2015 Dodge Dart Review By Steve Purdy
2015 Dodge Dart Limited Review
By Steve Purdy
The mainstream compact sedan category is populated by some pretty fine machines - Cruze, Focus, Elantra, Corolla and many others. Not many years ago we would have expected plain cars with uninspired designs and minimal content focused on economy and little else. Not so anymore. Witness the new Dodge Dart.
Our test car this week is the Dart Limited, top trim level of five offered. The bottom-end Dart starts around $16,500 with pretty good content and tepid 2.0-liter engine. A GT version is offered with a 1.4-liter turbo with a good level of torque. Our Limited comes with an adequate 2.4-liter engine and lots of premium content showing a starting price of $23,095. With the optional technology package and compact spare tire we’re looking at just $25,435 on the sticker’s bottom line.
I was surprised by the level of content when first exploring the car. We have a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, dynamic digital gauge cluster, 8.4-inch control screen, sunroof, heated power six-way drivers seat with inflatable lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, navigation with traffic, ambient lighting, LED exterior lighting, 17-inch satin aluminum wheels, turn signals in the rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, HID headlights, automatic high-beam control, blind spot and rear cross traffic detection, rear park assist, intrusion alarm and all the chassis dynamics and safety systems we expect in any car these days.
Exterior styling is fresh, modern and eye-catching. It also lends itself to customization as evidenced by a MOPAR event we attended last year that involved half-dozen different specialty alterations including some powertrain enhancements. A low hood line gives it a wedge shape, sort of an homage to the original LH cars. Styling details will appeal to most buyers, I’ll bet, with a modestly aggressive front fascia, very little chrome and lots of black trim details.
Inside, the dash brow shows a stitched seam for just a hint at luxury. The materials, fit and finish are good, though with a feeling of practicality rather than elegance. We must note that the ambient lighting option that surrounds the instrument panel is attractive and cool. The navigation and infotainment screen is large enough to see well and the icons are large and clear enough to be easily managed. On-board computer, navigation, climate and infotainment controls were not as intuitive as some but better than most. I struggled to reorient the map and find my favorite station on the radio but the learning curve was not oppressive. You can have all the technology stuff you want including WiFi, Garmin Navigation with traffic, an apps suite, weather and more POIs than you’ll ever need. A bin at the bottom of the center stack is handy for smart phone and other stuff you want to carry along.
We drove the Dart to Chicago and back to hang out with the grandkids – 3 ½ hours each way – without aggravating my slowly healing sciatica. The leather-trimmed seats look nice and sit well. The front seats are more comfortable than expected with decent bolster and lots of adjustment range for a compact car. Rear seat room is about equal to its competitors. The rear seatbacks flop down easily with the pull of little strap on each side offering somewhat limited access to the 13.1 cubic-foot trunk.
Driving dynamics will satisfy all but the most demanding. Thoughtful ergonomics and good road feel left us little to complain about. Steering feedback, brake pedal feel, and general road/car/driver interactions are civilized. Suspension tuning did not call attention to itself being neither too stiff nor too soft. The GT comes with a sport-tuned suspension that will feel a bit harsher, but the Limited is quite comfortable. The cabin is reasonably quiet though on full-throttle it can get rather buzzy.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder provides more horsepower but a bit less torque than the turbo 1.4-liter engine. The torque, as most of you will know, is what we feel when we put our foot in it, and though the torque numbers are only 10 clicks different they will feel quite different. This one has 184 horsepower and 174 pound-feet or torque. That’s enough grunt for most driving conditions and with the well calibrated six-speed automatic it jumps off the line with considerable enthusiasm. The EPA rates this powertrain at 35 mpg on the highway and 23 in the city. With our road trip to Chicago and back – at least 90% highway miles at prevailing extra-legal speeds – netted us just nearly 28 mpg. Active grill shutters, standard on our Limited and the GT but optional on others, redirects air from the engine compartment around the outside of the car for an aerodynamic advantage.
The Dart and its contemporaries offer so much more than simple transportation that care should be taken when shopping these cars. Though they all start at the low end of the price scale we find a lot of differences in their respective personalities. Without hesitation I recommend the Dart be on the shopping list if you are considering one of these.
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