When Dodge re-entered the compact segment in 2012 it did so with the Dart, one of the first products to come from the Fiat takeover of Chrysler. Built upon a modular chassis platform shared with the Italian Alfa Romeo Giulietta, also owned by Fiat, the Dart is a four-door sedan with a coupelike profile and a choice of three engines.
Competing with cars such as the Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Nissan Sentra is a formidable task, and sales have been disappointing. The Dart has simple, clean styling and a pleasant interior, but it seems to lack the kind of sporty personality one might expect from its Italian heritage.
For 2014, the Chrysler simplified the Dart lineup by bundling popular features into packages and made the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine standard in the SXT, Limited and GT models. The engine comes with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic.
Dart prices start at $15,995 and range to $22,995 for the Limited. The Aero gets the turbocharged, 1.4-liter engine with a dual-clutch automatic. The SE comes with a 2.0-liter engine.
The Aero is a high-mileage model rated at 41 miles per gallon rating with the manual transmission.
I drove an SXT Rallye with an automatic transmission from Chrysler’s press fleet. The Rallye package consists of a touring suspension, rear stabilizer bar, black grille, 17-inch wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The 2.4-liter engine has decent midrange power and was less than energetic. Brisk acceleration takes a serious poke of the throttle. Fuel economy is rated at 23 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway.
Slip behind the wheel and you’re greeted with a pleasant interior. The original design goal was to create a cabin that was more upscale than other cars in this price segment, mainly because the old Chrysler had a reputation for subpar interiors. The Dart’s cabin has a good mixture of materials and textures, and the 8.4-inch touch screen is one of the easier ones to use.
The Uconnect Bluetooth system is operated by voice or the in-dash touch screen. A USB port is available, as is iPod control. Garmin navigation is optional. The backup camera delivers an excellent view.
The SXT’s cloth front seats were shaped to provide good lateral and lumbar support. I wasn’t enamored of the bright stripes in the center. Back seat legroom is tight, and getting in and out is hard to do without bumping your head, thanks to the sloping roofline. Trunk space is good.
The Dart’s touring suspension is fairly firm and it keeps the car flat in turns. Uneven pavement produces some fairly noticeable thumping in the cabin.
The base price of the test car was $18,595. Options included the 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen, iPod control, back-up camera, touring suspension, Rallye cloth seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, fog lamps, 17-inch wheels, six-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick and Sirius satellite radio. The sticker price was $22,025.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is email@example.com
2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye
Engine: 2.4-liter, 184-horsepower four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 106.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,348 pounds
Base price: $18,595
As driven: $22,025
MPG rating: 23 in the city, 35 on the highway
At a Glance
Point: The Dart combines contemporary styling with a well-executed interior and decent fuel economy. The front seats are good, and the trunk is spacious.
Counterpoint: The Dart lacks the flair of its Italian sibling. The ride can be uncomfortably firm on less-than-perfect pavement.