By on December 23, 2009


Puerto Vallarta is a lovely vacation spot for fans of beauty and tranquility mixed with unique Pistonhead sightseeing opportunities. Take the Chrysler K-car: a stateside rarity, but not an uncommon vehicle in a country known for taking our tired, neglected automobiles, giving them a new lease on life. But I never saw a Dodge Caliber or Neon on the roads of Puerto Vallarta. Ever. While Iacocca’s turnaround machine never died in Mexico, the rest of Chrysler’s small car lineup drifted away. For good reason? Cue the Dodge Boyz’ rebadged Hyundai Accent: the Dodge Attitude.

dodgeattitude4But a Hyundai Accent is still the stuff of rental car fantasy, even in Puerto Vallarta. The Dodge Attitude is a tourista’s bottom rung rental, not a cheap and cheerful car for the masses. Then again, this Mopar doesn’t look cheap. Down Mexico Way, the Accent’s (sorry, Attitude’s) modern but inoffensive design isn’t lost in a sea of me-too subcompacts with typical Asian styling cues, it looks borderline flashy against the sea of, um, vintage American iron and Euro-subtle Volkswagons. Maybe calling it the “Attitude” wasn’t such a bad idea.

Or not: my tester wore Hyundai-branded wheel covers, and page seven of the (downloadable) brochure from Dodge of Mexico’s website has the same unacceptable sin. Other than that, the blatant re-badge is acceptable: especially since no (non-SRT) Chrysler product ever had an interior this good. If a Honda Civic is small car fillet mignon and a Dodge Caliber is tripe, the Attitude is day-old chorizo: tight panel gaps, borderline elegant textures in a sea of brittle polymers. Even worse, there’s no contrasting trim on the center stack to break up the monotony. The seats have more than adequate cushioning, far superior to any gen-u-wine Chrysler that’s even remotely close to this price point. dodgeattitude5

In the Attitude’s cabin, everything’s in its right place. Switchgear is intuitive and the buttonage moves smoother than the wet dream of a Chrysler Sebring. There’s enough room for four Americans, and the doors and folding rear seats close with a reassuring solidity I never expected from a car this cheap. The trunk is large enough for several carry-on bags, perfect for my traveling companions and our 24-hour sightseeing excursion.

Perhaps I can see myself commuting in this Dodge. And not completely hating it. The GLS-trimmed Dodge Attitude is a perfectly acceptable sedan, even when the airy greenhouse didn’t afford views of the Mexican Riviera. Luckily, they did.

And driving the Attitude in such a lovely setting masks it’s dynamic deficiencies. The standard tachometer revs quite smoothly to redline, with far less four-banger thrash than a Dodge Avenger. And there’s more than enough power (110hp) to safely pass (your neighbors’ former) Rangers or stay right behind that rich Hombre in his Bora. The Attitude even pulls strong on the highway with the A/C blasting, though that’s close to a speeding ticket and the obligatory Police bribe.

Ddodgeattitude3owntown Puerto Vallarta has twisty, tight cobblestone roads: something the Dodge Attitude handles with little to no complaint with 14” wheels under WOT conditions. Get out of town and the Korean Dodge is out of place: more speed translates into duller steering responses, pronounced understeer and an occasional harsh in-corner kickback from it’s solid rear axle on bumpy roads. Which is perfectly acceptable for an economy car, but the “Attitude” of a Mazda 3 is distinctly lacking. Which meant my time spent on the Attitude wasted my precious remaining moments in a tropical paradise.

But just to make sure, I grabbed the keys to a Hyundai Accent in the cold and dreary climate of an American winter. Behold, the Dodge Attitude is more than acceptable for our roads and drab scenery too. This little Mopar is cheap, comes with a bass friendly six-cone stereo, is fun to thrash at the limit and has plenty of airbags if you screw the pooch.

Then I found myself behind the wheel of America’s “favorite” rental car special, the Chrysler dodgeattitude2Sebring. Aside from the extra space, better audio acoustics and ride improving bulk (in the finest Detroit tradition) the Dodge Attitude from my vacation was a far superior vehicle. Compared to the Sebring, the little Dodge doesn’t vibrate to pieces at idle, has a far less offensive interior, corners like a Corvette and sits like a Ferrari. No, really.

Back to Mexico: Ford and GM’s storefront and on-road product mix is strong, though neither has the presence of Volkswagen. Chrysler doesn’t even hit the radar, and re-badging Hyundais won’t change much. While the Dodge Attitude is a good car, it’s more proof that there’s no happy ending for Chrysler. If (when?) the “new” Chrysler runs out of taxpayer funded steam and files for Chapter 7, expect Hyundai to pick up an excellent distribution network in Mexico for Pennies on the Peso.

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39 Comments on “Review: Dodge Attitude...”

  • avatar

    Sajeev: so you’re on vacation and the boss said “hey, you owe us one more post” and you wrote this extensive review of a rebadged version of a long in-the-tooth bottom feeder model that is overdue for replacement. Assignment complete! Don’t forget the sunblock.

  • avatar

    This is Twilight Zone stuff…
    A Hyundai rebadged as a Dodge…… nuff said.

  • avatar


    Ya go on vacation.. and ya still workin. Damn thats pride.

    However.. doing it in a rebadged Hyundai err Dodge Attitude … damn.

    Whoda thunk it that Hyundai has a better interior.. at a lower price point. Id smell something wrong.. just by seeing the bad badge job at the rear.

  • avatar
    Garrick Jannene

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember there being a law in Mexico stating that you must produce vehicles in the country in order to sell them there, hence strange badge jobs such as this one.

  • avatar

    I remember when I went to the Toronto Autoshow few years back, just as Dodge Caliber come out. I looked at it’s interior and was appalled by worst plastic then city buses have. Then I went to see twin brother of the Accent – KIA Rio.  I was pleasantly surprised by it’s interior and that it even comes with heated front seats.
    ∑ I guess, Chrysler thinks better of our Mexican friends by not offering them horrendous Caliber.

  • avatar

    The Caliber was a rush job, produced under Daimler, with Mitsubishi chassis-points. The new interior brings the car to where it needs to be to be middle-pack, and they’re replacing the durned thing– Talking about Chrysler’s tat interiors and using a 4 year-old example to illustrate current plight has a place, but it is not in the current discussion.  Instead, speak about how these decisions made under Daimler put them where they are. It’d be nice to see some optimism or even some semblance of objectivity.
    The 1990s renaissance stuff Chrysler put out had gorgeous, contemporary interiors that both held up, and looked better than these mid-2000s products some of youall seem to be stuck upon.
    The contemporary PT wagons have the new switchgear and aesthetic, but the elder texturing, and it’s much better. How much better is the true Chrysler(PT) than this ‘Dodge,’ or the Caliber?

    • 0 avatar

      So what the heck has Chrysler done/made since the Diamler departure? The Dodge Journey, I guess. And the new Ram, which still isn’t very impressive relative to the Chevy and Ford. And if their power point presentation on future products is any indication, there’s little to speak positively about.

  • avatar

    Hey did you drive the manual or auto version?  I’m thinking about a Hyundai Accent 3 door as a commuter but wondered how the shift action was.  I’d only want something that small if it was a stick.

  • avatar

    I rented a Dodge Attitude On vacation in Veracruz Mexico about 2 years ago. It was a stick, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It felt roomy and peppy, and had fairly good road manners. I think it was the first car I drove with electronic power steering assist.
    This car and the Nissan Versa 1.6 sell for about $10,700 with no a/c or stereo… They both make fine commuters.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you.

    • 0 avatar

      I feel that I HAVE to comment based on the concept.. that this decent (for Hyundai vehicle) is masquerading as a DODGE branded vehicle…

      There are hundreds of thousands, if not MILLIONS of people who commute to work.. every day, of every week of every year, for dozens of years on end, in every job imaginable for hundreds of thousands of miles every year…

      And this… is good enough as their, my, your commuter!?

      I wouldnt give this to my worst step kids (if I even had kids), who I havent seen in 20yrs, and are wanted by FOUR seperate divisions of the US GOVT for hate crimes against humanity / civilization!!

      I am a commuter like hundreds of thousands of millions of people all over the U.S.. and this car.. wouldnt even reach my dejected / rejected list of cars not to get close to, even if I’m dying!!

      I dont have the ability to have a play car or a cruiser to carve the roads with on the weekends.. while I track BMWs and repair Lotus’ in my spare time. I have to make “due” with whatever I can find, (for under 25g) thats decent, sporty / lightweight (under 3000lbs), made by a reliable / somewhat accountable company, has SOME kind of reputation, still rides decent and can hold up after putting 100k mi on in 3yrs….I hope to land a sweet, rev happy Mazda3 hatch.

      This Hyundai / Dodge mess (while better than Dodge, thats saying A LOT) car.. belongs in a degenerate, segregated, mistreated, underfed, undervalued, beaten to within a inch of its life, vehicle where people dont have 1 red cent over 11g to spend. They dont like to drive. They dont want a corner carver. They dont want a hatch. They want a warranty (cleverly masquerading as) cheap, 4dr, 1.6-2ltr, grey / silver / beige with caps and auto, transport.. with all of the charisma and good looks of 10yr old moldy fruitcake.

      Cars of this size.. belong competing with a bicycle, (HAHA) the Tata Nano and or Fortwo for price / size.. and anything else in the subcompact price class. Albiet I have to honestly say.. if a Hyundai / Kia can show up a Dodge vehicle.. EASILY.. then Dodge should start running for the border NOW.

      Amen for Hyundai / Kia..
      But as a commuter…
      Id rather buy a older car, thats a single size larger with some kind of reputation behind it (forget warranty) than this..

      Also, cars of this class get the cheapest rear sus the company can afford. It used-to-be that midsizers (’86 Chevy Celebrities) are / were relegated to the twist beam / single solid beam out back.. for packaging and or cost reasons.. but they are going to full independant sus, leaving the subcompact class to hold the tow rope.

      In Europe, I’m sure there are superminis that would run rings around this POS/thing for VERY similar money.. with a lot more fun in the actual driving experience itself.

      Makes ya wonder about the differences between the two countries, not just in driving preferences.. or choics of what to drive, but desire to drive as whole…

    • 0 avatar

      You totally miss the point, Amigo.  (For me anyway.)  If (and this is a big if, it’s merely on a list of cars that I would consider, and that does include used cars) I were to buy a car like an Accent, it would be to give myself a low monthly payment and a long warranty so that I could put money toward a car that I might enjoy collecting as a weekend toy.  A used Miata, a VW GTI, a Mazda Speed 3, a Cobalt SS, an old Corvette or Mustang, a big ol’ piece of 1960s or 1970s Detroit Iron (a real dinosaur), a BMW 5 or 7 (sorry the 3 is to passe), an old Porsche, the possibilities are endless.
      To me the point of a car to commute in is that it get good fuel economy, be reliable, and cheap to operate.  Many cars fit that mold.  A Pontiac Vibe or Toyota Matrix with a 5speed manual, an old FWD Impala, Bonneville, LeSabare, or Park Avenue.  A standard shift VW might depending on who’s version of VW reliability you believe.  A non WRX Subaru Impreza (plus AWD traction).  I’m sure the B&B could suggest many more.  Hell I might even ask that as a potential “Ask the B&B” question when the time draws nearer.  I anticipate taking on a new position this summer with a much longer commute.
      So I’m not say that an Accent or Versa is my only choice, I want a cheap commuter so that I may have a “fun” car also.  One that I don’t care if I spend  every weekend wrenching on it so I can have a few hours of fun.

    • 0 avatar

      AccAzda: I dont have the ability to have a play car or a cruiser to carve the roads with on the weekends.. while I track BMWs and repair Lotus’ in my spare time. I have to make “due” with whatever I can find, (for under 25g) thats decent, sporty / lightweight (under 3000lbs), made by a reliable / somewhat accountable company, has SOME kind of reputation, still rides decent and can hold up after putting 100k mi on in 3yrs….I hope to land a sweet, rev happy Mazda3 hatch.


      You know, some people don’t have the luxury of buying a car under 25k…a new car under 15k with a 100k warranty might as well be El Dorado (the city) for some people. People that I know, or have known. And if you want need to spend this little for a new car, the Accent/Attitude ain’t half bad.

  • avatar

    …occasional harsh in-corner kickback from it’s solid rear axle on bumpy roads.

    Solid rear axle?

  • avatar

    Yes you know, like my old Celebrity used to have, just an axle tube with tires mounted on each end.  Not uncommon in cheap front drive cars.  The first FWD 4w independent suspension car I ever owned was a 1997 Escort Wagon.  The first vehicle I ever owned with disk brakes at all 4 corners and ABS is my 2004 Ford F150.

  • avatar

    In a rental Accent right now.  It’s not great to drive, but it’s really outstanding considering the cost.  My only point of comparison is the 1992 Toyota Tercel that I bought new.  In 1992 dollars, the EZ Tercel was $7,288.  That’s $11,237 according to the CPI Inflation Calculator.  That puts the base Accent at a price point a smidge less than the Toyota.  While the rental has four doors and a slushbox, the packaging of the front seat should be equivalent to the hatchback.

    The Tercel to Accent comparison?  Eighteen years gives you 28 more horsepower, one more gear in the stick shift, cloth seats, 517 more pounds of curb weight and many airbags.  The Tercel probably has a 2 to 3 mpg advantage in the real world. The Accent is much more comfortable.

    Back to the Hyundai: The seats are very comfortable, the switchgear works and feels solid.  Due to the very smart minimization of the center stack, there’s room for my right knee.  In fact, it feels more roomy than the 2010 Fusion I rented last week.

    On the “not great to drive” front, it’s noisy.  The heater struggles during the first ten miles, that engine doesn’t put out a lot of heat.  The TPMS hates the cold.  The 1-2 shift on the automatic is a tad harsh during warmup.  It’s commuter-box slow.

    I couldn’t see buying one of these for myself unless I wanted a low payment and warranty more than my sanity.  And to stir up trouble, I’d rather have a Panther chassis Ford product…

  • avatar

    Seriously, of all the things we’re worried about it’s twist beams?  They’re actually pretty good.  VW used them up to the previous generation Golf/Jetta.   Twist beams are light, durable, allow for maximized cargo space and can allow a car to corner flater. 

    An Accent with stick wouldn’t be a half bad car.

    AccAzda: Dude, this thing isn’t that far from a Mazda 3.  Actually pretty damn close on the automotive spectrum (transverse FWD with struts).  And it’s lighter and nimbler.  If you want a really interesting commuter there’s the PRHT Miata for about the price of a Mazda 3.

  • avatar

    No mention of the leather steering wheel?

  • avatar

    I  just spent 8 days in LA (cumulative) with a rental Accent, one was dark blue, the other light blue.  I hate to say it, but I loved them both.  They had A/C, a CD with aux, and an automatic transmission.  That was about it.  Took me back to when I first started driving, and most cars didn’t come with power everything.  The car’s simplicity was refreshing, and so was the way it went about it’s job of getting me here and there.  I found it easy to drive and comfortable.  The ergonomics were also very good.  The stereo was decent.
    I made a trip to Home Depot and was able to fit many hundreds of pounds of lumber, plus two passengers in it.  No problem.
    I didn’t really see a downside.  The tranny is a bit rough when cold, but no biggie.  Once warm, the car is quiet, refined even.  Not much different than a lot of other cars.
    If I needed a commuter, The Accent would be high on my list.  When I got home to Chicago, I actually missed driving it.

    If Dodge sold these in the U.S., I could make an argument for the Attitude being the most compelling vehicle on the Dodge lot…But I’d still buy the Accent.

  • avatar

    several years ago my mother and i went out and test drove in the same day the kia rio hatch, suzuki swift, yaris hatch and mazda2 (all auto).
    we both hated the yaris, it was the only one that felt like a toy car. the wind blew it all over the road, the engine sounded and felt like it was right behind the dashboard, the dashboard plastics were awful and felt so thin and brittle i could probably punch a hole through it. the dealer recommended we test a corolla hatch after the yaris, but we both hated that too, although could see it was worth spending a little more to get the corolla over the yaris.
    the kia rio was so much better. it gets a bad name because it’s a kia, but the interior quality was much better than the yaris. the plastics are still hard of course, but they felt thick and solid and the design is pretty good/mature for a cheap car. it was also a lot more refined with a very quiet ride and felt like  a car from a class up
    anyway, at the end of the day we decided the mazda2 was best as it was sportier, followed by the rio then swift with the yaris a very distant last. also in the rio’s favour was styling, which is more mature than the cartoonish/cutesy style most japanese small cars have. i’d easily recommend a rio (and therefore hyundai accent) to anyone after a small, cheap car

  • avatar

    HEY,  Don´t say anything bad about Hyundai!
    That model is old, but atleast it´s durable.
    I´ve just bought a new Hyundai I20, and it´s very good.
    145 bhp (115 std)
    229 pound feet of torque (192 std)
    44 mpg city
    63 mpg highway
    (Thank you
    It´s  perfect for my needs.
    Why not test it on this site?

  • avatar

    Before you guys start arguing in circles, hasn’t anyone checked the Hyundai Accent review posted on THIS SITE? (I believe from 2007)

    It didn’t get a favorable review.

    • 0 avatar

      Me thinks RF didn’t drive a new Sebring before he set the “floor” for cheap cars.  Never mind that the Sebring is thousands more and delivers less in so, so many ways.  Though I haven’t driven a Yaris, it certainly looks and feels worse than the Accent.

  • avatar

    Well, there´s a difference between “percieved quality” and “real quality”.
    Hyundais usually doesn´t look like a million$, but i bet they last better then some of the so called “luxury brands”.
    There aren´t many cars that have both sorts of quality.
    Maybe Porsche, Lexus, BMW and Audi has it.

  • avatar

    I have to weigh in on this discussion. My wife and I just returned from Phoenix, where we rented a brand new Accent. Brand new as in 6.7 miles on the odometer when we got in the car. Just being the two of us, and being somewhat frugal, we rented the smallest car available, which was our choice between the Accent, a Yaris and an Aveo. Having test driven all three when looking for a car for our son, I wisely took the Accent.

    It was a 4 door sedan GLS, with an automatic transmission and quite a lot of nice little extras like power windows and locks, a decent stereo system with XM satellite and an auxiliary jack for an IPod. It also had anti-lock brakes and side-curtain airbags, an inside trunk release, and a 60-40 fold-down back seat.

    The switchgear was intuitive and extremely easy to use, the seats were comfortable and featured a lumbar adjustment, and the foot space was more than adequate and had a nicely positioned deadpedal.

    The 4-door GLS comes with a 1.6 L 4 pot with a 4 speed auto, which was more than up to the job of merging onto the various freeways that blanket Phoenix. I think it’s rated at 110 horses, and from a dead start would probably take about 13 or 14 seconds to hit 60 MPH, but from 30 MPH accelerating to merge into freeway traffic the little 4 banger easily did what was required of it, and I never felt as if it was too underpowered for the task.

    Other than some understeer and a bit of rear end hopping the car handled quite well, and if not up to the standard of a Mazda3 or a Ford Focus, it certainly exceeds my son’s Yaris and the miserable Aveo in handling. I would have like it with a standard transmission, but you just don’t see a stick in an American rental car.

    We even took the car through the Apache Trail, and although it suffers from some body lean through tight corners, it managed to get through the trail at higher speeds than posted!

    An abundance of hard plastic was expected, but there were no panel gaps, and it sounded much more solid than the Yaris, and was unexpectedly quiet on the highway at speed. At this price point that’s impressive. I think the car lists in the US for about $15K all in, so it’s a much better buy than a lot of it’s competition. In my opinion, it’s a lot of car for the money.

    Given the opportunity, I would rent one again.

    • 0 avatar

      So you bought your son the Yaris but given the choice you chose the Accent as a rental?
      There’s a story to tell there..

    • 0 avatar

      The story is that my son, being 6’5″ and approx. 250 lbs, just didn’t fit in the Accent. The Yaris and Fit were the only small cars that he felt comfortable in. He has size 14 feet so little things like the proximity of pedals to one another is an issue for him. We looked at the Versa, Mazda 3, Accent, Fit, Rio, Focus, S50. The best fit(!) for his height and budget was the Yaris. So far he’s had not one single problem with the car, and in spite of my constant bitching does not think to perform even the most basic maintenance to the car. It’s perfect for him. I hated it. Mushy stick, no power, tinny sounding doors and hatch, uncomfortable seats and the center mount instrument cluster just didn’t do it for me.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Are we sure this isn’t a “Meta” article?  Hyundai and Ferrari in the same phrase?  I’m impressed.  And even the Civic was mentioned.  The Civic is on a different level, though.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    I really wish I could have seen WOT on tight and twisty cobblestone streets.   Sounds like a run for high score in Tourist Pinball.

  • avatar

    sits like a Ferrari? What in the hell are you smoking? Please. Poorly written to say the least……..

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