Review: Dodge Attitude

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
review dodge attitude

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.

But 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.

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.


owntown 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

Sebring. 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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2 of 39 comments
  • John Holt John Holt on Jan 08, 2010

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

  • Guitarvenue Guitarvenue on May 07, 2010

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

  • Bob65688581 Small by American standards, this car is just right for Europe, and probably China, although I don't really know, there. Upscale small cars don't exist in the US because Americans associate size and luxury, so it will have a tough time in the States... but again Europe is used to such cars. Audi has been making "small, upscale" since forever. As usual, Americans will miss an opportunity. I'll buy one, though!Contrary to your text, the EX30 has nothing whatsoever to do with the XC40 or C40, being built on a dedicated chassis.
  • Tassos Chinese owned Vollvo-Geely must have the best PR department of all automakers. A TINY maker with only 0.5-0.8% market share in the US, it is in the news every day.I have lost count how many different models Volvo has, and it is shocking how FEW of each miserable one it sells in the US market.Approximately, it sells as many units (TOTAL) as is the total number of loser models it offers.
  • ToolGuy Seems pretty reasonable to me. (Sorry)
  • Luke42 When I moved from Virginia to Illinois, the lack of vehicle safety inspections was a big deal to me. I thought it would be a big change.However, nobody drives around in an unsafe car when they have the money to get their car fixed and driving safely.Also, Virginia's inspection regimine only meant that a car was safe to drive one day a year.Having lived with and without automotive safety inspections, my confusion is that they don't really matter that much.What does matter is preventing poverty in your state, and Illinois' generally pro-union political climate does more for automotive safety (by ensuring fair wages for tradespeople) than ticketing poor people for not having enough money to maintain their cars.
  • ToolGuy When you are pulled over for speeding, whether you are given a ticket or not should depend on how attractive you are.Source: My sister 😉