2013 Dodge Dart Limited Review By John Heilig



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2013 Dodge Dart Limited

THE AUTO PAGE
By John Heilig

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2013 Dodge Dart Limited
Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged I4
Horsepower/Torque: 160 hp @ 5,500rpm/184 lb.-ft. @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 106.4 in.
Length/Width/Height: 183.9 x 72.0 x 57.7 in.
Tires: P225/45R17
Cargo volume: 13.1 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city/39 mpg highway/25.4 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gal.
Curb weight: 3,191 lbs.
Sticker: $25,065 (includes $795 destination charge and $4,275 in options)

The Bottom Line: The Dodge Dart I drove may be a bit underpowered, but it has a lot of features that make it attractive, such as keyless entry, a powered driver's seat, blind spot monitor, back-up camera and cross path detection, and a heated steering wheel.

As the first vehicle to be built off Fiat Group architecture, the Dodge Dart has certainly aroused interest. the basis for the Dart is the Alfa Romeo Giuletta. This base platform, however, has been lengthened and widened to make it more American. It is also built in the United States and contains 52 percent American or Canadian parts. Mexico contributes another 21 percent to the product.

The final product still retains its Alfa DNA. For example, the suspension is firmer than the standard American midsize car. Most mid-sizers are designed for a softer ride. With the Dart, you feel every tar strip, and in Pennsylvania we have a lot of them. The suspension isn't painfully firm, but it is firm. this is the kind of ride you'd expect in an Alfa, or at least that's what I remember Alfa rides to be like.

The other side of that equation, of course, is that the Dart has very good handling. We took one trip with the car that included an Interstate run and a lot of winding roads. It was fun to drive.

The front seats add to the appreciation of the handling. They have good side support for its class. Under the front passenger seat is a storage compartment that is convenient when you don't want purses, etc. in plain view of people who might be interested in them.

Under the hood is a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four cylinder engine that develops 160 horsepower. Even with the turbo, the engine feels underpowered for the 3,191-pound car. This underpoweredness seemed severe at the start of our test, but over the course of the week I was able to work the gearshift better. Fifth is a nice gear to use; 6th is more of an overdrive. The engine is also noisy, all the time.

Even though the gears were somewhat vague and slightly difficult to find, the shifter itself made it all worthwhile. The knob was a round stainless steel ball that fit my hand nicely. And the heated steering wheel wasn't unpleasant on those chilly fall mornings.

A safety feature I feel should be require don all cars is a blind spot monitor. The Dart has one and it served its purpose well. The Dart also has a rear view camera to use when you're backing up. This is supplemented by a rear cross path detection. I've been fortunate in that I haven't had to use cross path detection at all, but I swear by blind spot monitors.;

There's a simple instrument panel with clear gauges. They are white-on-black with red pointers. my favorite combination.

In addition, there was an easy-to-use HVAC system and radio player controls that dominated the navigation screen. when we tried to set the navi system to take us home on a short trip, it placed us about five miles from our location and wouldn't move. Had we been in an emergency, and not known where we were going, we would have been in trouble.

Rear seat legroom is tight but acceptable. While dodge promotes the Dart as a five-seater, the middle rear passenger better be prepared for spending time with his or her knees in his or her chest. There's a tall center hump that takes away from rear seat seating. The rear seats do fold to increase trunk capacity from the standard 13.1 cubic feet.

I have not had a lot of luck with Alfa Romeos, although I spent a good deal of time rallying in a Giuletta in the 1960s and enjoyed it. The Dodge Dart, even with a healthy dose of Alfa Romeo DNA, seems to be a decent mid-size sedan, albeit a bit on the snug side. If Chrysler can infuse some mode Dodge DNA into the Dart, they might have a good car.

2012 The Auto Page

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