By on April 8, 2013

The Dodge Dart was supposed to have been the Messianic Redemption for Chrysler’s passenger car side; a well-built, competent compact car that would draw in young buyers to the Dodge brand while taking the fight to established players like Civic, Corolla and Focus. It had all the right elements on paper too; a large cabin, Alfa Romeo underpinnings and the all-important 40 MPG rating.

Initial reviews were tepid and Chrysler got the model mix completely wrong. Reports of labor unrest, special 40 MPG compliant models and sleight-of-hand dealings between the government and Sergio Marchionne clouded the cars’d ebut. Many in the online peanut gallery were ready to brand the Dart a dud. How could Chrysler be so dense as to release a half-baked product into one of the most competitive segments in the industry?

I finally got a chance to drive the Dart, nearly a year after its on-sale date, and I came away very impressed. The demo I got was a mid-level SXT with boring 2.0L 4-cylinder and 6-speed automatic – not the most exciting drivetrain, but likely the most popular. This drivetrain combination was the biggest blight on the Dart. The 2.0L is an absolute dog, anemic and unresponsive to all but the most aggressive throttle inputs. When fighting urban traffic, it takes an eternity for the engine to wake up, and quick maneuvers are hampered by its total absence of gumption. The 6-speed automatic, oriented towards economy rather than performance, only makes things worse.

Aside from that, everything else was very well executed. The large touchscreen was easy to ready and UConnect is by far the best of Detroit’s infotainment systems. Its menus are clear and easy to use, the system operates without any lag and it quickly and seamlessly integrated my iPhone’s music library. It also passed my all important test: can a passenger who is unfamiliar with in-car technology operate it without any instruction from me.

On the road, the Dart is let down only by the godawful drivetrain. The steering is a tad numb but the weighting is spot on and you still have a good sense of what the front tires are doing. Personally, I think this car handles better than the over-rated Focus. Turn-in is crisp, body roll is fairly well controlled and it changes direction competently. Somehow, it feels lighted than its 3,200 lb curb weight suggests. I wouldn’t mind driving the 1.4T and 2.4 equipped models just for comparison.

Slowly but surely, sales of the Dart appear to be picking up. I’m sure that among the B&B, there will be squabbles about who rules the compact car segment. I don’t know if I would necessarily crown the Dart as my top pick (I would have to go with the Mazda3 and trade some refinement for superior driving dynamics) but I would be happy to recommend it to the 99.9% of the population that doesn’t care about whether a care has electric power steering or not.

More importantly, it’s a deeply encouraging sign for Chrysler. Their sales gain as a whole are largely being driven by Ram trucks and Jeep. The 200 and Avenger may offer a lot of value for money, but they are dated and rather dismal products compared to the competition. The 300 is a great car (as you’ll see next week) but the full-size segment is shrinking.

The Dart, on the other hand, is the first car built off the CUSW platform, which will underpin other crucial products like the Jeep Cherokee and the next generation Chrysler 200. If Chrysler is going to survive as a company, their next wave of products have to be more than just “competitive”. The Dart, despite its teething problems, is a very encouraging sign of what’s to come.

 

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178 Comments on “In Defense Of: The Dodge Dart...”


  • avatar
    DeeDub

    The 2.0L is an absolute dog…The 6-speed automatic…only makes things worse…Aside from that, everything else was very well executed.

    “But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Gotta agree bad drivetrain kills the car it does not matter what it may offer on the plus side

      • 0 avatar

        First, it’s no different from any other car. There is always a significant delay between a full throttle input and the resulting downshift. They do it on purpose. In fact, my wife’s car has a mode selector that easily eliminates that delay. So, Dart does not need to deliver responsive downshifts: it only needs to deliver them better than in Civic, Cobalt, or whatever.

        Second, that 2.0L is a “dog” may be purely Derek’s ignorant opinion, intoxicated on overpowered journoloaner cars. I saw this kind of hyperbole so much in the press (including on TTAC) that I ignore it immediately. “Fighting” urban traffic indeed. What a load of whatever.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          Agree completely about journalists thinking cars are “underpowered.” However, what got me is how “godawful” Derek thinks the drivetrain is, yet he “came away very impressed” and “would be happy to recommend it.”

          Now, I don’t need 300 hp to be satisfied with a car, but if I thought an engine & transmission were that bad, I certainly wouldn’t be impressed nor would I recommend it. But that’s just me.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          +1

          “I saw this kind of hyperbole so much in the press (including on TTAC) that I ignore it immediately.”

          I don’t ignore it, I key-in on it. If all they can complain about is “it’s a dog”, sounds like something I’ll check out.

        • 0 avatar
          JD-Shifty

          lol, you took the words out of my mouth. I;m sure it also had “hard plastic” switches, and that he was also “scared on the highway entrance ramps”. such overblown cliches.

          • 0 avatar
            daviel

            “It’s a dog” (won’t win a drag race with a corvette); numb steering; hard plastic; etc and etc, are hackneyed phrases. Not all cars are aimed at “enthusiasts.” I’m one, however, and I have been steered wrong by journalists’ enthused recommendations too often (usually VWs). I got to drive a Dart for myself. probably the 1.4t

        • 0 avatar

          Go drive it and tell me what you think. I’m far from the only one who feels that way.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            We test drove a Dart with the 1.4l turbo before Christmas. I remember thinking its performance was significantly better than that of the Altima 2.5l we drove. The Altima defined boredom, for me.

            Quite liked the Dart, inside and out. Attractive design, nice interior, good manners. I’d personally prefer more “oomph”, but (as you said, Derek) that’s not likely a focus for most consumers.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            ECT, the Sentra would be Nissan’s compact. The Altima being the mid-size offering which would compete with the 200/Avenger.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Well, I HAVE test driven the Dart with the same drivetrain, and it’s grossly underpowered. The horsepower may be fine, but the torque just isn’t there. You need more than 148 ft./lbs. (at 4600 rpm) to pull a 3200 lb. car, and a faster 0-60 time than 9.9 seconds to compete with the compact competition.

            Chrysler’s problem going forward is that it doesn’t have an I4 with decent low end torque unless they put a turbo on it, and there’s quite a gap before you reach the Pentastar V6. Chrysler needs a non-turbo 3.0 V6 to fill that gap, the high revving Fiat fours are too small for compact/midsize cars in the 3000 lb.-plus range.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            MBella, as others have noted, the Dart is larger than other compacts, not much smaller than mid-size. But my comment was about the driving experience, not the size. The Nissan we drove was the Altima, and it was soporific.

            Lorenzo, Chrysler shows 184 lb-ft of torque for the 1.4 turbo. 148 is for the 2.0 non-turbo.

          • 0 avatar
            Mrb00st

            Lorenzo – I think that’s why they’re coming out with a 3.2L version of the Pentastar, which should come out first in the new Cherokee.

      • 0 avatar
        Krule World

        Ford also have a 2.0L four, but they were smart enough to put a turbo on it.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Like the Fiat 500, Chrysler/Fiat really botched the intro for the Dart. Introducing it with basically only the lackluster turbo 4 and the manual transmission was a complete blunder that dampened a lot of initial interest. They also were marketing it like a mini Charger in a segment where the appliance-like Corolla and Civic are king. I think they should make a non-MutiAir version of the 2.4 standard instead of the 2.0. With the 2.4 MultiAir that will be standard on the GT (it it ever comes out!) as the optional engine. They should also add the hatch version of this car (Fiat Viaggio in China) to the model mix. This car should be selling at twice the current numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      3rdof5

      My sxt is the 2litre 6spd auto. I agree its not as lively as I’d like but considering the issues the 1.4 turbo has I’m glad I have the 2 litre. This car is beautiful inside and out and handles and corners perfectly. Shifting in manual mode gives much more control over engine performance and does a better job of keeping the engine “awake” but driving in “D” does well and likely gives better fuel economy. My ’13 ram hemi will leave my dart in the dust but that’s not why I bought this dart. Its mean and sporty and excellent on fuel and has more than enough power to make it way more fun to drive. I’d recommend a dart to anyone. Kudos Dodge!

  • avatar
    Maxseven

    Too bad the Dart is so wimpy-looking.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I agree. It looks completely like a car for women. And Enterprise.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I always thought the Dart looked like…well almost every car in its category, bland but with a vaguely aggressive front end and long headlights.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          The back is pretty distinctive if you opt for the optional “racetrack” lights.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I looked those up, they should just call them “Look at me I’m a Charger but not quite!” tailights.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            I think Dodge is just trying to create a signature look. Charger, Dart and now the upcoming 2014 Durango all have this tailight treatment. I would expect future Dodges to get this treatment as they are refreshed/launched.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        I’d prefer it in Botticelli Blue.

        Then it would make me think of bunnies and bubblebaths. I don’t know why.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      Am I the only one that’s bothered by how ridiculously bright the rear brake light set up is on these cars?

      It’s clearly a gimmick to get noticed, the equivalent of bolting a neon sign to the rear bumper, but I’m amazed the DOT allowed it. I have to squint at night when I’m behind one, it’s like headlights shooting from behind.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        It makes it really difficult to evade someone pursuing you at night too. Not that I would know…

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        Have you been behind one of the new ambulances with the LED lights at night? Brutally bright, both the red and yellow ones both. If they were just up at the top, it wouldn’t be bad, but there’s like 3 pairs of them on the new ones around here, and one is right at eye level.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    When it’s all said and done, isn’t the drive-train the most important aspect of any given vehicle? Seems like most domestics fail when it comes to the standard powertrain, you gotta spend more $$ to get a decent enough unit.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I agree that the Dart has gotten an undeserved bad rap in many circles. Yes, the 2.0L AT combo is slow, but slow is par for the course in the basic econobox category. Fuel economy is the target for that end of the market, and after comparing it with a base automatic Civic and Corolla, it certainly felt no slower than those cars.

    It’s roomy and well finished inside, and offers a ton of features for the money, some that aren’t offered on the biggest players in the segment. I don’t care for 4 cylinder compacts, but I had to try it out as it offered all the interior accomodations that my Charger R/T has, but at 2/3 the price.

    In the end, the siren song of the Hemi and RWD drew me to the Charger, but if I cared more about getting 30+ mpg, the Dart would have been the car.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I haven’t yet driven the Dodge Dart, so I’m going to reserve judgment for now and say that I still like the Chevy Cruze the most, but I’m glad that Chrysler Group got the details right…it is attractive looking and, according to you, easy to use. Swapping the powetrain combination for something with more get-up-and-go (or just modifying it) is probably a lot easier than redesigning most of the car.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    I love ALMOST everything about this car…and the marketing campaign has been, in my opinion, particularly “outside the box” (the “registry” concept? Brilliant). It looks good and seems every bit as practical as a small sedan should, but that performance?

    Forget it. It is basically nothing more than a better-looking Mitsuibishi Lancer.

    And there’s the fix, plain as day. This car needs its own “Evo” alter-ego, a Batman to its Bruce Wayne.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      The marketing gambit that was my kryptonite for the Dart was flying sex blogger Jen Friel to trendy Austin TX with the expectation that anything relevant would come of her review. Messirs Jack Baruth might think that’s an okay proposition as he likes to drop references to his epic Old Spice’esque womanizing with sex bloggers but I could only gape in astonishment at the worthlessness of her review. While I probably couldn’t write worthwhile prose about getting my anal on or having five sex partners over the weekend, I definitely could write a salient feature on any motorized conveyance known to man, given the opportunity.
      I’d like to emphasize the ‘given the opportunity’ part.
      http://jalopnik.com/5906710/dont-you-want-to-know-what-this-nerdy-relationship-blogger-thinks-about-the-dodge-dart

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I think the ad campaign is absolutely terrible. It talks about how easy it is to create a good compact car, yet Chrysler has struggled for years. Stupid concept especially for Chrysler.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The rude awakening I recently had concerning ALL cars, is: Most cars are good for the first 100K mikes. It’s what survives the second and even third odometer turnover that seems to sell. For cars in this category, can you spell “Corolla” and “Civic”?

    At least the Dart has chrome door handles, and for that, I cut it some slack, but I haven’t driven one, yet.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      With all due respect, I think very few new car buyers are thinking about — or interested in — what’s left of the car after the first 100K.

      Used car buyers, especially those buying cars with 70,000- 80,000 miles, are probably thinking differently.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It’s ironic that a car’s usefulness over 100K miles is what determines its resale value, which most greatly effects the uber-consumers that never think things through and trade every few years.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        DC Bruce, I agree with your comments. Yes, new car buyers in general don’t appear to be concerned after the first 100K. I suppose I’ve been one of them, but used-car buyers – aye – THAT’S the rub, like CJinSD said!

        A friend who works for a Toyota and Honda franchise in the body repair shop tells me that those automakers build cars for the second AND third owners. I guess that’s what makes horseraces…

        I still drive a Chevy, but Impalas have been quite reliable and long-lived in their own right, too, according to companies that have them as fleet vehicles, my wife’s company being one of them. The difference? They take care of them!

        I don’t believe Chrysler will achieve that level of consumer confidence anytime soon, but I’d like to believe they are trying.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Which is actually extremely intelligent, not so much the parade of owners down the line, but more for CPO resale. Creating retail demand for your products helps fatten your branded dealer’s used car margins and your brand finance arm’s ability to offload excess lease capacity to indy dealers. This also gives you the manufacturer the ability to “hit and miss” and still retain the majority of your customers not to mention positive reputation (or phone in your products).

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Zackman, a lot of cars can easily make it past 100K if given a chance…heck I did more than double that in a K car. The problem is that a lot of buyers won’t give certain brands a chance because of bad experiences – even when those experiences are two decades in the past. I chuckle at those who blab about reliability when they sell every four years. Today most cars will be damn-near trouble free for that period of time.

          Some makes, however, are designed for easier servicing, and sadly that is not usually the domestic brands. Speed of assembly usually takes precedence. A great example of serviceability would be the need to change a fuel pump on an old Mazda MPV. There is a hatch in the floor so dropping the tank is not required. That type of thing is rare on a domestic, but it should be noted that it is getting more uncommon in Japanese makes as corporate cost cutting takes place.

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          I owned a ’78 Buick turbo Regal that I bought new and it was such a pleasant owner experience that I vowed I would never purchase another GM car . I have honored that vow to this day.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            What does GM’s first attempt at mass producing a turbo engine have to do with what is being offered today? That’s like saying I’ll never do business with Sears again because I bought a toaster there in 1978 that didn’t live up to my expectations. Very narrow thinking old chap!

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            #1… That wasn’t GM’s first attempt (I think the Corvair was) and #2, the overall reliability, build/paint quality were well beyond terrible… Execrable is closer to the mark. The car was an absolute nightmare.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            GM’s second attempt was the short-lived Oldsmobile Turbo Jetfire, which followed the Corvair Monza Spyder by a few weeks. So is GM’s third attempt at mass producing a turbocharged engine being a nightmare enough reason to write them off? How many times do you have to grab your ankles before you can credibly say you don’t like taking it that way?

      • 0 avatar
        Jellodyne

        New car buyers don’t care about what the car will be like at 200,00 miles. Used car buyers do, so it affects resale value. New car buyers care about resale value, because it reflects the real cost to own that car for the first 100,000. Therefore people buy Civics and Carollas, and not Dodge Darts.

  • avatar
    aircooledTOM

    HOLY CRAP….. PROOF-READ!!!

    • 0 avatar

      For some reason, my edit did not save and the crappy first draft published instead. My apologies.

      • 0 avatar
        aircooledTOM

        Cool. I just hate seeing sloppy stuff make it onto web content just because it passes spell check. Lots of things are spelled right but are still wrong.

        • 0 avatar
          dlancer

          I just bought a 2013 Dart with the 2.0 and 6 spd auto. This car is awesome. Keep in mind that over the years I have owned a SRT-4 Neon and a 2007 Mustang Shelby GT. This car will never be confused with either one. However the Dart is more than adequate in everyday driving and commuting. It is about the same as my wife’s Elantra in performance. At the same time it handles great and has so much equipment for the price. Dodge has already come out with some software updates that have addressed some of the early problems. On top of all my Uconnect screen says I’m getting 38mpg and thats one of the big reasons I bought the Dart. Besides if I want to go alittle faster I will just drive my Mazdaspeed Miata.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Having a model with more than 184 horsepower would certainly help move units.

    People want a sport model that’s actually quick, mere appearance packages don’t move units like an actually fast car does.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      How? All cars in this class are light on power. How many car enthusiasts do you think are out there hungering for high-powered compacts?

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Into ‘his’ garage he means.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Plenty. All of them are buying Subaru Impreza WRXes, Focus STs, and Civic Si-s though. Then I see the Rally package or whatever and it’s just some garish paint on the same damn car. That’s not a sports compact, it’s a 70s throwback.

        Dodge could probably make the 2.4 Turbo (if they still have it) fit in the Dart and have a Focus ST competitor. After all, people loved the Neon SRT-4.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          None of those sell anywhere near the volume of the economy cars they are based on. So a hot version isn’t going to make the Dart a sales leader. The enthusiast is a small slice of the new-car buying pie.

          “people” loved the Neon SRT-4? Sure. A teeny tiny number of people, hence why 95% of the Neons I saw on the road were not SRT-4s.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I guess I just prefer hot models because I’m a young guy who loves fast cars.

            A four cylinder Camry or Accord would probably put me to sleep faster than a chloroform rag.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            @30-mile fetch

            So true, and so unwelcome a truth on a car forum.

            Ironically, as a permanent member of another insignificant niche (car lovers who think fast is stupid), I know the frustration.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Summicron, keep your niche alive!

            NoGoYo, it isn’t your love of fast cars that I’m targeting (love ‘em all you want), it is the false assumption that most of the car-buying demographic wants the type of car you want. No biggie.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            In NYG’s defense, a hi-po version of the Dart certainly wouldn’t hurt sales.

            It would be worth it to garner journalistic approval.

            Also, fast = stupid?! Does not compute.

          • 0 avatar

            A taste calibration question, surely. Last time I visited an urban wasteland, I rented a Focus. It was way overpowered, in my opinion. I have not used the full throttle even once in anger: only to test what it could do. I include freeway onramps and merging, with passengers. The engine power could easily be cut by 25%. And it wasn’t an ST model.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            When you say overpowered, do you mean that it was exhibiting torque steer, or that the tires couldn’t put the power to the pavement? For all the Focus’ faults, the engine is actually one of the stronger ones in the class. It delivers performance comparable to the base engined midsized cars, which most compacts’ non-performance versions do not. While maybe it isn’t the level of performance you want to turn your 16 year old loose with, the Focus might well define average sedan performance at the moment. It’s quicker than the Civic, Corolla, Cruise, Dart, Fusion 1.6EB, Elantra, or Jetta, but no faster than a 4 cylinder Altima or Camry, and slower than pretty much anything with performance pretenses. It is class competitive in fuel economy too, splitting the difference between the real fuel economy stars of the compact class and the overweight laggards.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      How many compact cars have 185+ hp? Compact cars exist because they are innexpensive to buy/operate, not because they have obscene power.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      What are the two most popular cars [not trucks] in America?

      In 2012, they were the Camry and Accord.

      The base Accord has … 185 horsepower.

      The base Camry has … 178 horsepower.

      Clearly one can “move units” without having over 184(5) horsepower, yes?

      People might say they “want” a sport model that’s actually quick, but I see a hell of a lot more I4 Camcords than I do V6 models.

      Base models make sales and money. Sports models make car enthusiasts happy … but they still rarely turn that happiness into an actual sale.

      (See “Why Saab Went Bankrupt: Because Saab Enthusiasts Weren’t Actually New Saab Purchasers.”)

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    3,200 lbs. Maybe the drivetrains would seem competent if the Dart wasn’t carrying the equivalent of two large passengers at all times.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Bingo. That’s about what a 4-cylinder Sonata or Altima weighs, and those have another half-liter of torques to play with. The Dart would be fine if it weighed 2900 pounds.

      Also, fix the handbrake location.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      That’s amazing, actually. I wonder how they ended up with a mid-size car weight in a compact car? How does such a compact car acquire an extra 300 pounds over its competition?

      However they did it, that is sure to make it feel sluggish, get worse real world fuel economy and an extra 300 pounds of materials must surely be driving their costs up.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        The car is bigger than most compact cars – in fact dimensionally its basically the same size as the Avenger (larger in some measures, like shoulder room and overall width), notwithstanding the 2-3 inch shorter wheelbase. I’m not saying it still isn’t overweight, but it’s not fair to compare it directly to other compact cars since it truly straddles compact and mid-size.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The ’64 Dart was a foot longer and 400 lbs lighter, with the 225 slant 6, which put out 145 hp, but 210 ft/lb of torque at 1600 rpm. Despite the (torque) power to weight advantage, it was 3/10ths slower 0-60 than the current Dart.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “The large touchscreen was easy to ready and UConnect is by far the best of Detroit’s infotainment systems.”

    I wouldn’t even handicap Uconnect by comparing it to just Detroit automakers, it’s the best to use, period.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I am hoping Mazda could get access to this system to replace their less than well received system in the 6. Mazda have an alliance with FIAT for the new MX5, so it could be expanded to infomatic systems.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Not likely. Mazda is building the platform & will manufacture the Alfa, but there’s no hint that they will share anything like infotainment.

        I rented a Dodge late last year. Its infotainment wasn’t nearly as bad as others, but still utterly more painful than a real stereo with real controls. If people want glorified cell phones in their center consoles, and having them sells cars–fine. But at least keep the option for a system that has been optimized over the last half century & genuinely works well.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Because of all the venom directed at the Dart I went and test drove one, purely for curiosity sake. I found it to be quiet and comfortable. Its a pleasant place to be. I think its mass gives it a solidity and substance I previously associated with the Jetta, back when all the other economobiles were decidedly tinny.

    As Derek says, the powertrains are inadequate, though. I test drove a 1.4T/6MT combo, and I really didnt care for it. Once you wound up the engine past 3500 RPM it had all kinds of pull, but for slogging around town, it was pretty much crap. Throttle response/tip in was non existant, and rolling out in second, for an engine with so much low end turbo torque (supposedly 184 lb-ft at 2550 rpm) was a painful experience. This is the stuff that us 3 pedal drivers do without thinking in traffic, and having to always grab first, while still rolling, is just a pain. Once underway, at highway speeds or with the engine humming, its acceptable. This just isnt how it should be though. Having experienced a 1.8T in a 2004 GLI, with roughly the same torque charecteristics, it takes a second to get on the boost but the car never shuddered and complained like the 1.4T in the Dart.

    I feel like the Dart 1.4T could easily be redeemed with a retuned ECU. A little boost off the top but down low with more aggressive throttle response/tip in would really turn it around, I think. An MT car doesnt need that hesitation programmed into modern automatics for fuel economy, thats what the driver is supposed to do.

    Summary: Decent car, powertrain needs to be rethought (as Derek says).

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “I wouldn’t mind driving the 1.4T and 2.4 equipped models just for comparison.”

    I’ll help: Nobody has driven the 2.4 because Dodge has inexplicably dragged its feet for a year. That’s the only hope for engines in this car.

    I’ve driven both the 2.0 AT and the 1.4 MT, and the 2.0 AT was better by far. Both have the same HP, but the 1.4 turbo is completely dead below 4000 rpm. Believe me, the 2.0 is much better, but neither is great. The 6 spd stick is awful – the clutch is heavy and the shift throws are awkwardly placed. The Hyundai-sourced automatic is actually pretty nice.

    I look for refinement under the hood by watching an engine idle. The engine covers on the 2.0 vibrate like a ’75 Rabbit diesel, which tells me the project stopped when they got the thing running – nothing more. No modern 4-cylinder should do this.

    As much as I want to like this car (and I do love its looks), the 2.4 had better get the party started or I’ll never consider one.

    Edmunds has a long-term 1.4 turbo with the DDCT transmission in its fleet, and they generally hate the drivetrain. They’ve also revealed some serious ergonomic problems, such as horrendous front seats and very sharp protrusions from the rear deck into the trunk.

    Dodge has a lot of work to do.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Thats really interesting. I couldnt help but wonder if the 2.0 would be more responsive where most people actually spend their time driving.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        It is; the 2.0 would be much easier to live with, in my opinion.

        The Dodge/Fiat 1.4T is nothing like the – for example – Chevy 1.4T in the Cruze. The Cruze engine has good low-end torque and seems well-suited for the car it’s in.

        • 0 avatar
          afuller

          Strangely enough I was given a 2.0 Dart as a loaner while my Fiat (non-turbo) was in the shop.

          Maybe it’s a case of perspective but I found the Dart to be a nice ride and thought the automatic transmission worked well. However my only other experience with an automatic in the past 8 years or so were with a Sebring with a 4-speed auto that I also got as a loaner while my Fiat was in the shop.

          I decided that if I were buying a new car I would look at the Dart.

          However now that I was just car shopping I took a spin in a Cruze with the 1.4T engine. It was a revelation as I had no idea that such a small engine could provide such a nice push right off idle.

    • 0 avatar
      Webtiger

      I have driven the GT with the 2.4L
      I liked it so much I bought one.. delivery in about 10 days.
      I respect peoples opinions but some of you on here are so far off the mark about the target market for these cars you sound like uneducated country bumpkins.
      Sub 20K 1st/2nd time car buyers.. not families…

      If you’re slagging on a car go drive it you may be pleasantly surprised…

  • avatar
    dbcoop

    I got a Dart rental shortly after they were released. I thought the car had a decent amount of power (for a compact car) and I prefer the conventional automatic to Ford’s DSG thingy in the Focus. I personally found the ride to be too stiff even on the smooth Phoenix roads (my rental had 45 series tires.) The front cloth seats had some really weird ergonomics too. If I wanted a fun compact car I’d get a VW GTI. Otherwise the Focus is a better all around car than the Dart IMO.

  • avatar
    Botswana

    I had the Dart SXT similar to what you described as a rental. I was unimpressed.

    I’ll give it this much. I drove the hell out of that thing and did it all on one tank of gas, so I don’t know what it’s fuel efficiency really is but I was able to put quite a few miles on it without having to do any extra fill-ups, which is good because the company only pays for one tank of gas. I like the cabin, definitely nicer than my daily driver, and it’s generally comfortable with decent amenities.

    Where it counts though? It is a dog. Definite points for handling, but it lacks acceleration for such a small car. I’ve driven plenty of compacts and while none of them are going to astound you in the 0 to 60 times most of them have decent acceleration off the line and when you need it. Sure, your ultra-underpowered Smarts aren’t going to get you out of trouble but I wouldn’t look for one of those if I was commuting down the Interstate everyday and sure as hell wouldn’t take one as a rental if it was even an option. I digress. I stomp on the accelerator in the Dart and not much happens. It’s not bad performance, it was decidedly mediocre. Which was surprising because I thought it would be…more.

    Maybe it’s not such a bad car and it was overhyped to hell and back. I just expected it to outdo other cars in its segment in every way and I found it did very little better than most of the competition. Given it’s mediocre performance, mediocre pricing, and Dodge’s lack of reputation around long-term reliability (and combine that with Fiat!) and you have a car that dropped right the hell off my radar as a future purchase.

    Shame, because I was among those excited when it was first announced. I was a fan until the car convinced me otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I agree with you last paragraph as I was hoping this would be a great car from what had been said before it was released. At least drivetrains can be upgraded much easier than interior or exterior parts which would have to wait until MCE time. Whether Chrysler does this and pulls a Civic 2012-2013 change on us time will tell.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The priority was to build and sell the 40 MPG model to fulfill the promises made to get the extra percentage ownership in Chrysler. I suspect they were afraid that if they brought out the 2.4 RT (which is now going to be the GT) the sales mix would have been so lopsided that it would look like less than a good-faith effort to sell the high MPG variety. So no dessert till you eat your vegetables.

    I looked a few over while at the dealer buying my Challenger. They are nicely put together and the interior quality is the best I’ve seen in a car this size.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Good or not, it still ain’t a real Dart to me.

    They should’ve just called this a “Dodge Spirit”, both being psuedo-sporty 2 litre FWD compact sedans with a cross hair grille tacked on.

    • 0 avatar

      This thing screams Neon to me.

      • 0 avatar
        AFX

        “This thing screams Neon to me.”

        I guess that means it’ll have the same cardboard headgaskets that used to blow out on the Neons all the time too.

        Speaking of Neons, they used to have that old Neon ad campaign where they showed a Neon with “Hi.” above a picture of the car. I think Volkswagen could reprise that style of ad for their new Up! cars, and have “Yours !” over a picture of the car.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        For the sake of recent Dart owners I hope they hold together better than Neons.

        Funny thing is the new Darts being assembled where they used to assemble the Neon, Belvedere Illinois.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        There’s a part of me that wonders why they didn’t revive the Neon name with this car, but it struck me that Neon doesn’t really fit. The Neon was never really available with a lot of upscale options (although you could get leather breifly after the refresh in 2000) and was always thought of as a cheap compact for kids.

        I’m not saying Dart was the right name either, but this car in Limited trim is available with options that you would have to spend around $35,000 (not factoring rebates or other discounts) on a Charger to get. I’m talking things like blind spot monitoring, HID headlamps and rain sensing wipers – stuff that is contemporary and class leading from a technology standpoint. To mean, that makes it the anti-Neon.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          As far as I can see the Darts still a compact for kids, maybe not as cheap as a Neon but they have the Fiat 500 for that spot, and the 500 turbo, and the 500 diet turbo, and the 500 crossover, and the 500 sunroof, and the 500…

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            Well, certainly the base and Rallye trim level are for kids, but judging by some of the folks signing up for various Dart-centric owner forums, the Limited is skewing towards some older buyers that just want a refined, well-equipped car that gets decent mileage for their daily commutes.

  • avatar
    jco

    so.. you’re defending it by damning with faint praise?

    there have been two reviews of the car on TTAC so far. interesting that the Dart GT still doesn’t seem to be available. so far, the opinion from various TTAC writers is that the Dart is good but not class leading.

    interesting that you say the Dart is more refined than the Mazda.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Another thing that might be hurting the Dart is the Avenger/200 being sold at a discount. Yes, the Avenger/200 is ancient and lags behind the competition in many ways, but when it’s discounted enough, potential Dart customers may as well go for the larger, more powerful car.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Its a catch 22, Chrysler needs to keep its factories humming and its new small car is somewhat underpowered, and lets face it, expensive. If I’m looking for basic transportation and shopping Chrysler, Avenger/200 wins out at the same or lesser price point as Dart.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        The only reason to pick the Dart over the Avenger in my opinion is the third pedal, if thats important to you. You cant beat the price of the Avenger if youre hell bent on a Dodge.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          While the Avenger is a good value, it’s positively ancient. It also lacks a lot of the modern technology that is available on this car. You can’t get HID headlamps, auto high beams, rain sensing wipers or anywhere near 40 mpg even with the base powertrain in an Avenger.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            While a valid point, rain sensing wipers… really? I could go my whole life and not need this option.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            All I’m saying is that it has a lot of cutting edge features in it that at some point we will all come to expect in cars or will be mandated by the Feds (i.e. back up assist systems). I also like the fact that you can get the HID headlamps as a separate stand-alone option (granted, Limited trim only) without it being bundled in with a bunch of other stuff. As I grow older, good headlamps are becoming of particular interest to me.

  • avatar

    I went out and sat in a Dart recently and came away pleasantly surprised at what I found. I chose one of the lower end models to sit in, so no giant screen for me, but even at the bottom of the price bracket I was impressed with the fit and finsih. I was also surprised at just how much room there was, and I’m a fairly big guy (6’1″ and 275 pounds)

    I didn’t want to waste the salesman’s time with a pointless test drive so I did not go out on the road. I am disapointed to hear that the performance was lacking. I certainly hope they pump up thepower at some point because this is a car I could see spending money on.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I’ve driven a 1.4L turbo/manual and didn’t find it to be bad at all. If you are used to a more “European” style of driving (or perhaps it’s more peculiar to Italy) of keeping the revs up and the engine in its powerband, it’s a hoot. Still, I took a test drive during rush hour on a busy street (i.e. lots of traffic and not much opportunity to “hoon” it) and found that the car launches fine and accelerates well, even without winding it out. Have I driven faster cars? Sure. Have I driven slower cars? No doubt – my ’06 Wrangler with 33 inch tires is hardly a drag racer. Bottom line: the car feels fine to me, especially considering the “normal” models of the competetion are hardly drag racers.

  • avatar
    segfault

    I’d have been interested if there were a turbocharged 2.0 liter version, but ended up buying a Jetta GLI.

  • avatar
    dts187

    I won’t believe it’s a decent car unless DK’s grandmother buys one.

    But really, I liked the idea of the Dart until I saw one in person and got to ride as a passenger. It looked like it would fit in with the rest of Dodge’s crap cars pretty well. Underpowered, utterly forgettable, and destined to a future of clogging up rental car lots and driveways of those with sub-prime credit.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      I’ve ridden in one as well. I’ll just say I agree with everything you wrote:

      “It looked like it would fit in with the rest of Dodge’s crap cars pretty well. Underpowered, utterly forgettable, and destined to a future of clogging up rental car lots and driveways of those with sub-prime credit.”

  • avatar
    Dan

    Just like the Cruze, we’re told over and over that the other cars “in its class” have terrible powertrains too as if that excuses it.

    At 3,300 lbs and $18,xxx real world it isn’t a Neon anymore. Ignore the marketing and believe your lying eyes for a change and you’ll see that the real competition is the budget midsizes.

    Nobody remembers how bad (or how good, but bad is what’s important) the powertrain in an $18,500 Altima, 200, or Sonata is.

  • avatar
    vtv505

    “It looked like it would fit in with the rest of Dodge’s crap cars pretty well. Underpowered, utterly forgettable, and destined to a future of clogging up rental car lots and driveways of those with sub-prime credit.””

    Chrysler and Dodge are utterly wrecked as brands (except for Ram).

    C/D needs to pull a Hyundai soon with better warranties and product—the current Dart doesn’t cut it.

    I’m not on a limb when guessing that people who’d pay a premium for European design don’t want to be seen driving behind a C/D badge.

    I imagine C/D are going to be a long-term money-losing/barely break-even anchor on Fiat’s neck—which has enough problems with European demand.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Exactly my sentiments until I bought a 2012 Grand Cherokee V6 for the wife and drove my son’s 300 V8 back from Lake Tahoe for him. I was pleasantly surprised!

      Then again, those are not the same Chrysler crap we, the people, have been bludgeoned with for decades. Both the Grand Cherokee and the 300 have been infused with DNA from world-class quality cars from Daimler. The quality shows and the buyers are flocking to them.

      I would never buy a Dart, but a WAG would place me with innocent bystanders who would invoke the term “Fiat crap” as the DNA that the Dart inherited, among them the power trains.

      Fiat products were terrible in the past, they’re terrible now, and they will continue to be terrible in the future. In some countries Fiat quality ranks lowest among all car makers.

      Just because the newly-found success of the 300 and the Grand Cherokee are keeping Fiat afloat, it does not morph the Dart, 500 or future Fiat-based Cherokee into world-class products.

      I suspect that Derek Kreindler’s assessment is being generous and kind to the Dart. If the Dart really is as good as the fans say it is, they would have sold more of them. Sales data to this point tells me that people shun the Dart, no doubt each for their own reasons.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        Based on feedback from Grand Cherokee owning co-workers, I’d be running away from that model.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          We haven’t had any problems with ours in over 34K miles since we bought it in Nov 2011. My wife uses it for ~150-mile daily commute, mostly on US70 and US54.

          There are five Grand Cherokees in my area that belong to people we actually know, the oldest GC a 2011, the newest a 2014 purchased in ABQ last month.

          None of them have had ANY problems and the Jeep dealership in ABQ sells 2-3 of the 2014s a day, every day they’re open.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        You do realize that the first generation of Charger was “infused” with Daimler DNA….and it was utter crap.

        The reason why people flock to the latest generation of Chrysler cars is because of the lack of Daimler influence.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Thanks for that review. I think what will be offered in the near future will mitigate complaints about sub-par drive trains and lack of driving excitement

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Haven’t driven one but have seen them up close (the local Dodge dealer decided to stick one as a static display in the mall, sadly he chose the god awful puke yellowish green color). Here’s my impression.

    Pros:
    -roomy for the class
    -manual trans available in all trim levels, not just poverty spec or super-premium models
    -front and rear styling is easily recognizable as a Dodge

    Cons:
    -Fiatsler is dragging its feet on the engine everybody wants to try
    -base engine is crap, but…

    everybody’s base engine is crap. Do you really want a Cruze with the 1.8ltr non turbo boat anchor? (I know the car competes in a different class but…) Do you really want a Fusion with the 2.5ltr engine? Do you want a 4cyl Lacrosse? Seriously. We’ve gotten to the place where base power-train combos exist for CAFE and for low base prices.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Well, the problem with the Dart is that base engine is crap and the 1.4 turbo uplevel alternative is crappier still. The only decent powertrain remains on paper.

    • 0 avatar

      I dunno, Dan. People buy so many 4-cylinder RAV4s that the new generation disposes of V-6 altogether. And that’s a car that was universally praised by the motoring press as ROCS (Ridiculously Overpoverd Crossover SUV), etc. Owners who bought the V-6 loved it, on forums anyway. The engine was the stock V-6 found in every Camry, and not unduly expensive. And yet… Now I admit I bought a 4-cylinder because I wanted a reliable powertrain back when it was an exact carry-over from RAV4.2. Probably not a consideration for buyers of the current 2.5L.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      You’re omitting a bunch of mainstream cars with very good base engines. I haven’t driven the 2.5 Fusion, but it should be decent if it is to compete with everyone else’s naturally aspirated 4 cylinder mid sized cars. The V6s available in Altima, Accord, and Camry are only necessary for people that want to hit 100 in the quarter mile. Civic and Corolla each sell about 300,000 cars with their base engines every year. The Elantra doesn’t have any power upgrades. The Focus base engine is downright peppy. Those are the cars the Dart needs to measure up to without requiring an engine option that nobody has tested yet. Considering the Dart already lacks a price advantage without a decent engine, it seems unlikely that the 2.4 liter will be a strong value proposition.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        “Considering the Dart already lacks a price advantage without a decent engine, it seems unlikely that the 2.4 liter will be a strong value proposition.”

        That’s my concern, too, although Dodge already says the GT will start at $20995 – not terrible. But with Dart options, it won’t be hard to push that past $27k, and that will be a problem.

  • avatar

    #1 I don’t trust ANY MPG claims because it’s all smoke and mirros – at the very least – highly subjective.

    #2 The Dart is an awesome small car and Chrysler/Fiat screwed up by putting manuals on the lots BEFORE automatics. Manuals are almost dead.

    #3 The Dart has THE BEST TECHNOLOGY PACKAGE of all cars in its class. PERIOD.

    #4 The SRT4 is going to be a game changer. But, it isn’t here yet.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    I have 1500 miles on a Limited 1.4T/6-spd manual ($22K & change MSRP). This is the most affordable, comfortable & fun-to-drive European sports sedan on the market. It just happens to be made in Illinois.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Dart is a dog, period. It doesn’t look good. Interior is horrible. Seats are bad. I was sitting in one for 5 minutes. That was enough.
    I’ve spent some time in every compact and I have to say that Mazda3 is the best of all of them. Mazda3 has “quality” written all over the place.
    - civic is a toy for a girl or a boy
    - corolla is ancient creature with no manners, a dinosaur
    - cruze is going to be a quality disaster in 3 years, if falling steering wheel wasn’t enough, Daewoo/Opel Cruze is a scary proposition
    - Elantra which is cute but still no Mazda3 in driving and with quality issues piling up at Hyundai…
    - Forte is also not competing with Mazda3 with its smaller engine
    - Focus, is a cool looking, good driving but there again, it is much tighter than Mazda3 and quality is questionable
    - Dart… reincarnation of Neon. Did anyone see a quality Fiat? Fix it again, Tony
    - Sentra – I thought it is dead until I saw one on the road a week ago. This is rare car these days. I didn’t seat in the new one but I had one for 3 months around 10 years ago. Mazda protege was like BMW vs Sentra

    Now, tell me what is wrong with Mazda3, lets say pre-SkyActive? It has all going for it. Driving dynamics, packaging, seats, steering, Germanesque interior, manual shifter, clutch, breaks, interior design, hardware quality… this is exactly truth – the car is perfect. And I am not sure that Sky Active version is.

    • 0 avatar
      roadscholar

      Question: are you able to drive your Mazda 3i under 85 mph on the highway for any length of time?

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Just wait until it rusts out – which won’t take long based on what I see out on the roads every day and what people say about Mazdas on here.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      Mazda3… too bland, no “personality”, no fun, if you want a German car interior, buy a German car.

      And it’s relatively gutless.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Jeez, I hate it when people make a religion out of their cars. The Mazda 3 is a great car. If you didn’t buy the crappy 2.0L base engine. If you don’t care about cramped rear seat room. If you don’t care about road noise. If you don’t care about mediocre packaging.

      Sorry, Bub, I like that car but it isn’t perfect, and seeing someone slobbering all over it with the kind of devotion you should be saving for girls kind of ruins it for me.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        +1. FWIW, I sat in a new 3 and test-drove and older one, and didn’t like either.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Looks like Motor Trend in their latest “best fuel efficient compact” comparison also picked Mazda3 SkyActive #1 pick!!

        See, I don’t care really what brand I am driving. I want it to be inexpensive, great ride, and the one that doesn’t leave my back hurting after 5-6 hours on the road. I like it to be fuel efficient, and I like manual because it makes it fun and little to none maintenance and more reliable. I don’t need sunroof, nav, sat radio, etc.

        So, my choice is a compact car or sport car. I would love to have a compact wagon. Subaru Impreza doesn’t work for me. Mazda3 Wagon didn’t work during purchase because of larger engine and lower MPG. Sports car is a liability when I finally do need 4 seats.

        Let me tell you something. Mazda3 iTouring was a shiny point on all dark car sales industry. This car has all but one single feature I wanted – the heated mirrors. For a car with Blue tooth I would have to go for $21K Civic. And M3iT has none of the feature I didn’t want or need.

        Its crappy 2L engine is perfect for me. And noise level in it is just fine and not worse than Civic, Elantra touring and host of others. The engine makes absolutely amazing growl vs high pitched buzz of its competition. It delivers 36mpg HWY every time and I average 30mpg, which is exactly what Consumer Reports reported.

        In 1998 I was testing Civic, Corolla and Protege ES. It was hand down Protege and I still have it. Rust has been a bit of problem behind rear doors but I fixed it and 15 years later this car still runs perfectly. Most parts are original – clutch, timing belt, CV boots. Rear brakes lasted 11 years. Even muffler is original, however, 2 out of 4 pieces of exhaust were replaced.

        I drove all other cars and only Mazda3 just like in 1998 Protege brought massive positive emotions and it is well-rounded car with bunch of excellent points. No wonder, it gets more and more 1st places from automotive comparison tests

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          Hope you two live happily ever after… You were obviously meant for each other.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          Try reading the article a little closer without your blinders:

          “After weighing the contenders in each category against what would best serve the average compact car buyer, we picked the 2014 Kia Forte as the best all-around car here and the winner of this test.

          Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1303_compact_sedans_the_big_test/viewall.html#ixzz2Q00nc98u”

          The overall winner of the test was the 2014 KIA Forte. Not the Mazda 3.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            That test is from June 2013 issue, which I didn’t receive yet…
            And then, I looked at Kia HP and it was 20 over mazda but in torque it is barely more. This is a stunt. This is most powerful car they can say. Yea, right…

            “Some comparison tests are blowouts, and those are easy to judge. Then there are tests like this, where the field is closely matched in nearly every category. Each car had strengths and weaknesses and none completely ran away with the award. There wasn’t a “perfect” car in the bunch, but several that would be very good choices depending on your priorities. If, for example, you’re an enthusiast like us, you’ll be happiest with the sporty Mazda. It would also appeal to those who value fuel economy above all else.”

            And than, again, this is not test of the car I own. Those are MSRPed @ $26K, my car was MSRP 17,800, I bought it for 16K and with taxes it was 18K.

            This or any test will also not take into account that MAzda3 is still assembled at the state of the art facility in
            Hiroshima. Its assembly is flawless. I’ve checked everything under microscope in this car and it is just amazing. I can easy find faults in any other make, especially Corolla, Civic, Hyundai and Kia.

            Unlike you, boys, I know my stuff. I drive things, I know how they become. I fixed cars for 20 years. I can see from 5 yards when something is not right.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            @slavuta – “Unlike you, boys, I know my stuff. I drive things, I know how they become. I fixed cars for 20 years.”

            Don’t make me regret defending you! I don’t always agree with the “boys” here, but I respect them. Some fix cars, some sell cars, some design cars, and some auto-cross cars. All love cars and I learn a little something whenever I have time to read TTAC.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          “Unlike you, boys, I know my stuff. I drive things, I know how they become. I fixed cars for 20 years. I can see from 5 yards when something is not right.”

          And good for you on fixing things.

          For the past 15 years I’ve been in quality engineering for some of the largest Tier 1, and Tier 2 suppliers on this PLANET.

          Your blinders are obvious. You bought a Mazda 3 and you like the car, good for you. Hope you enjoy it, because there are far better cars out on the road for the money.

          And the comparison test was for the latest Mazda 3, not YOUR car. You keep referencing back to YOUR car, when clearly in the article they didn’t drive YOUR car.

          Get with the program, your blinders are obvious.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      What a bunch of grumpy old men. Let @slavuta enjoy his Mazda3. I give him points for driving a manual. And forget MotorTrend. TTAC’s own Derek K. compared the Mazda3 favorably to the Miata here:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-mazda3-skyactiv-take-two/

      “If you’re looking for a Miata with a back seat, this is the one you want.”

      Nothing more needs to be said. :)

  • avatar
    drksd4848

    *sigh*

    I was actually looking forward to reading this.

    However this “Defense” article, smacks a little to much of a David Karesh car reviews: Pick a car you have a bias against, then praise it by bashing the living shit out of it.

    Not that this article goes quite that far, but still… I read more negatives than positives here.

    Oh yeah, the Dart’s power train is SO terrible, Derek. Because the Corollas and Civics are SO MUCH MORE better. Oh yeah. right. You folks at TTAC just LOVE to beat up Chrysler and GM, don’t you. Even when you’re praising them. Why bother?

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I’m with you. I’ve driven the 1.4L/manual and thought it was fine. But then I came of car ownership age in the 1980′s when cars truly were slow. I know what slow is, and this car isn’t it. Non-turbo diesel Escort anyone? Now that was slow.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      drksd, it’s not that Corollas and Civics are so much better, its that the Dart has to be BETTER then those proven commodities to gain any traction. And I don’t see that happened, at least against the Civic.

      GM and Chrysler will be paying for their mistakes for a very long time. They try hard, but its not enough to erase memories or win over new friends. It’s a quicksand situation unfortunately….

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @drksd4848: You mean Michael Karesh.

      David Karesh was the infamous character of Waco, 1993.

      Journalists test-drive cars because paper statistics won’t do. I thought the Dart’s 1.4T engine sounded like a winner until I drove it.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        You mean David Koresh with an O, which might be the same name with an orthographical change. The cult leader’s given name was Vernon Wayne Howell. If I remember correctly, Karesh/Koresh is the Persian equivalent of Cyrus.

      • 0 avatar
        drksd4848

        My mistake… I meant Michael… Not David. (talk about a bad sub-conscience slip) My apologies.

        Although Michael wrote a rotten review of the Dart – which he later rectified, to his credit, on his Truedelta site – he did not lead a cult into fiery ruin.

        I have my issues with the Dart as well, but Micheal’s review was filled with unfair, nonsensical criticisms. And as I had said, his Truedelta review was more fair

  • avatar
    kjb911

    honestly if the dart was out when i bought my focus I would have ended up with a nicely loaded dart for the price of my SE hatch

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I didn’t understand why the Dart even needs defending, I don’t hear people bashing it very often.

    The weak drivetrain doesn’t surprise me though, carmakers are trying to squeeze every mpg out of their compacts so performance is bound to suffer.

    But why does the new Dart weight so much? They’re not that big and there isn’t that much over hang.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Looked interesting when it came out. I was browing the local Dodge dealer because I just happened to be there, for some reason, and took notice at the car. Efficient turbo 4cyl, manual, and the inside doesn’t look like a cheap cramped car. Awesome, then I got to the sticker price; $23k+……

    Huh? A sales guy came up to me. Told him I liked that car, but the price was just outrageous for what it was. He silently agreed with me (one of those, I know kind of sighs and head shakes). Asked him if they’ve been selling, got the same response with a “not really”.

    That’s as much as our V6 Mustang. Yeah, it all usually comes back to the V6 Mustang. But in the end, I don’t need 4 doors, and the back seat in the Ford suffices. Plus, I think the trunk is still roomier, and I’ll give up a few MPG for twice the power any day. That Dart seemed like a $18k car. I don’t hate it, and easily might consider a depreciated one on the used market one day.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    As parent of two teenage boys, I think Mopar needs to seize on the anemic powertrain (0-60 over 8 seconds? God forbid!) ‘feature’ and market this here Dart to every parent helping their teen or twenty-something buy a car. I don’t want my kids driving a 300 HP machine, and I bet most other parents don’t either. After all, most of us probably started driving on some double-digit HP four banger from the malaise era. The kind of power you can buy today would bring a kid so many ways to get into trouble, without the experience to get back out, I get nauseous thinking about it.
    This proposition should at least work between the coasts, where the old timers still have a soft spot for Detroit. I’m afraid that the Corolla and the like have a lock on this market in California, although offering handling in this segment might pry loose a few sales even there.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I know how to fix the powertrain problem. Create a “VR6″ version with the 8-Speed and 3.6L engine. Could be a Dart SRT-6.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      They have the 3.2L version of the Pentastar coming in the Cherokee – that would probably be just perfect for the Dart, but of course it would kill the CAFE ratings.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    Y’all are missing the model that gives the Dart some real trouble: the Buick Verano. Since the Dart isn’t going to be known for economy (too big) or sport (too sluggish) it has to compete on comfort and a quiet, smooth ride. And on this score it loses big time to the little Buick. Yes, the Verano is 100 lbs heavier, a couple of mgp’s poorer and a few grand more. But people are buying them because the car is exactly what it claims to be: A very quiet, somewhat entertaining, feature-laden, near-lux small car. What is the Dodge? It can make no claim except that its Dodge’s small car, and if that’s all it’s got there’s no wonder sales are tepid.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      So if this car offers everything the Verano has (but down on power in top of the line trim) in a similar package for a few grand less, that’s a strike against it?

      You’ll notice that the Dart handily outsells the Verano 2:1. Brand snobs are in their own world I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        alexndr333

        No brand snob here, Danio. I don’t fault the Dart itself for its stumble out of the gate. What I do believe is that that Dodge has provided no compelling reason to pick a Dart over anything else on the market. Buick has done a better job branding the Verano so that it gets more love – even from TTAC and its B&B. For example, look how much criticism Dodge receives for delaying the premium engine, yet Buick receives Hosanna’s when the Turbo comes out in the second year. It’s about setting and managing brand expectations, and Sergio and his troops have boned it.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      The Verano is a much nicer car, but I don’t think people will cross-shop the two.

    • 0 avatar
      Webtiger

      Have you driven a Verano?
      Sat in the back seat of one on even a test drive?
      Go do so and then get back to us…

  • avatar
    JD-Shifty

    Do they get 40mpg or don’t they?

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Yeah… that did get kinda lost in all this, didn’t it?

      40 mpg and a smooth ride from all that weight seem impossible, but I’d be really interested if it were available. Our little Rio is pretty nerve-wracking on a potholed road. Even my Camry doesn’t seem to be soaking them up like it used to.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      No, outside of ideal conditions. “Keeping up with traffic” is not ideal conditions.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    Best I’ve seen with my green engine at or below the speed limit is 34. If I drive like the car forces me to, I get 27.

  • avatar

    I test drove a Rallye when they came out and loved the interior and found it very comfortable even at 6’3″. I thought the power train (turbo and 6 speed)was fun but as others have said a little low on torque until you rev (drive like an old Honda SI and you have plenty of power)My father (at 70) just bought one an SXT turbo 6-speed basically he was looking for a fun practical car to replace his 5 speed v6 Maxima. I drove it down to the shore with him a few weeks ago and I still like the car. It’s fun when pushed it holds 6th gear at 70 with cruise control on on some steep hills (something that could not be said of some 90′s economy cars I drove on the route.) I think the car has some issues but overall I think it’s competitive with the cruze and 3 which are the only competitors Ive driven. In fact while the 3 drives nice I thinks it’s horribly uncomfortable compared to the dart.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Here is a novel concept- how does the Dart perform with break in mileage? Well I drove in a 1.4T with the DDC auto and 12K miles and it certainly didn’t feel slow. Hardly a tire burner off the line but it sure seemed quick enough for the majority of drivers seeking high MPG. Most any brand new car with no break in miles is going to feel slow and tight until the engine breaks in and the computer learns your driving style. Haven’t driven a base 2.0 but I would bet even those with break in miles are adequate for most buyers.

  • avatar
    AlexMcD

    I only have experience with one Dart but my co-worker has had a staggering number of issues in the first three months of ownership. As far as I can tell, this may be the worst of all available new cars.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    The first Dart I saw was a Christmas market that’s set up every year. One day, the Dart had replaced the usual Minis or Fiats that were being showcased. Curious, I walked up to see the sticker: more than $27,000!

    Okay, a loaded compact can be pricy. 1.4 turbo? Check. Leather? Um… I would expect a $27K compact to at least have some fake leatherette. I chuckled and walked away.


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