By on June 20, 2014

Four hundred cubic centimeters. That’s not a whole lot of volume. A cylinder that’s about 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches tall. It’s rather amazing what a difference that about a coffee cup’s worth of displacement will make in the character of an automobile. In my first look at the Dodge Dart, I felt that the Dart is a nice compact car, but that it was deeply compromised by a powertrain that combined the 2.0 liter four cylinder with a six speed automatic transmission. In a quest for a calibration that yields impressive EPA fuel economy numbers, Chrysler produced a car that’s a chore to drive. Now that I’ve had a chance to drive the Dart with the 2.4 liter MultiAir Tigershark engine, I’m happy to report that those 400 ccs of displacement make a night and day difference, changing “chore to drive” to “fun to drive”. While it’s not a direct comparison, the 2013 Dart that I reviewed was in Limited trim, pretty much loaded, while the 2014 model that I tested was a Dart GT, with less equipment but with the GT package and the 2.4 liter engine that’s now standard in all Darts but the Aero and base SE models.

While I wouldn’t say that the car is fast, the 184 horsepower four moves it along quickly enough that the GT badge isn’t a joke. Actually, the development team in Auburn Hills seems to have taken their design brief seriously at least in terms of the chassis. While not a continental “grand tourer” in the classic sense, the Dart GT is definitely aimed at an enthusiast crowd. If not the direct spiritual heir to the Neon ACR of lore, it’s certainly in the same lineage.

Most of the differences between the Limited and GT models have to do with the way the cars handle. In my review of the Limited, I said that the Dart wants to handle but that the powertrain’s mapping gets in the way of enthusiastic driving. The Dart GT fulfills that promise, and then some. The chassis is most decidedly tuned towards the handling side of the ride quality / handling trade-off. The GT has a more aggressive stance, more aggressive rubber, trick shock absorbers and much stiffer springs.

How much stiffer? Though I didn’t find the ride as objectionable as some reviewers have, the chassis is stiff enough that once, when I hit the driveway apron as I pulled into a gas station, the tuning knob for the radio was jarred from the Grateful Dead channel to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. While I didn’t personally find the stiff suspension objectionable, I did start getting a bit tired of the rear body structure drumming when the back tires hit irregular pavement.

With Michigan roads in the sorry state they are in, there was ample opportunity to test the ride quality and it was uniformly firm. Though it’s very firm, I didn’t find it harsh. I do think that most American consumers would find it too firm and would probably be happier with the less sporting trim lines.

All that stiffness results in a car that you can hustle through the corners at a rapid pace. There’s a ton of grip and while there’s the modern problem of not a huge amount of steering feel, the Dart’s steering is weighted nicely at all driving speeds. The steering is very quick, 2.5 turns lock-to-lock or maybe even a bit less than that, with a sharp turn in.

The car I tested came with leather seating surfaces, some solid, some perforated with a red tint in the perforations, a bit less fancy than the Limited’s full leather. While the Limited came with more “luxury” features, the final sticker price of both cars was pretty much the same ($25,125 for the GT and $25,180 for the Limited, destination charges included, Monroney sheet here) and I didn’t miss what the GT didn’t have. As long as it has A/C (Chrysler’s very good automatic climate controls are usually “set it at 68 and forget it” for me) and a decent sound system I’m good to go, though this car did have the 8.4 inch UConnect infotainment system, which is nice to have. Like I said, everything I’d need or want, without anything superfluous.

The 2.4 liter engine was backed by the same 6 speed automatic and while the combination wasn’t flawless, it is a solid improvement over the two liter motor with the same gearbox. Unlike with the smaller motor, I didn’t feel the need to autostick it because there was sufficient acceleration letting the car shift itself. Some reviewers have said that the gearbox is busy, but I didn’t notice it. I did notice that when slowing down, the 5 -> 4 downshift is rather dramatic, perhaps because of a big jump in gear ratios. Fuel economy was improved over the two liter Dart. I averaged 28.2 mpg over a tank’s worth of suburban driving, which was better than the ~26 mpg real world mileage I was getting when having to autostick the 2.0L/6AT Dart. The engine does run a bit roughly at startup, but though it’s not the most sophisticated four banger in the world, it does have a pleasant growl when you get on it.

While the Dart GT seems aimed at enthusiasts, at first it’s a bit surprising that there’s no sport mode to electronically activate. Perhaps that’s because someone in Auburn Hills may think that it’s superfluous to give a car with a fair amount of sporting character such a mode. The engine is peppy enough that Car & Driver’s reviewer thought the throttle tip-in off of idle is a bit quick (something that didn’t bother me), the chassis is competent and the car can handle, and the seats have good side bolsters that hold you in front of the wheel as you’re hustling around curves. About the only thing that isn’t sporting about the Dart GT is the braking system. The brakes are perfectly adequate around town and on the highway, but I wouldn’t take the Dart GT out on a track without some attention to improving how the car stops.

Fit and finish was fine and the only quality problem that I noticed was that with a bit more than 5,000 miles on the odometer, the driver’s side power window was making a bit of a rattling noise at the upper end of its travel. One problem that I had with the first Dart, almost burning my hand on the prop rod for the hood, which is stored right above the radiator and gets very hot, was apparently remedied with a small rubber insulating grip. I don’t know if that grip was added for the 2014 model year or if the first example of the Dart that I drove was simply missing it, but I was glad to see it.

My tester came in bright white and with the blacked out grille elements that come with the GT package (and Rallye and Blackout appearance groups too), it looked pretty sharp. While driving both Darts people complimented how they look. While the GT did not have the upgraded sound system that came in the Limited, it sounded perfectly serviceable.

Perhaps as a weight saving effort, the Dart GT, unlike the 2013 Limited, doesn’t come with a spare tire. Instead, nestled in a expanded polystyrene foam carrier that fits in the spare tire well, is an electric pump with a (hopefully replaceable) canister of tire sealant.

My drives of the two Darts sandwiched a ride and drive event for the new 2014 Toyota Corolla. While the Dart, based on Fiat Chrysler’s Compact U.S. Wide platform, is a bit larger than the typical compact car sold in America, and heavier by a few hundred pounds, it’s priced to play in the Corolla’s segment. How does it stack up against the Corolla, which dominates that segment along with the Honda Civic? Combining the two Darts that I drove, I think that a Dart in one of the mid-level trim lines, with the 2.4 L engine and the features most people would want, would make a reasonable alternative for someone not zealous with the Toyonda reliability faith. Is the Corolla more refined than the Dart? Maybe by a little bit, though the Dart handles better, feels quicker, and  is roomier, at least up front. At the very least, if you’re shopping for a new compact car, it’s worth it to at least cross-shop the Dart and talk to owners about their experiences.

In my review of the Dart Limited I mentioned how the Dodge Neon showed promise but that Chrysler let it die on the vine by not giving it continuous upgrades. The fact that Sergio Marchionne and his team acknowledge that they screwed up the initial Dart launch by not getting the powertrain mix correctly and that they’ve remedied it by putting the bigger motor in most Darts bode well. Unfortunately that botched launch may have permanently harmed the Dart’s market chances. The Civic and Corolla both sell 300,000+ units a year. In 2013, Chrysler sold about 83,000 Darts, and halfway through this year they’ve sold fewer than 31,000 units.

John_Horace_Ride_First_Dodge

In November of 2014, John and Horace Dodge had this publicity photo taken of them sitting in the first Dodge Brothers automobile in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Detroit’s Boston Blvd. (the same location as used in my photos of the Dart GT). The Dodges started selling cars under their own brand after a decade of being Henry Ford’s primary supplier.

As far as enthusiasts are concerned, if you’re looking for something that’s moderately sporting and can still carry a small family, a Dart GT isn’t a bad idea, providing your spouse doesn’t object to the stiff ride. Still, considering that the new Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee are also based on the CUSW platform and that those two vehicles are offered with Chrysler’s outstanding ~300 hp Pentastar V6, it’s easy to guess that a SRT version of the Dart with that engine (and, I was going to say, the bigger brakes from the 200 but I see that it shares the Dart’s 12″ front rotors) would be even more fun to drive than the GT.

YouTube Preview Image Click on the settings icon to select 2D or your choice of 3D formats.

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gasoline.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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134 Comments on “Car Review: A Tale of Two Darts, Part the Second, 2014 Dodge Dart GT 2.4L...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    That side view perfectly illustrates why I’ll never buy another sedan. Every one has been kicked in the ass so hard that they’re permanently all swollen up back there.

    • 0 avatar
      RetroGrouch

      I cannot imagine why anyone would buy a coupe if a sedan version is available. Why the hell would you want long heavy doors that wear out window regulators and hinges causing long term rattles and clunks? Why would you want a longer door more likely to ding the 6000 SUX next to you in the parking lot? Why would you want less room to load hockey gear, track tires, or an inkjet printer in the back seat?

      • 0 avatar
        frozenman

        Possible reasons for a 2 door:

        1. When you turn your head to the left to lane check you look thru glass not a B pillar.

        2. Arm rests are longer and in a better position for taller drivers.

        3. Possible looks/cool factor and sends out signal to the opposite sex that you are “open to a relationship” :)

        • 0 avatar
          Zackman

          “3. Possible looks/cool factor and sends out signal to the opposite sex that you are “open to a relationship” :)”

          Ha ha, you wish!

          The LAST gal you want is one who’s attracted to your car.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            The gal who is attracted to your car is NOT attracted to your car. She’s just using it as a proxy for your bank account/earning potential. Given low interest rates and cheap leases, her proxy is pretty worthless, and she’s rather dumb if she doesn’t know it. OTOH, if you’re using your car to attract women, you might be a good match.

        • 0 avatar
          fincar1

          You can drive with the window open and the incoming air doesn’t go right by your left ear.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Because I don’t like sitting wedged up against the B-pillar, even more so in this rolling bunker era when that B-pillar is invariably dismal black plastic and as big around as my thigh.

        If I were 5’9 I’d reconsider.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Coupe!?

        Gakk…ptui! I meant alternatives like hatches, CUVs and minivans.
        Sorry, I should have said.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I might consider a hatch once the soundproof cargo cover is invented. Having to listen to what I’m carrying rattle around for anything longer than 20 minutes would turn me into Jack Torrance.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        For me it’s blindly simple; I like coupes and I don’t like 4 doors.. As frozenman below said, I just like the looks better, although I have no interest in sending any signals to the opposite sex since I already have a wife and daughter.

        And for me, the ultimately simple reason: I am the one spending $20k to $30k of my hard earned money. Either offer what I want or I am just not interested.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “I cannot imagine why anyone would buy a sedan if a coupe version is available.” Really, in paraphrasing your statement, RetroGrouch, there are those who simply don’t need and don’t WANT a rear set of doors. Something like what the Saturn Ion and Mazda RX series–or even Ford’s extended cab pickup trucks–makes much more sense in keeping the smaller front doors and giving acceptable access to the load floor area (with the back seats permanently folded down).

        I, personally, am sick and tired of seeing nothing but sedans with only one passenger–ever. The only times I have intentionally purchased a 4-door vehicle was when I purchased my Saturn Vue and my Jeep Wrangler (more for the large cargo-carrying capacity than any desire to carry people). I have never NEEDED a sedan. Ever.

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          I have never NEEDED a car. My feet work fine, and I know how to swim.

          If you can’t handle seeing a sedan with one person driving it, I’m not sure what that says. Buy a unicycle.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            My point, very clearly stated, is that while sedans may be more popular for families, before you have a family and after you go ‘empty nest’, you no longer need, nor typically WANT 4 doors. Since the only kids I have ever had walk on four paws, I have never needed nor wanted a 4-door sedan-type vehicle and would be quite happy with a 2-door SUV where the back seats remain permanently folded and the back doors are welded shut. Or, just give me half-doors with no outside handles the way Ford’s pickup trucks do.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            No, *you* don’t need or want four doors. I like being able to easily access the rear seats, because I have friends.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Thank you for clarifying my point, brenschluss. Why should *I* have to drive what I don’t want just because *YOU* want it?

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            Because my tastes are shared with a greater percentage of the market.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            That depends on your definition of “the market”. There are many different markets as evidenced by the fact that there are many different types of cars. YOUR market may like 4-door vehicles; MINE doesn’t. YOUR market may be larger–after all, nearly everyone NEEDS a family car if they’re going to have kids, but they certainly don’t need one BEFORE they have kids, nor do they need one AFTER the kids are gone. So for only about 20 years of your life span–½ to ⅓ of your driving career, you NEED 4 doors. That means you have at least 20 to 40 years of your life when you no longer NEED 4 doors–not counting the people who simply choose not to have a family. So I’m part of the market that simply has no need for such a vanilla vehicle that screams “yuppie” and is totally boring to look at. Why are the Mustang, the Camaro, the Challenger, the Corvette and so many other sports-themed cars so popular? Because they only have two doors–saying, “I’m only responsible for myself. I do not wish to be responsible for anybody else.”

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I’ve seen people try to explain this to you before so I’m not sure I’ll be able to, but I’ll try: what you, or rather, YOU want, doesn’t matter. What matters is what can be sold, and generally the things that people say would sell if only offered were offered at one point, and didn’t sell.

            I don’t know why you can’t fathom someone who doesn’t have children making use of rear seats, but some people interact with others outside of the child-rearing period of their lives. In evidence of this is the fact that Mustangs and Camaros and Corvettes aren’t actually “popular” when compared to your garden-variety four-door compact car, which is bought by all walks of life.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Vulpine’s credo is simple: If he personally likes it, then it must be amazing and on the verge of success, irrespective of what the market actually wants.

            Definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer, that’s to be sure.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            What you haven’t wanted to notice, brenschluss, is that those people who have tried to prove me wrong have almost invariably been proven wrong themselves. Oh, I fully understand WHY sedans are the most commonly sold vehicles–or rather, were–but it was nothing but pure cost-cutting that had them eliminate the two-door varieties of four-door cars. By consolidating their product lines they “appealed” to all drivers–except those who simply don’t want four doors. But by cutting their product options, all you have to do is follow the last decade of auto sales–where the numbers have–until recently–been well below historical levels. Even if only 20% of the people want something other than four doors, that’s still millions of people who are forced to accept whatever is available and have lost any loyalty to the brands they once insisted they would never leave.

            Those sport coupes? More popular than you want to believe, even if not as popular as I would like. Part of that is the simple fact that on average their quality is less than stellar and to be quite blunt, pickup trucks are more powerful.

            And PCH, I don’t care how much you try to disparage me, you have no idea of my “credo”.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Jeez….

            When I inadvertently kicked-off this exchange I *really* wish I had said “I’ll never buy another sedan or KOO-PAY”.

            They’re both dead to me because they’re both ass-high and low-roofed with crap visibility.

            You just never know what’s going to spark the tinder here.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I guess the fox is right. The real reason people bought fewer cars throughout a major recession was because they all had four doors.

            I’ll take a 5-door hatchback as my first preference, but there are few to choose from. I can accept this though, because I am but a market of one.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Poor Vulpine is a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

            —————-

            “When people are incompetent,” wrote the Cornell University psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in a seminal 1999 paper, “not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.” We are often most confident, in other words, when we are most ignorant.

            http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/people-much-trouble-recognizing-incompetence-72523/

            Where the article is wrong is when it claims that “(w)ith a little negative feedback, people do learn to calibrate their self-assessments.” The author obviously never met Vulpine or his Australian friends.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I’ve proven my competency, PCH. You on the other hand…

            Let’s just say that you have yet to prove any point you’ve ever tried to make.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            Kenmore: “…“I’ll never buy another sedan or KOO-PAY”.”

            As someone with a white two-door as an avatar, I’m confused :-)

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Nope, there’s a cover on the back that’s removed to access the compressor:

            Hatchback.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            You win THIS round, Mr Freeze!

            Time now to go mow the weeds and wash the car. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      woj1s

      “That side view perfectly illustrates why I’ll never buy another sedan. Every one has been kicked in the ass so hard that they’re permanently all swollen up back there.”

      Thats because every manufacturers wind tunnel tells them the same thing.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      The fit and finish on the new 200 is the best of any car under $30,000 including JapanInc and Korean government motors appliances.

      Mopar Uber Alles

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    Grateful Dead or Jimmy Buffet. I’d be looking for a bigger bump.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I don’t see the Dart getting the 3.6, but maybe since it shares the platform with the 200 it would bolt right in…

  • avatar
    Mud

    I dunno, still seems somewhat disconnected on whatever journey they are on to get to an optimum driveline.
    That little cannister/sealant will be a huge consolation sitting by the side of the road with a shredded tire.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      AAA is cheap. The last time I had to change a tire was almost 40 years ago. I ran over a huge spike and it went through the tread and popped out the sidewall, and POW, down it went. I had a hell of a time getting the lugs off 3 years of salt and rust, and then after I did, and got the spare on, it was low, but there was a closed gas station that had one of those air stations that had free air, so I was ok. After a friend of mine hurt himself badly changing a tire about 20 years ago, I let AAA do it from that point on.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        I’ve heard enough stories about AAA being 2 hours away (even on nice, sunny days), that I haven’t considered them.
        I believe that AAA “lowballs” their contracted towing services, so that if they’re busy with more lucrative work, AAA members go to the back of the line.
        That’s why I made sure that my 2013 Malibu had the optional donut.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    No spare tire, no sale.

    • 0 avatar

      At least the new 200 gives you a spare tire.

      Which is more than I can say for the $110,000 W222.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Those who purchase a brand new S-class are not worried about changing a tire. They have people for such tasks.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        I agree. I mean, how difficult is it to engineer a small bicycle spare into a trunk!? What has happened to this world.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The problem with those temporary spares limited to 50 miles and 50 mph, is that people drive 100+ miles with them at 70 mph. By then, other mechanical damage has occurred, and the manufacturer is blamed. Let ‘em get out and fix the tire, or use their cell phone to call a tow truck.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      It’s a $350 option from the factory.

      You can get one online for ~$250.

      As long as there’s an accessory for it, I’d just tell them to throw it in or I won’t buy the car. It’s what my friend did when he bought his CTS, and when my boss bought his daughter an Elantra.

  • avatar

    The problem I see is that Chrysler excels at making huge 4-doors that can comfortably fit four 6’6″ behemoths like myself – with a Monstrous, impractical, “MURICAN” engine in it that is at least as fast as cars twice its price, but the Dart is none of those things.

    Frankly, I don’t want a DART SRT.
    It’s too small.

    I want a 200 SRT.

    I want to see a 200SRT with a Twin Turbo V6, Brembo brakes and AWD for less than $40,000.

    Show those Idiots over at Lincoln and Cadillac how to bring desirable performance sedans to the plebeians.

  • avatar
    MattPete

    Now we just need a Chrysler 200c (not s) review, preferably v6 awd…

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Ronnie, I liked the way you brought in the comparison with the Corolla. I wish more reviewers would give their reviews some context. After all, these cars are mostly a series of compromises (of necessity), but it’s sometimes hard to know just how unpleasant some are unless compared to other things we can use as a frame of reference. Anyway, your usual excellent job here.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Let’s face it Chrysler really botched the initial launch of the Dart. Terrible engine/transmission combos (yes, let’s launch it with only manual transmissions in a market where only 6% of cars sold are manuals). It had a dizzying array of trims, colors and options, and could get quite pricey. On top of that it was marketed with a performance promise that it just couldn’t deliver in a market segment that values dull reliable econoboxes. To Chrysler’s credit, they moved relatively quickly by consolidating the trims and equipment into much better value stories. The 2014 Dart GT starts at $20,995 and the Dart Limited, which is LOADED with equipment, starts at $22,995. Both are extremely well equipped for that kind of money. Now that the highly discounted 2014 200 and Avenger are almost gone, I think the Dart will start picking up steam. Last month was it’s best sales month ever, with over 8,000 Darts sold. I think a lot of people coming in to look at the new 2015 Chrysler 200 and it’s optioned-to-the-hilt up to $35,000 sticker, are going to opt for a Dart instead, as it’s almost as big, has the same engine available and can be had for thousands less.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      ” Now that the highly discounted 2014 200 and Avenger are almost gone, I think the Dart will start picking up steam.”

      The remaining JS cars have been a scourge on the Dart to be sure. To what degree, it’s hard to say. Probably not 1:1 ratio, but definitely a detriment. Around here, dealers are blowing out the 2014 200 LX for 16 grand, less than a Dart with A/C and auto.

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        Chrysler needs to repackage/price the base SE model. It’s advertised starting at $15,995, but that gets you a car with that anemic 2.0, a manual transmission, no air and manual windows. Air and power windows are part of the “Convenience Package”, a $1,400 option on the SE. Who buys a car equipped with no air and manual windows these days? I think it just cheapens the image of the whole Dart range. Most of the popularly equipped Darts I see, (SXT’s), are around $21,000, most GT’s/Limiteds around $24,000, which are good price points with the equipment you get, but a far cry from $16,000.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’m surprised there still are maintstream models being sold with crank windows, but no air? Really? Oh and why is there a crappier engine even available? Even Neon had one “good” 2.4 throughout its trims until you got into SRT. No wonder the Sebring/Avenger kept selling so well.

          • 0 avatar
            mjz

            It’s just as bad as the base Jetta S model, with that archaic VW 2.0 engine. Possible worse the the Chrysler 2.0. Both should be banished.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I think what Chrysler needs is a true B/C class car to slot under the Dart in both size and cost. Perhaps the Chrysler 100 will be more competitively priced with the mainstream competition, but it’s likely to be about the same size as the Dart, which is probably fine.

        • 0 avatar
          nickoo

          The problem dodge/chrysler group has with the dart and with the 200 is that they have no subcompact that should be taking up the lower price slot and they haven’t for over 2 decades now. The 500 doesn’t count, it’s not a volume model.

          They desparately need to put out a cheap sonic, fiesta, fit, versa note competitor, otherwise they have to put out stripper versions of their bottom models which doesn’t work anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Too bad it’s now a Fiat subsidiary or they could hit up Mitsubishi again.

            Anything Japanese would be better than anything Fiat.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I wouldn’t bet on that, Kenmore. Considering Mitsubishi’s popularity of late, I’d almost say ANYTHING is better than Mitsubishi. I will grant I haven’t driven one lately, but then, they haven’t offered anything that interests me, either.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Vulpine,
            But Mitsy-Bitsy has always been The Sick Man of Asia when it came to marketing, distributing and servicing their vehicles in the US.

            That little thing they sell now..the Mirage?…could be a perfectly adequate sub-14K model for Dodge. Nobody would be asking for power or bling at that price point, just something that passes US safety regs and runs for 5 years before any major service.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Perhaps, Kenmore; but I have owned a Mitsubishi before. I haven’t owned a Fiat… yet.

  • avatar
    MattPete

    Should have called this the “Neon” instead of “Dart”.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Nice to know the bigger engine improves things. As many like to say, no replacement for displacement.

  • avatar
    salhany

    How was the overall build quality on these two Darts? The one Edmunds had for a while literally shed pieces all over the place, and then left them stranded on the California highway on the way to SF. They ditched it, never to be seen again. It sounded like a real POS. I hope the build quality has improved on the later models.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’m still grouchy about how Edmunds handled that. They won’t even mention exactly where the car went. I think it ate the 1.4T engine.

      The car was inexplicably donated to them by Dodge, but at other times they purchase $100k cars outright. On this one, I suspect they sold out to the mfr and seriously compromised their journalistic integrity.

      • 0 avatar
        salhany

        I just want a follow-up. They gave up on the car (and frankly given how many problems they had with it I can’t blame them) but we NEVER got a conclusion of the tale. One day the car dies on the way to SF from LA, and then….nothing.

        I agree with you, if they never mentioned it again to cover Chrysler’s, er, rear end, that’s a real shame on them. TELL US WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAR.

        • 0 avatar
          BigWill

          While I admittedly stopped going to Edmunds after they unceremoniously killed Inside Line, they *did* do a wrap-up on the Dart. Apparently the episode with the misfire that ended in SF was the end of Edmunds’ time with the car. Dodge loaned the car for a year, the intro on the Dart was January 2013, the wrap-up on March 2014 14 months later = the loan was up.

          However, revisiting Edmunds to check out that Dart wrap-up reminded me of why I don’t go there anymore. It’s awful.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            Agreed – there’s no conspiracy here to hide anything, it’s just that the test was over. The loss of power was a simply a misfire from a bad spark plug, and the engine computer was doing exactly what it was programmed to do to protect the engine.

            There was an elitist dopey poster on here who would trot out his/her assertion that the engine had blown up whenever there was an article remotely related to the Dart, but when pushed for proof he had none. Thankfully he/she seems to have disappeared.

    • 0 avatar

      I mentioned the noticeable flaws in the reviews. I will say that despite the fact that the car was taking a pounding from the stiff suspension, the Dart GT had no rattles. I got it with about 5,000 miles on it.

  • avatar
    TorontoSkeptic

    I want to like it, I really do but… no. The compact segment is just too competitive on both price and features. Heavy, so-so fuel economy, fit and finish issues, unknown reliability and not particularly attractive on price.

    The looks are nice, it definitely has a nicer style than Civic/Corolla/Sentra. I guess TTAC will like because of the all-important dual exhaust right? :)

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “The looks are nice, it definitely has a nicer style than Civic/Corolla/Sentra.”

      Completely agree with that and would add that it doesn’t have the gaudy trendiness of the Koreans. A masterfully clean and tight bit of styling in spite of the aero restraints on today’s cars.

      If this were available as a hatch I’d at least test drive one. I don’t care one shit about the power issues, but build quality would certainly be a concern.

      After my conversion experience with the Honda Fit I will never write off any hatch or CUV without direct experience.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “The looks are nice, it definitely has a nicer style than Civic/Corolla/Sentra.”

      Completely agree with that and would add that it doesn’t have the gaudy trendiness of the Koreans. A masterfully clean and tight bit of styling in spite of the aero restraints on today’s cars.

      If this were available as a hatch I’d at least test drive one. I don’t care one whit about the power issues, but build quality would certainly be a concern.

      After my conversion experience with the Honda Fit I will never write off any hatch or CUV without direct experience.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Dart was the car I wanted to love, and to own.

    Then I test-drove two of them (1.4T M and 2.0 A), and read some reviews, and they’ve lost me as a potential customer. Too little value, too many quality problems, too much compromise.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Cost & discounting. You can get a loaded 2014 Dart Limited for < $22K. With the 3 you will have to go without a whole bunch of equipment and engine displacement if you want to hit that price.

      Having said that, I'd still save the extra $ and buy the 3.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    OK, so with the upmarket engine, the Dart is a decent vehicle. But why would anyone buy one over a Mazda3?

    • 0 avatar
      omer333

      The Mazda3 with the same engine as the Dart in SXT/GT/Limited trims, starts at $24,000-$25,000. The Dart SXT starts at $18,000-$24,000 and you get more kit standard. And, there’s rebates galore.

      If you’re dropping $22,000-$24,000 for a Mazda, the 6 is a better proposition.

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        The Mazda3 is priced like the Dart was originally, it can get really expensive, really fast. The repackaged Dart Limited 2.4 is really loaded with equipment, sunroof, heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, etc., at $22,995 it’s really a great value. A Mazda3 similarly equipped is gonna run a lot higher than that.

        • 0 avatar
          omer333

          The only thing that really swings in the Mazda’s favor, well two things, are the buff books love them a Mazda (which is a great car), and aftermarket support.

          The Dart’s 1.4T has seen some love, but after seeing that it costs from $1,500-$2,000 to get that engine to hit 200whp, I ran the numbers and found if you want “just” 200whp, a 2005-2010 4.0 V6 Mustang can get you that if just throw $500 at it. For $2,000 you’re thinking “Gee, if I save another couple hundred bucks, I can get a supercharger, or I can save even more money to get a V8 for a TTAC-approved engine swap.”

          The big thing is, do you really want a 2005-2010 V6 Mustang?

    • 0 avatar
      Thatkat09

      Just built both on the Dodge and Mazda website. A fully loaded Mazda 3 sedan with every option ticked is $32,865. A fully loaded Dart Limited with every option ticked(2.4 is standard) is $27,824 and im sure its even less with rebates that have to be on the hood at this point. The Mazda 3 is nice but its probably the most expensive in the segment.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Why would anyone buy a Mazda 3 over the Dart–especially if they simply don’t like the looks of the Mazda 3 and do like the Dart.

      I’ve watched Mazda’s cars for decades now and to be quite honest, I haven’t liked any of them with the exception of the now defunct RX series and their old B-series pickup trucks. For all that they try to attract my attention, nothing they have produced over the last few years has even once made me want to visit the showroom. I’ve at least visited a Toyota showroom about once every 2 years over the last decade-plus, looking at the Matrix and later the Tacoma. Didn’t buy either of those, either. The only Japanese-built vehicle I’ve ever owned was a Mitsubishi Sport pickup truck–a 1983 model that I purchased in… 1983.

      On the other hand, I’ve owned three Oldsmobiles, one Buick, two Chevrolets and now two Fords. Oh, and one Dodge and one Jeep. See a pattern there?

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        The problem with Mazdas here in SE Michigan is that they still rust away alarmingly fast. When I see rust bubbles forming on the hatch/truck and wheelwells, I can only imagine what is going on underneath the car.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Great review Ronnie.

    I had a feeling the 2.4/6AT would be TTAC-approved. Had the 2.4 been available at launch, or a few months later, the car would have got better reviews and sales.

    I get the feeling part of the reason the Dart was released “half-baked” was due to the contracts placed on Fiat when they bought Chrysler; wasn’t there something about needing an all-new compact car to hit certain EPA guidelines by a certain date?

    Still kudos to FCA management for realizing their folly and trying to fix it.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Yep, that’s why they rushed it, to meet the deadlines, and it really wasn’t ready for prime time, unfortunately.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      If I recall, they had to have a 40mpg sedan in their lineup by a certain date to get an extra 5% of the company. Hence the half-baked 1.4 turbo and clunky transmission combo. Ruined the Dart’s launch in the short term, but probably a wise decision in the long run to get an extra 5% of Chrysler.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    Fiatsler needs a serious compact car contender and so far this appears to not be it. The way things are, a refreshed/updated caliber would be doing just as well, at least it was a hatch. Bring back the Colt!

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      They offer a hatchback version of the Dart sedan (Fiat Viaggio) in China. Wish they would add that bodystyle here too. With the success of the Focus hatchback, you think it would be no brainer.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    My problem with the Dart – and others have expressed this as well, as it looks and performs like a mid-1990s import, although I haven’t driven one as ye.

    Hopefully, Chrysler has addressed that, but the sales figures tell a different story. Perhaps the Dart will find success once the Avenger goes away.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I’ve never seen white be more complimentary to a car’s design, particularly the front end with the contrasting black.

    Clean & simple… if only they offered a real, square-assed hatch; not like the pointy-assed, liftback Viaggio.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “I did start getting a bit tired of the rear body structure drumming when the back tires hit irregular pavement.”

    It sounds like the Goldilocks Dart for me would have the suspension of the GT but with more practical wheels and tires. I’d try to convince my dealer to swap in the 16″ alloys from the Dart Aero. (Along those lines, I’ve driven both the Cruze 1LT and 2LT as rentals. While I prefer the stiffer suspension that comes on the 2LT and LTZ, I’d only buy one if the dealer would swap in smaller alloys from a 1LT or an Eco.)

    Nice work on the Boston Blvd pictures.

  • avatar
    Daniel Latini

    Excellent review, Ronnie. There was a lot of coverage when the GT was announced and very little when the GT actually became available. I’ll be checking one of these out when my Mazda3 finally bites the dust

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    First off, I’m not a fan of an automatic transmission on a 4-cylinder car of any make; they’ve always been notoriously sluggish. A six-speed stick on the 2.0 might have made a huge difference in performance. But that’s only half the point.

    The other point is that we Americans have become too used to ‘sporty’ cars, even when going the ‘economy’ route. We forget that much bigger cars got by on far less horsepower 40 years ago. My first car had a 96 horsepower inline 6–and it was a Chevrolet. Even my biggest car only boasted 175 horsepower–with a 302c.i.d. V8. The Volkswagen Beetle of the ’60s boasted a mere 65 horses. Compared to that, this new Dart GT must be quite remarkable in performance. From me, such a review as the earlier one would have taken such differences into consideration.

    Would I prefer the newer Dart over last year’s model? Probably. Especially if I could still tie a 6-speed stick to it. Will I buy one? Probably not. I’m too tempted by the new Jeep Renegade and want to eyeball that with a Tigershark under the hood. It may even be enough to replace my JKU–IF I can get the Trailhawk edition.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The low horsepower was due to the double whammy of SAE net and smog controls that smothered the American big sixes and V8s with carburetors. Cars like the VW bug and the early Japanese cars were featherweights compared to today’s cars.

      Fuel injection, electronic ignition, and computer controls have bumped up the horsepower ratings, but as the saying goes, people talk horsepower but drive torque. Look at some of those horsepower ratings and the RPMs needed to achieve them. A lot of engines put out more HP than torque, but only at very high RPMs the average driver won’t reach in normal use. But those HP numbers sell the cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        The low horsepower was due to a 194c.i.d. inline six in a 1964 Chevrolet–long before pollution controls hit the market. I would agree with you on that 1973 Ford 302, however. And yes, by comparison to today’s cars, all of them were effectively lightweights–except the ones that weighed 2 tons or more.

        And yes, I’ll even agree to your argument about torque over horsepower–because horsepower at least gives you some sort of visual representation of ability. Who wouldn’t buy a car with the equivalent of 200, 300 or even 400 horses in front of it? Torque? What’s a torque? WE know that torque is “leverage”, but how do you relate that to people who can’t visualize a lever half a mile long? (Ok, I exaggerated, but at the same time, a screw is effectively a lever and look at how many turns it takes to drive a 2″ deck screw.) Get the point?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’m a firm believer that just about everything should be judged by its competitive set in the time it existed and not compared to the offerings of the past (no matter if the comparison is done to make the present thing look good or bad).

      You brought up a ’64 Chevy and ’73 Ford, but I see no reason that the Dart of today should be reasonably compared against those.

      1964 was 50 years ago. 50 years before 1964 the Chevy Model 490 made 20 horsepower, had wooden wheels, no side glass, and an electric starter was an option.

      21 years before that unimpressive 1973 Ford 302 was built a Hudson Hornet made around 175hp and was nearly the fastest thing on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I understand what you are saying, but my point is clearly stated. Horse for horse, that 175 horse Dart should have similar performance to that 175 horse Ford if not better, since I really doubt the Dart weighs 4200 pounds. I could be wrong, true–but my ’08 Jeep only weighs 3600 pounds and does pretty good on 200 horses. My Saturn Vue rang in at supposedly 145 horses with the 2.4 EcoTec (or whatever they called it) I-4 and it weighed in at 3600 pounds as well. Meanwhile, my Chevrolet Camaro (’96) weighed in around 3500 pounds with 200 horses and people thought it had a V8 under the hood; it had the 3800 V6. In other words, unless the Dart is ridiculously heavy, the original engine should have been fine. I would far more suspect poor gearing in the transmission than blame the engine itself.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          The original engine is fine. I drive a 1.4T 6MT Dart every day and it has plenty of power. The BS on the internet about it being dangerously slow is spouted by idiots who didn’t suffer through the truly slow crap we had to endure in the 1980′s.

          As long as you understand it’s a small turbo engine and the boost begins to build around 2400 RPM, it’s easy to drive the car in the proper gear that keeps it just on the edge of that RPM. A quick dip into the throttle or drop down a gear if you’re really in a hurry, and off you go.

          • 0 avatar

            I think much of the issue has to do with the way the 6 speed automatic is programmed to operate with the smaller engines. They have it calibrated to shift into higher gears before the 2.0 engine is in its power band – I suspect for EPA mileage ratings reasons. As I mentioned in my review of the 2.0L/6AT Dart, when I shifted it myself, I found it acceptably quick in traffic

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            Ronnie,

            No doubt – this is why I prefer a manual transmission, assuming one is available.

            I’d still like to drive a 2.4L manual to see if it’s any better than the 2.4L auto I drove. I found the auto GT underwhelming and completely lacking in midrange acceleration.

            I’m also a little bummed that the 2014 Limited is automatic only now. Just because I want some nicer features and a better interior doesn’t mean I want the car to shift for me. I know it’s easy to say “just get the GT then”, but not all of us want the harsh ride and rubber-band tires.

  • avatar
    brianyates

    Ronnie, the car doesn’t do it for me but I like the house inthe background. Where were the pics taken?

    • 0 avatar

      The photos were taken in front of the mansion John Dodge built on Boston Blvd, just east of Woodward in Detroit. I tried to reproduce the view of the photo taken on Nov. 14, 1914 with the Dodge brothers sitting in the back of the first Dodge Brothers automobile.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Hey Ronnie – nice review. But one editorial nit on the vintage photo:

        “In November of 2014, John and Horace Dodge had this publicity photo taken of them…”

        As you say, the photo was taken in 1914, not this coming November. :)

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    unless you absolutely must have the most features/$, I see no reason to buy this over the Mazda 3GT. The 3 will surpass this in performance (indeed, I wonder if a 3i would actually be competitive given its advantageous power to weight ratio), while offering dramatically better fuel economy. I drove one of these at the local new car show’s test drive loop and walked away serious unimpressed. I think the big rims and tires were a problem. The car clomped around like it was carrying way too much unsprung weight.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      The reason to buy this over the Mazda 3 is corrosion protection, especially if you live in a state that heavily salts the roads in the winter like Michigan.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Twice in a rental Dart was more than enough. Rattles, screeching plastics, poor engine/trans dynamics, and the ugliest LED tail lights. It tries to be a car it isn’t and I hate that. A rental in a Corolla was relieving with solid interior components, refined comfort but weak engine with a dreadful CVT. Never a rental in a Dart again. Darted-out

  • avatar
    seanx37

    $25,180? The local Dodge dealers sell Chargers for less. Much less in some cases. Hell, they have Hemi Charger leases for $199 a month, #999 down right now.

  • avatar
    shaker

    For the MSRP, the car is somewhat dull, and lacks presence – I’m thinking that the 200 will correct this, but at an even higher price point.


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