Quick Spin: 2013 Dodge Dart
Dodge finally offers a refined, competitive compact sedan; by Kirk Bell
Ahead of a full report, MSN Autos reviewers report to Exhaust Notes about their initial driving impressions in our Quick Spin segment. Here, Kirk Bell talks about Dodge's much-hyped new small-car offering, the Dodge Dart.
Dodge hasn't been a player in the compact-car segment, which accounts for 15 percent of the overall market, since it released the Caliber as a 2007 model. The reason is twofold: First, the Caliber was offered only as a hatchback and sedans make up the vast majority of the compact market; and second, layout aside, the tinny, loud, gruff and cheap Caliber was simply not up to snuff.
For 2013, Dodge is doing its best to take on the competition full force with the Dart, a new compact sedan that excels almost everywhere the Caliber failed.
We drove the Dart in Austin, Texas. Here are our first thoughts:
Refined ride and nimble handling: The Dart is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a well-respected European competitor. The quality architecture helps the Dart handle well and ride smoothly.
Above-average interior: While the Caliber had a hard plastic interior akin to what you'd find in Barbie’s Dream Car, the Dart uses higher-quality soft-touch materials in a modern layout. It also boasts such premium features as a configurable instrument cluster and an 8.4-inch center touch-screen.
It’s easy on gas: The 1.4-liter engine gets 39 mpg highway; an Aero model will increase that to 41.
With options, the price easily soars over $20K: The base price is $16,000, but a reasonably equipped Dart will cost $19K. Add some options and you've sailed by the $20K mark pretty quickly.
Light on power: The 2.0- and 1.4-liter engines offer enough punch for basic everyday driving, but no more. The 1.4-liter 160-horsepower MultiAir Turbo launches the Dart from zero to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds, which is, well, average. The 2.0-liter, also with 160 horsepower, is even slower.
A hatchback isn’t available: The Dart has a roomy, 13.1-cubic-foot trunk, but the Caliber's hatchback body style offered an excellent 48 cubic feet of cargo space. While a hatch-only small vehicle was a minus in the Caliber's day, in the hot-hatch heyday of 2012 it would be a plus to offer that body style, as well.
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