Durango/Wrangler are far more desirable vehicles than any Ford SUV, CUV, wagon or Lincoln hearsemobile.”

        The Wrangler doesn’t compare with anything Ford makes, but I do agree that the GC and Durango are more attractive than the Explorer or Edge. “Desirability”, however, is deeply subjective.

        “The Chrysler 300 lineup with rear wheel drive and the choice of HEMI and Pentastar with the ZF 8 speed just defeats the whole Lincoln sedan lineup and probably will for a long time.”

        I’ll give you this too, the 300 is more appealing than any current Lincoln. Lincoln’s upcoming product is promising though.

        “Charger vs Taurus and V6 Fusion. Dodge Charger has earned a loyal following Taurus will never match. How many customized Dodge Chargers do you see? Many people like these cars including the police. Charger is now winning the cop car wars as well.”

        The Charger has heritage, yes. Rental fleets and credit criminals apparently like that. A loyal following with predilection for dubs does not necessarily make one car better than another.

        And the Taurus PI (or Caprice for that matter) hasn’t been on the market long enough to declare any victories.

        “Want to bring up the Flex vs the world’s best selling minivans? Just buy a Routan if you don’t want to be seen in a Chrysler product.”

        Specious argument. Ford outsells Chrysler in every other example you mention bar the Charger/300, but according to you Fords are still inferior. If you want to be taken seriously, pick a standard and stick to it. Moving the goalposts exposes your bias.

        “Ford is a truckbuilder that outside the Mustang heritage franchise makes volume appliance cars and can’t do much else.”

        Let’s see, truckbuilder, Mustang, volume cars. That’s, what, 80% of the market right there? Looks like sound business to me. As for the “appliance” bit…well, I’m sure P71_Silvy will agree with you there.

        “Even the Ford Ka is really a Fiat.”

        Again, specious. The Fiat-platformed Ka is sold mainly in Europe, where Chrysler has no presence. Every other Ford sold there is Ford-derived, as are most Fords here. Considering the Dart’s Fiat origins, the Merc basis of the Charger, 300, Grand Cherokee, and Durango, and the 200/Avenger’s Mitsubishi underpinnings, it’s fair to say that, if anything, Fords have more self-developed content than Chryslers do.

        Look, Chrysler’s been doing some impressive things lately; I personally like almost all of their post-Diamler stuff (and I also prefer the Durango/GC to the Explorer). You obviously prefer Chrysler to Ford and that’s fine, but your opinions are not fact. Please don’t pretend that they are, it’s annoying.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I’ll drive the Dart when it’s available for a test drive. I will be surprised if it drives and feels better than the Focus. If it does, I’ll admit that I’m wrong.

  • avatar
    mjz

    I think the Dart is going to be a HUGE hit for Chrysler/Fiat. Chrysler has had much past success in this segment of the market (no, not the Caliber), and now has a very competitive product that stradles the compact/midsize segment in size, price, features and value. To say that people won’t buy it because of “brand image” is complete nonsense. What kind of brand image did Hyundai have just a few short years ago? The product creates the brand image, not the other way around.

  • avatar
    thalter

    Truly. Every other manufacturer figured out a decade ago how to conceal a bulky airbag cover. It this a Ram parts bin wheel perhaps?

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    Maybe I don’t get it. But why take a really nice Alfa and turn it into and ugly heavy pig. I mean why not just do a mild rbage on the Alfa, it would save a ton in development and look far far better.

    To me this car is everything that is worng with Detroit. Heavy, ugky styling and cheapo interior. The formula did not work before, why will it work now. And if price is the question, there are so many nonquestionable choices out there fron Korera Japan etc.

  • avatar
    redav

    “This first fruit of the Fiat/Dodge marriage isn’t just a rebadged Alfa Romeo Giulietta (pronounced Juliet-ta), and there’s a reason for that. Dodge wants a bigger part of the pie since sedans account for 80% of the compact segment”

    That’s a shame because I have no interest in a compact sedan. I’m only interested in a hatch or wagon at that size.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    To hear that this thing has a softer suspension than the Gulietta is disappointing. Not because I actually like the driving dynamics of the Fiat, but because I thought they were already too soft (and not just for Europe). I lived with one for two weeks in Italy, and to be honest with you, I hated the way that thing drove. If there ever was such a thing as a C-cegment boat, the Gulietta was it.

    It sure was a looker (at least from the outside, the interior was terrible), and I’m glad the Dart is too.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Having owned two Fiats and two Alfas, I find that disappointing. None were fast but three of four were entertaining.

      • 0 avatar
        Nostrathomas

        It was extremely disappointing, especially since I specifically asked for an Alfa from the rental company. I always heard that Alfas looked better than they drove, but it was kind of shocking just how squishy soft it was. Needless to say, it wasn’t the italian driving experience I was hoping for……..until I rented a 458 Italia in Maranello. That one was life-alteringly awesome.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    I know they want to do Alfa here, but that is a ways off, and by then there will be different models. The money could have been spent on a great interior, if that is what it took.

    As to the sedan/hatch debate. Audi seems to have no problem selling the a7. I would suggest that the reason people do not go for a hatch is because they look too utility, and the hatch we have here is a golf, whiuch is utility. Put abit of style in it, and presto no problem.

    However one looks at it, short of serious discounting, the dart is not going to be a big sales sucess. It is in my opinion a botched effort.

    The weight may be excusable by bigger size compared to the Alfa, but the styling sucks and the interior smacks of cheapness. If the viper can have sone Italian flair why not this.

    Seriouly given the underpinings, i was expecting and italian looking car, with euro type dynamics, Us reliability and german/japanese/korean/build.

    maybe they will get the reliability and build, but seriously given the other players out there, would ytou trust this car with your own money to go the distance, or is somethinbg else a safer bet. So they could have got sales on design and styling, but missed that, and they have nothing else to really offer except,price?
    Rental fleets here I come.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      The interior is far from cheap looking. You need to see one in person and touch some of the materials they used. It’s actually much better than the “rubbery” material used in the Focus.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Attractive car, VERY attractive and modern looking interior for the segment. The steering wheel looks a little big (diameter) but the proof is in the driving.

  • avatar
    iainthornton

    So you’re trying to imply that a Hyundai has more brand appeal than a Dodge? Seriously? I know a Dodge isn’t exactly desirable, but a Hyundai is surely actively undesirable?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      In 2011, Dodge brand sold 708k vehicles at #6 place; Hyundai brand sold 645k vehicles at #7 place. They’re nearly tied.

      If you count the Chrysler and Kia brands, respectively, Hyundai/Kia comes out on top.

      So lots of people think that Hyundai has brand appeal.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        True, Dodge is barely ahead of Hyundai, but there are two truly gaping holes in its lineup – a competitive compact and midsize Camcord-style sedan. Before the Dart, Dodge’s entry in the segment was a loser, and the Avenger is certainly no match for the Sonata.

        I think Dodge will pull way ahead with the Dart, and once the Avenger replacement comes out (not a minute too damn soon), I think the gap will be even more pronounced.

        Now we have to see if the quality holds up…(fingers crossed)

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Do Dodge’s sales still count the trucks that are now part of the Ram brand?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I don’t care for either brand, but Hyundai would be higher on my list that Dodge.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      What I am saying is that Hyundai has seriously *increased* their brand appeal in the last 10 years. If Dodge wants to do the same, they need to follow the Hyundai formula: good products at great prices with a long warranty.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    Actualy these days Hyundai is a pretty good car, try one.

  • avatar

    I like this car very much.

    Note to Fiat Brasil, bring this car to Brazil. It and the Freemont will do wonders for your image. But bring it as a Fiat. Like the Journey. After it became Fiat Freemnt sales jumped from uder 100 a month to about 1000. Why? Lower price yes, but also because except for Germans and Japanese/Koreans, Brazilians are wary of imports. Put a Fiat badge and a whole lot of upwardly-mobile, happy ex-small-Fiat-owners will feel this car is backed by a maker with a strong committment in Brazil and would feel comfortable enough to buy.

  • avatar

    SRT4 PULLLLLEASE!!!

    I CAN’t. Wait to drive this!

  • avatar

    There’s no way in hell I’d take an Elantra over a Dart.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I agree, but we’ll see how the Dart pans out in the next two years. Hopefully it will be a hit but there will be those who would choose the Hyundai for reliability.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t see how a Hyundai is more reliable. They offer very long term maintenance to get you to choose them over the Japanese, but, I’ve been hearing of their transmissions and engines breaking down on the regular.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        The problem with that statement is that all the long term reliability reports place Chrysler below Hyundai.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        Wait… are you saying you CAN’T rely on YouTube commenters for accurate information about vehicle reliability?

        Wow. Who knew?!?!

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t trust all reliability stats cause I have personally owned two Chryslers and I’ve never had a problem with them I didn’t cause.

        Supercharging my SRT8 caused some problems – some of which Chrysler fixed – some of which I paid for, but, overall, the car was very reliable.

        My old 2.7l Chrysler 300 only suffered a dead oxygen sensor and a seat that needed recalibration to turn of the airbag light.

        All these new cars have problems, but, many of them go under reported.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I’ll take the data compiled by Consumer Reports and TrueDelta over the anecdotal experience of one Mopar fan.

        It has been my experience that owners of the domestic and European brands are the ones who ignore problems. Honda and Toyota buyers, for example, have been conditioned to believe that the vehicle will be perfect, so they go ballistic if there is so much as a rattle in the dashboard.

        This was also the experience of a friend who was an investigator for Pennsylvania’s largest automotive lemon law firm.

      • 0 avatar

        Geeber

        I can only speak to the reliability of the cars I’ve owned:

        A Ford Expedition 2002
        A Cadillac EXT
        A Mercedes S550
        A Chrysler 300
        A Chrysler SRT8

        I am a MOPAR fan, but, even I can speak to things I think Chrysler could have done better.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Until I see it person I won’t really know, but judging from the pix it looks pretty good. I’m always glad to see another alternative to the Japanese/Korean idiom of compact car.

    I really wish this had been a hatch. As I understand it, the Chrysler version of this car is supposed to be a hatchback, but that seems counterintuitive to me. Why would (ostensibly) a more expensive get the (alleged) downmarket hatch?

    Thanks Alex for the informative review as always. You and Mike Karesh do a good job of answering real world concerns. If you would, please continue to use items that are commonly known sizes, (like laptop bags & etc.) so we can judge sizes of the cargo areas. That kind of stuff is really helpful.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Hatches are the premium, more expensive option these days. See Audi A7, Ford Focus 5dr, VW Golf, etc…. Just because they were the cheap option 30 years ago does not make it permanently so. Why would you not pay extra for the more useful car?

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @krhodes1: You may be right, that I’m living in the past WRT to hatches vs. sedans. It just seems to me that the paradigm shift is a fairly recent one, apparently I must have missed the memo… :)

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Good review, the compact segment is really heating up now. I can’t wait to see what the new sentra brings.

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    If I were in the market for a new car, this would not necessarily be at the top of my list, but like you said in the review it would certainly be in the middle. I really dig the styling and the interior choices but the ride doesn’t sound as engaging or comfortable as it could/should be in one department or the other. Also is it me, or does it seem like 185hp is pretty small for a sporty model with a 2.4 litre engine?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Kind of a wierd one, but I’d be interested to hear how the Dart 1.4t competes with the Juke SV.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    “If the Dart was even $1,000 cheaper it would be one of the best choices in the segment.”

    That isn’t a big deal. No Chrysler product has left a dealer without at least a few thousand dollar discount for the last 30 years. I imagine in the real world Darts will sell from about $15-18k.

    That said, I have seen several on the roads the last month,all with company plates. It is a nice looking small car. Much better looking than a Cruise,Civic,Corolla,or Focus. The Elantra is still drastically better looking.

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    Here in Colorado, on I-76, the manufacturers run their new cars up and down this road all of the time. There isn’t much in the way of traffic and most of the time, they can drive them without many people noticing. Saturday afternoon, Chrysler had 2 Darts testing along with couple of 200′s. Personally, I think the Darts look terrible. They look too narrow and tall for the size of vehicle it is. By the way, The drivers noticed I recognized the cars. They were not happy. They did all they could to get away from me once we were into the traffic in Denver.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      LOL…drive-testing cars for Chrysler my first job when I moved here! We used to drive them into the mountains in convoys and run up ginormous mileage, plus durability tests (a zillion times a day for door slams, windows up/down, open/shut trunk, etc). Best job ever, even if it was for only $7 an hour.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Um, the car has already been publicly introduced. Why would the driver’s care?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I wouldn’t agree that the Caliber wasn’t a serious attempt at the compact car market – it was. Chrysler’s main problem was that it misread the market and came to the conclusion that what people really, really wanted out of a small car was a mini-SUV. That’s NOT what people want. They want variations on the Civic and Corolla. I think that even if the Calber had an Audi-quality interior and no CVT foolishness, it’d still have missed the mark.

    I expect they’ll do a brisk business with this car – probably not enough to catapult them into the lead, but certainly enough to rebuild their beachhead in this segment.

    But I’m not seeing anything here to talk me out of my ultimate compact car being a Focus hatch in red, 5-speed, sport package, and none of the Ford Touch crap. That car is about as perfect as it gets for this segment, I think.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    About the best that can be said for the new Dart is that it’s a great time to be shopping in this highly competitive segment. All the cars are so good it’s really tough to make a bad purchase. Even the fleet-queen Corolla isn’t bad if all someone wants is reliable point A to point B transportations. Whether the Dart has enough specific things of its own to make it a success remains to be seen.

    The one thing that will kill off the Dart quickly, though, no matter how well it hits the market ‘sweet spot’, is if Chrysler’s (or Fiat’s) well-remembered quality woes from years past rears its ugly head. If the Dart starts having teething problems (recalls, etc), it’s a goner.

    Chrysler’s craptacular quality reputation might have been a while ago, but from what I’ve been reading, to this day, they’re still dragging up the rear when it comes to quality rankings. That’s just not going to cut it in today’s world.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    With the weak trannies Chryslers used since the 80′s it’ll be a miracle if they make 9-speed that lasts 50k miles.

    This ones pretty much not on my list, the interior has very tacky styling and anything this compact should have a hatch.

    That and the fake guages, is just pointless. Its like being charged more for fake ice cream.

    • 0 avatar

      The nine-speed will be a ZF design (the same folks who supply transmissions to Audi, BMW, Jaguar, and others).

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Yep. As MK said, transmission reliability issues should be limited for new Chrysler models, or at least not attributable to Chrysler designs of the past. The 6-speed in the Dart is made by Hyundai, the new 8-speed in the RWD platform vehicles that is spreading to Jeep and RAM is a ZF that is used in everything from Audi to Rolls Royce. The 9-speed transaxle is brand new but Honda has supposedly hopped on the ZF bandwagon for this model.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        At Alex: A Hyundai tranny in a largely Italian car with a few Chrysler tweaks is a recipe for an interesting game of “What will break first?”.

        Sorry for my low outlook on this car, I had a Horizon that despite be cautious driving style bit the dust on me, this happened just a year ago so I’m still sore.

        Like the Dart, the Horizon was a mish-mash of random Chrysler bits on something European and a few very tacky bits of US trim that don’t fit.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Interesting comparison between this model being a bit of a Frankenstein vs the K-cars who evidently were as well, but are you really sore over a 22+ yo econobox quitting on you well into the 21st Century? I’d say that was impressive and if thew new Frankenstein econobox is half as good, I’d say it was a home run for Fiatsler.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      You had a Plymouth Horizon (the last of which were built in 1990), it had been used as regular transportation for all that time, and are now bitching about the quality because it just died on you at least 21 years later?

      I don’t know. It sounds like you got your money’s worth out of that little Mopar.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Please manufacturers if you’re going to make the trunk lid so tiny just man up and start building hatchbacks. Keep the shape just make the glass lift up too.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I blame the ridiculous beltlines of the last few years, the Focus sedan is guilty of this too. Even look upmarket at the Catera coupe, I don’t think Opel… er Cadillac… ever intended for a hatch version and yet it from the side/rear looks like a hatch.

  • avatar

    I have to wonder why Chrsyler chose to call it a Dart, anyone one alive who remembers the original has a memory of all the trash that Dodge has brought out since. The name Dodge hath been sullied to us old fogies.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      No, kiddo, the Dart was one of Mopars best cars, ever. Dart and Valiant were bullet-proof, and kept them going. As said many times, do some research before posts.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      Actually, it makes total sense to call it a Dart, because it was one of the most durable and dependable Mopar cars back in the 60s and 70s. Its immediate successor, the Aspen/Volare were sadly disappointing in the reliability area.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I think they chose Dart because they didn’t want to go into the stablenames of the 70s (i.e. Volare) because those cars were terrible and the 80s well because they didn’t want people to think cheap and effective (OmniHorizon). They wanted to try and excite people a little, and the Dart while reliable for its time, was the small and (for its time) ‘sporty’ model. I think it was a good choice.

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    You lost me at brand image. If you want to say brand x is objectively better for some enumerated reason(s) then fine, but don’t give me that brand image crap. Sounds like the typical copout a rag like Motor Trend would use to justify picking their winner over the better car(s).

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Car and Driver is all about image and ‘fitting in with the cliques’. BMW’s only.

    But to add, in old Consumer Reports magazine from 60s and 70s, Darts and Valiants with the slant-6 were ‘Recommended’. Yes, they did exist then.

  • avatar

    It looks like Alex only drove the limited. From what I’ve read at allpar the rallye version should have a more sporting ride. Also the RT (not available until the fall) will be available with a manual and all the goodies from the limited. In regard to brand rep thats a moving target in todays world (with the possible exception of Toyota and Honda) If you asked most people around here 12 years ago which US automaker made the biggest piece of crap you would most likely hear Ford (thou dodge and GM were never far behind) My favorite oft heard remark back then was ” why would anyone buy a Ford smaller then an F150″ in fact i had a friend who’s father owned the local Ford dealer and was a big Ford fan. Even he admitted that ” we sell a lot of F150′s a few taurses and we finance the bad credit hell out of escorts” Now a days my mopar brain actually lusts after several Ford models so like I said it’s a moving target and one that’s largely ignored by large segments of the public. As an example of being burned and still coming back my IN laws had a contour that spent several months of its first few years at the local dealer with electronic issues then a failed tranny at 60k followed by runaway acceleration (cruise control problem) and a list of other minor issues. But oddly enough when it came time to buy a new truck last year to tow their camper in retirement the two top choices were F150 and Tundra. While they ended up with the Tundra they often seem to second guess not buying an F150.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    Only time will tell….. my parents had a ’99 Chrysler Concorde LXi long ago, when they first got it; I remember my dad being proud about it, feature wise, it was a nice car, it looked good in slate grey and it’s 3.2 SOHC V6 felt plenty punchy. Rode good too. That had replaced a ’97 3.8 T-Bird- which was an excellent car that never had any problems whatsoever…. the only thing was that it was pretty spartan (rear drums and I want to say no ABS, though I could be wrong on that) with only a/c, power windows/locks and a cassette player- that was it!) and the 3.8 wasn’t exactly a paragon of power, but it was a great car. Anyways back to the Chrysler…. things went down hill quickly and made us REALLY miss the T-Bird. The driver window would repeatedly fall out of it’s track every few months, a trim piece at the end of the hood by the cowl would oxidize and bubble the paint every summer…. oh and it nuked a few transmissions….. the only thing worse was the dealership’s parts and service department, for example; that stupid hood trim piece would get special ordered for my dad, my dad would come in to have it replaced, only to find out that they gave it to another customer WITHOUT telling him…. and they did this repeatedly! Oh and the transmissions just didn’t hold up and my parents weren’t exactly abusive drivers, in fact they did all the scheduled services on the clock, obsessively. Eventually my dad had enough and wanted to dump the damn thing for either a new ’04 Tahoe or a new Infiniti G35 sedan. They test drove the Tahoe and literally on the way out, the Chrysler’s transmission blew up again, so my dad said “eff it” and pushed the car back to the Chevy dealership and got the Tahoe. The Chrysler only had 53k on it and was no doubt, wholesaled by the Chevy dealer.

    In ’08 I myself was looking for a sporty RWD V8 car, I narrowed my choices down to a Mustang GT and the Dodge Charger R/T. I drove the Charger first, though it had power, it had terribly numb steering, so it flunked my test…. that and I remember my dad’s Chrysler and eventually learning that the California Highway Patrol bought some police package Chargers for evaluation and they almost all puked their guts out on their EVOC course, and in my area it’s not uncommon to see a black and white Charger on the back of a tow truck…. Mopar has a long way to come…. I’d choose a ’69 Polara over anything new from Chysler!

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    I like this car. It has style inside and out. The only ugly thing is the steering wheel. Sorry to hear about the suspension, but maybe the us market (in general) don´t like sporty suspension.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    All of you saying that brand image will have no effect on the sale of this car are crazy. Look at other examples. The Civic and Corolla are no where as good of cars as they oncve were. Yet they continue to sell because people think of Toyotas and Hondas as reliable. It will take a few generations of bad ones to change peoples image of these cars.

    Chrysler on the other hand is at the other end of the spectrum. Look at the comments here. People think of transmission failures, sludge choked motors, and rental grade interiors. The Dart is a big improvement it would seem but it will take 2 or 3 generations of building competerive, durable, and desirable cars before people think positively about their product. Hyundai got this and followed through. Chrysler needs to do the same.

    At this point to buy one of these requires me to have faith that they have turned things around. Maybe they have but I need a little more than the word of the salesman and some positive reviews to plunk out 18 grand when there are already plenty of known quantities out there that by many accounts are still better than this Dart.

    It reminds me of how GM would always be bringing out some car that had finally caught the Japanese…until 6 months later when the Japanese redesign hit. They were always playing catch up it seemed.

    Anyway, I hope they get it right, but don’t expect me to replace my wife’s trouble free Hyundai with one anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      You hit the nail on the head…

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        well, a broken clock is right twice a day!

      • 0 avatar

        I think that your statements about trusting the Chrysler brand are unfounded. Specially when you put Hyundai at the top of the list and look where they were less than 10 years ago.

        Chrysler was not the only automaker with transmission or engine sludge issues. Do I trust the old 4-speed/6-seed FWD automatics? Hell no, but I don’t trust very many transverse FWD automatics from ANY brand. The 2.7 sludge issue? Let’s not forget about the Toyota V6 sludge issue that was spread over way more vehicles than Chrysler ever sold (it was only an issue in the transversely-mounted 2.7 btw).

        Knowing what I know about this car, I would absolutely put my money on it. You could never get me near a Caliber without throwing up in my mouth a little bit, and I’m a Chrysler guy.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Chrysler’s problems went far beyond engine sludge and transmission issues. Friends and family have owned Chrysler products, and, in each case, the vehicle started falling apart right after the warranty ended.

  • avatar
    alluster

    Its seems to be a great car and all but sorry just can’t get past the name. When the masses associate your past compacts with crap, you are not helping by naming your newest entry the dart which rhymes with fart. The Neon name carries a lot more weight. Also, most neon drivers pre 2000 are in their early 30s right now, prime territory for a premium compact. Anyone knows when the 7, 8 or 9 speeds will be available? Would love to buy one for commuting, road trips and such.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The Dart nameplate has much more positive brand equity than “Neon.” Most people associate the Neon nameplate with “crap,” based on my experience.

      Ask people about the Dart, and, if they do remember it, they will likely say it was one of the best cars Chrysler Corporation ever produced, and one of the toughest domestic cars of the 1960s and early 1970s.

    • 0 avatar
      noxioux

      You can’t seriously believe that “Neon” has more mopar brand cache than “Dart”.

      No, Really.

  • avatar
    JohnTheDriver

    Hyundai has better brand image than what? A shoebox full of dog poop? Actually, I would drive said shoebox before sullying my driveway with a Hyundai crap-on-wheels.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I think Dart is a cool name… At least in isolation. The Dart may have been a reliable car and a positive brand to Mopar fans, but I am 42 and just remember them as ugly cars that old ladies drove or the butt of jokes on Car Talk.

    Chrysler and Dodge cars, for as long as I have been a driver always seemed to be interesting designs but just never quite engineered to be the best. 2.2 L turbos back in the ’80s when i was coming of age were relatively fast but very short-lived. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a running Daytona and for the seeming millions of Horizons and Omnis there seemed to be on the road back then they have all been recycled by now. Even here in rust-free California I never see them. Great practical little cars, but just so poorly built.

    The Neon was a big sales success in the 90′s but I believe they continued to sell them with three speed autos until the end. It may be selection bias, but I also rarely seem to see a Chrysler product more than a few years old that doesn’t have faded paint and dull trim… They just don’t seem to last a long time. This is why I would be hesitant to buy a Dart until they are more proven on the market… To see if they are built to the same Chrysler standards… To see if Dodge dealers who mostly work on trucks can adequately deal with a complex multiair engine, if the salesmen don’t start to talk down to me for wanting manual transmission, etc.

  • avatar
    sching

    “Dodge Dart”? Props for the alliteration and for being easy to say, even if English isn’t your first language. It’s a helluva lot better than “Plymouth Scamp”, which was the P-brand’s two-door version in the 70s. My dad had a ’73. The dealer told us the water leak in the driver’s footwell was a factory-installed “feature”.

    I drove the Alfa Giulietta that is (almost) the same under the skin as this 21st century Dart as a rental in Italy and France last summer. It had the 2.0 litre 140hp diesel (of course – we were in Europe, after all) with a six-speed manual.

    While the engine was totally different from the Dart’s, I can say that I quite enjoyed the handling over all of the twisty, narrow roads of Sardinia and especially, Corsica.

    The Giulietta’s looks are more memorable than the Dart’s, but I suspect the Dart will age better. I am glad though that the Dodge does not share the Giulietta’s vertical rear door handles. I always used the wrong hand to try to open the doors, getting all crossed up and having the wife smirking at me.

  • avatar
    Bugattis11395

    Something to think about: I honestly don’t think the buyers of a Dart t will. drive it the way many journalists are driving it. I mean, I don’t blame them looks pretty mean, after all it is a Dodge … But unless the Cruzes, Elantras, and Civics of the world have been wringed out like that, I don’t think it’s fair to say it has awful dynamics (this is to Kim Reynolds opinion.) That said, the Mazda 3 and Focus are completely different dynamically, and this is still a great option for someone shopping for a stylish, well-equipped small car at a decent price point.

  • avatar
    craigcars

    Here’s the deal…. Everybody (mfg’s) wants to build a “hook” for the buying public (fish). A smaller car is the latest way to pull in the big deals. Talk about all the different choices of brands – it dosen’t matter. The models shown in advertising are always a red colored hopped up model with big chrome wheels. And that’s what people want if they they are going into monthly payments. But the base models look like junk. They are featured like junk. and the final model that people want winds up being twice as much as the starting at price.
    All compact cars should come with AT LEAST a/c, bluetooth, and cool looking wheels.
    I bought a Cruze in 2011 and the base model came with everything except alloy wheels. It was lower pricing than all the laughable brands that this reviewer mentions. A Focus? Yeah right.. looks like a catfish up front. Hyundai? Like somebody got carried away with a sculpturs knife in art class. At least the Cruze looks like a small Cadillac and performs great if not quietly.
    So, it leaves me wondering what a non anti Chevy person would say about the new Dart? Can I get a Dart at SXT level for under 19k?
    No. Would I consider one? If said car was below 19k. I think I anwsered my own question.
    But I have to admit, at least the Dart has some good style. Something I can’t say for any of those brands that the reviewer mentioned. Thumbs up for that . Not including a/c on a base base model? What is this…. 1960′s marketing in the 20-teens? Wow.
    Is there a radio in that base model? I didn’t catch that part…..

  • avatar
    craigcars

    Saw a red rallye sxt today. Sorry folks…. Not looking like a 23k car……. No way….

  • avatar
    craigcars

    So anyway… it appears that the first Darts are in short supply so the dealers here in Pa have to borrow Rallaye red models and drive around between different states putting a couple hundred miles on each and not selling the demo because they are ponies in a travelling circus. Step right up and plunk down 23k for one of these and we’ll git ya one! Questionable marketing. Even new generation Corvettes had one per dealer and available for sale the last two times a grounbreaking style change came along.
    So now Dodge thinks they can “pull a Camaro or a Challenger” by building mystique and the allure of rarity. Good luck.
    Why? Let’s see:
    Orange peel (standard US quality) paint job.
    Questionable fender to door edge fit and seamlessness.
    Lackluster area in front of the manual shifter considering it’s a 23k car.
    Looks “small” inside compared to rival cars in the class.
    Infotainment screen looks like a Best Buy “add-on” smack dab in the middle of an otherwise decent curvaceous dash.
    Most attractive aspects are the rear dual exh tips and the piano black front curves (which was desecrated by a front plate holder screwed into it because it was drivin from a dealer in Marylnad where owners aren’t allowed to have a plate free front like we can still enjoy in Pa. Can our state reps do nothing for us? Can you imagine owning a Corvette ZR1 and having to run bolts through the front fascia? Ouch.
    Oh well… suffice it to say, I won’t be trading my Cruze on a Dart anytime soon.


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