2013-2014 Dodge Dart: the new compact car with the classic name
Built with a mix of Chrysler and Fiat/Alfa components and designs, the 2013-2014 Dodge Dart compact car is a sedan with Dodge driver-facing systems, a Mopar-tuned version of an Alfa Romeo suspension, and a mix of Chrysler and Fiat engines with Fiat and Hyundai transmissions. The car was, to say the least, a joint effort; the Hyundai transmissions and all engines were made in the US, with Fiat transmissions sent in from Italy (Chrysler had no current automatics that would fit). Everything was assembled in Belvedere, Illinois. [Gas mileage figures are on our Specs/Comparison page.] Ironically, Fiat created a version of the Dart, with a cheaper suspension, as the Fiat Viaggio.
The result was a reasonably priced, quiet, and sporty car with a good interior space, numerous features, a flashy dashboard, and a good balance of economy and acceleration, with the base engines rated at 160 hp (and, in 2014, 184 hp). It was a foot longer and two inches wider than the Giulietta, with a stronger base engine, and cost much less.
Quality and durability were both definite priorities from the start of the program through to production; quality ratings on the Fiat 500 built in Mexico have been very high, a good indication that the Dart will also be satisfactory.
Compared with other cars in its class, the Dart had the longest wheelbase, front track, length, width, and greenhouse “footprint.”
For 2014, the 2.4 liter engine was made standard on every Dart except SE (which keeps the 2.0) and Aero (which stays with the 1.4); there are no other engine choices. In all cars but GT, which has special gear ratios and tuning, the 2.4 has better highway mileage than the automatic 2.0, and matches the stick-shift 2.0. The seats have also been redesigned for greater comfort. (The Dart 2.4, except in GT, has highway mileage ratings of 36 with manual, 35 with automatic.) For details, see our full 2014 cars page or our 2013-2014 Dodge Dart specifications/comparisons page.
The new Dodge Dart fulfilled the basic mission of the original: to be a relatively upmarket compact car, selling at a small premium but delivering a better driver experience than its competitors. It would fulfill that mission even without the numerous “not normal on compact cars” features. According to Reid Bigland, CEO of Dodge, the name Dart was chosen because:
... we showed them [people under 35] pictures of the 2013 Dart with the aggressive aero, the look, the sportiness, and asked them which names they thought fit best. Dart was the overwhelming bulls-eye. These people weren’t very familiar with the 1960-1976 Dart. They were just looking at Dart for matching the design and the aero of the current car.
Those older than 45 had positive memories of the original Dart, as well.
2013 and 2014 Dodge Dart SE had a base price of $16,000 before destination; the SE did not include the fancy 7” configurable display, the 8.4” touch screen, or the LED taillights, but were standard on the Limited and GT, and optional on SXT and Rallye. For 2013, SE was the only Dart with the 2.0 engine, and it was given more features to be a more credible alternative.
The Dodge Dart, set for full production in April 2012, filled in a gap left by the Neon, which was also made in the Belvedere plant. The same basic architecture will spawn at least one crossover and probably a hatchback.
The full-width tail-lamp accentuates the Dart’s width, using 152 indirectly glowing LEDs through an internal lens that creates a fractal glass appearance (it’s not available on all trim lines). Both front and rear of the car are rounded, with virtually no corners.
The Dodge Dart spent more than 600 hours of development time in Chrysler’s state-of-the-art aero acoustic wind tunnel, and engineers and designers worked together to optimize the design, adding extra seals in some places, changing shapes, and redirecting air as needed. Designers optimized the car’s front end for smooth airflow; examples include the notch angle at the rear of the car, the shape of the rear taillamp applique, the mirrors, and the rear corners.
The Dart was the first Dodge car to employ an active grille shutter system, which closes the airflow through the lower intake when cooling is least needed, reducing drag roughly 3 to 5 percent. Coolant temperature and speed determine whether the shutter is open or closed. Segment-exclusive panels cover 90% of the underbody, cutting road noise and reducing wind drag. There are openings for maintenance (the oil change opening does not come off, so oil changers can’t easily lose it); the panels are held on by SAE J-429 medium carbon steel bolts. Every Dart except SE will come with the active grille and underbody panels, and it will be optional on SE.
Underbody treatments, including a lower radiator close out panel, front and rear tire spats, an engine belly pan, two mid-floor belly pans, a center diffuser and outboard diffusers, collectively reduce aerodynamic drag by 7 percent.
The 2013-2014 Dart uses Chrysler and Fiat engines, with rumored all wheel drive coming; it has MacPherson struts up front, and a bi-link suspension in back, both in aluminum cradles. The rumored ZF nine-speed automatic seems to have been pushed back to 2015-2016; instead, the Dart has a Fiat six-speed dual-clutch automated-manual transmission, a manual version of that transmission, and a “PowerTech” six speed which was sourced from Hyundai.
Pricing: including destination, the 2013 Dodge Dart, at launch, was sold in five lines, starting at $16,790 (all our prices include destination) list U.S. price. All the cars had a standard six-speed manual transmission; the automatic was either a Hyundai six-speed automatic or a six-speed Fiat dual-clutch (with the 1.4 engine). All, including Dart SE, came with ten airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with assist, stability and traction control, LED taillamps, power windows, and CD player. The SE came with "denim" cloth seats and six-way manual driver's seat.
For 2014, engine options changed — there were none. The SE came with the 2.0, the Aero with the 1.4; all other cars came with the 2.4 engine.
Moving up to Dart SXT ($18,790) added 17-inch aluminum wheels, power body-color mirrors, power locks, remote and alarm, six speakers, 60/40 folding rear seat, sliding armrest, and filtered air conditioning. The SXT model allows buyers to get a wide range of options, including the 8.4 inch touch-screen stereo which is not available on SE; other options include 500-watt sound system and rear backup camera. Dart SXT (and all other models but SE) comes with the active grille shutters (for noise reduction and gas mileage) and underbody covers, which are optional on SE.
The Rallye model ($19,790) added the black bumper and "sporty" colors -- black and light gray, dark and light gray, black and red, and dark gray with "citrus peel." The Rallye has a blackened look with black headlamp bezels, projector fog lamps, integrated dual exhaust, leather wrapped steering wheel, cruise, steering-wheel audio controls, and trip computer.
The Limited ($20,790) added to SXT a standard painted bumper, 8.4 inch touch screen stereo with rear backup camera, reconfigurable gauge display, floating island bezel, bright grille and handles, ten way power driver's seat, automatic headlights, and premium stitching. It also opens the door to options such as leather seats, heated steering wheel, and rear cross path detection.
Dart GT ($21,990) looks like Rallye, but has the 2.4 liter Tiger Shark engine with 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic (with AutoStick). It adds 18 inch wheels, sport suspension with frequency-sensing shocks, unique front fascia with more black, bright exhaust tips, premium leather seats, dual-zone temperature control, heated seats and heated steering wheel, and the ability to order other options such as HID headlamps.
All wheel drive models will be announced later; and an SRT4 is expected but not guaranteed.
The reliable source oh2o wrote that the new Dodge Dart will be well equipped. SE (base) will get 16 inch wheels, and SXT and Limited going to 17” wheels. There will be a Rallye option for the SXT and, in total, six different wheel options along with the three engines and three transmissions. This has been confirmed. Rain sensing wipers appear to be another option, albeit unannounced, along with remote start (which can include turning on the heated seats and heated steering wheel). The voice recognition system allows the driver to choose between brief and detailed responses, a boon to the impatient. (The fancy dash and tail-lights both start as options on SXT).
According to PhantomSpazz, an Eco model, with 40 mpg, is slated for late arrival; he also said that base pricing would not be far above the Fiat 500, which starts at $16,000. He was right about the pricing; so the Eco may be on its way.
The GT version, we’re told, will handle like a go-kart, despite the car’s size and weight.
The Dart’s headlamps are projector versions while tail lamps are light-emitting diodes (LED) for compressed, sleeker and wider looking graphic shapes.
Glossy Piano Black paint-in-mold finishes, versus matte or mold-in-color (MIC) Black, is used on all models but is most predominant on the Rallye and GT models. Dodge’s “Hyper Black” finish is exclusive to performance models, such as the GT and on the Rallye and GT wheels.
The 2013 Dodge Dart was built with 68% high-strength steel; it has ten standard airbags, unsurpassed in the segment. The 2013 Dodge Dart is the only car in its class to offer blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection. See Dodge Dart quality and safety.
Dodge Dart GT driving impressions
Allpar was able to briefly test a Dodge Dart GT around the track and on a handling course. The suspension remains soft when it comes to cushioning bumps and bad road surfaces, but firm when it comes to handling curves. Raised pavement strips, bad potholes, concrete surfaces, and other problems that normally cause noise and jittering within the cabin were handled with aplomb by the Dart GT. Yet, when we took it out, the car felt confident and sure, handling sharp turns at high speeds without fuss or squealing tires.
Taking curves at the same speeds, Dart GT felt much lighter and better balanced than even the high-end Grand Cherokee SRT8; while the Dart’s actual road-holding is probably not quite as good as the high-performance SUV, the Grand Cherokee felt heavier, while Dart seemed to take the turns in stride. As with all Darts (and the Grand Cherokee), the interior was very quiet.
When it came to acceleration, there was no mistaking the difference between the SRT cars and the Dart. While the engine provided some instant throttle response, when working through the automatic transmission, there was no possibility of mistaking the two. Dart moved forward slowly, the transmission downshifted, and Dart moved forward with more authority; but despite the bigger engine, the automatic Dart GT is no pocket rocket.
Part of the issue may be the comfortable, soft-shifting six-speed. With added refinement (sound insulation, confident suspension, smooth shifting, gradual torque onset) comes the loss of “acceleration feel,” which is why a Fiat 500 Abarth feels faster than a Lexus LS 500 when the reverse is true. As a side note, the Dart GT can almost certainly outrace the 1964 Dart GT, even if the latter feels faster.
The Dart GT is reasonably priced, at around the same price as the Dart Limited with the Fiat engine, and it comes nicely loaded. This car is going to be a ball of fun for people who live in areas with empty roads and sharp turns, but at the same time, it won’t be hard to live with; the gas pedal and steering were not, by any means, twitchy or overly sensitive. Instead, the car smoothly delivers and responds to driver input.