I have six kids, so sedans aren’t high on our list of purchasable cars – after all, they tend to hold slightly fewer people than we typically transport. But my husband is Finance Director at a local dealership, and one of the perks of his job involves a demo of his choice. He’s driven many different cars, but recently chose the new Dodge Dart – and after driving it myself, I’m beginning to understand his motivation.
Named the Most Significant car at the Detroit Auto Show and MotorWeek Driver’s Choice Best Compact Car, the Dodge Dart doesn’t mess around. It’s about time that Chrysler rejoined this century – sedans represent 85% of all compact car purchases, and Dodge hasn’t had a legit player in the game since the Neon was retired (the crappy Caliber doesn’t count. – Ed.) With a new and updated profile aimed at millennials, (those born in the 1980-1990 decades) and based on an Alfra Romeo chassis, the Dart is the first Chrysler product to share a platform with a Fiat product – specifically, the Alfa Romeo Guiletta. The Italian roots are apparent in the design of the Dart.
I’m not a car person. I’m not versed in torque and differential, know virtually nothing about axles and my areas of expertise tend to revolve around technology and interior design. (My auto mechanic father just rolled his eyes and tossed a air compressor my way, incidentally.) Despite this lack of knowledge, I found that I did have a lot to say about this car. For the purposes of this review, I test drove the Dodge Dart with the 1.4 turbocharged MultiAir engine.
The Dart isn’t a fancy car – it’s not a car that is going to be pulling in those drivers who want sleek and sexy. It makes up for that in several areas. One of the biggest claims to fame that Dodge claims for the Dart is fuel efficiency. With a sticker claim of 27 city/39 highway, I was admittedly skeptical – but found that the Dart really is a fuel sipper. With stop and go, taking kids everywhere around the town, we averaged 26 mpg. Not bad at all.
One question that has been raised is how Dodge is able to get those numbers, and part of the answer is the Floating Dodge/Chrysler grille. This grille has an active shutter system, designed to improve air flow to and around the engine. Additionally, a full length belly pan runs under the car, streamlining air flow and decreasing wind resistance.
It makes for a smooth, powerful ride, although you do need to punch the gas for a speedy take off. Even with the 160 horsepower and 184 ft-lbs of torque from the 1.4 liter turbo engine, the Dart is somewhat slow to take off from a full stop and has a bit of a delay when attempting a two lane pass – giving new meaning to the phrase “Punch it.” The engine is available as a standard, automatic and a dual dry clutch on turbo models.
One of the most difficult things about carrying more than two people in a sedan is the lack of legroom. No one wants to be crammed into the back seat but the Dart does offer an additional bit of room – just a smidge over 35 inches. It’s a tight fit for 3 full sized grown men, but smaller adults won’t feel a lack of space. I put two elementary kids (one still in a booster seat), one teenager, three book bags and a small instrument case in the back seat comfortably. The tuba went into the trunk.
Interior is where the Dart shines, with a 7 inch display between the two analog gauges, which can be configured in multiple directions to optimize your experience. In layman’s terms, you can make your display show what you want it to show, with nothing you don’t want to see. Amenities such as Napa leather heated seats and heated steering wheel are welcome and controlled via the oversize 8.4 inch touch screen. The atmosphere is controlled dually with a slide function on the display screen as well as a dial below. Driver and passengers are protected by ten airbags, and 4 wheel Disc Brakes and ABS are standard on all models.
As you move up the chain of offerings, from the base model to the Limited, the extras stack up. Built in Navigation and back up cameras are two welcome amenities that are standard in much pricier vehicles and help to move the Dart up into competition. Most models offer power windows, with one touch on the driver’s side, power locks, remote start and keyless entry.
Additionally, the Dart offers a USB port, SD card slot and Bluetooth technology on the higher level models. Believe it or not, you can also get an optional wireless charging mat for phones and MP3 players, which is an amenity not usually seen until a much higher price point. Not only that, the Dart has the ability to transform into a wireless Wi-fi hot spot and offers wireless device charging as well. Those millennials are sure to love that.
One of the amenities that the Dart brags on most often is the roominess of the interior. Can the glove box really hold a laptop computer? Yes, it can. In addition, you can lift up the driver’s seat cushion for a storage area, and each door has a large deep well, designed to hold water bottles, tissues, and the like – or in my case, multiple lego minifigs.
The Dodge Dart is a quality car that expands a market long in need of a wake up call. It’s a great second car for a small family and would be a wonderful starter car for a college student or a young family starting out. It’s smart looks, power and amenities resemble those of a class above. It’s the most technologically advanced car in it’s market segment, and the new Dart will go a long way towards helping Dodge hit the bulls eye in it’s target market. Pricing starts at $15,995.
This review was written by friend of Gas2.org Carmen Staicer, who is the crazy lady behind the blog Mom to the Screaming Masses. I thought it’d be fun to get a mother’s perspective on a new car like the Dodge Dart…and I was right.