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Dart simplified, with standard a/c

by Bill Cawthon on

Dodge has pared the Dart down to three trim lines, dropping both extremes (the SE and Limited) and renaming the Aero. The Dodge Dart, which now comes in SXT Sport, Turbo, and GT Sport trim, has  ended its run as the only American-brand car that didn’t come with standard air conditioning.


Each model has a different base engine; the SXT Sport gets the 2.0-liter, the Turbo gets the Fiat 1.4,  and the GT Sport has the mainstream 2.4.  The standard six-speed manual transmission continues on all three lines, with an optional Hyundai automatic.

The new SXT Sport, running $1,400 less than the old SXT, is a mix of SE and SXT, having dropped items such as speed-sensitive locks, front and rear center armrests, the overhead console, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and the 7-inch digital gauge display. The SXT Sport has the SE’s body-colored grille and chrome trim, using the SXT’s wheels instead of the SE’s wheel covers.

With the move from mileage-minded Aero to sporty Turbo, Dodge  added 17-inch Granite Crystal aluminum wheels, and switched to a blackened front look. The description was too short to see what changed to allow its $1,600 price cut.

The GT Sport dropped the GT’s special 18-inch wheels for the Turbo’s 17-inch wheels. The GT’s 6-way power driver’s seat is now a 10-way seat and the Nappa leather has likely left.

The list price, including delivery, for the SXT Sport is about $5 less than a Chevrolet Cruze LS Manual and $400 less than a Ford Focus SE. It is the same size as the Cruze and larger than the Focus, which also does not have four-wheel disc brakes.

The Dart should be a little quicker to 60 than the other cars, but takes a hit on mileage, especially compared to the Cruze. The EPA rates the Dart at 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway. The Focus is only slightly better, coming in at 26/36; the Cruze gets 29/41.

Dodge has high leasing costs, in a market where leases are around a third of all transactions. Currently, a 3-year, 15,000-mile/year lease for a Dart SXT runs $303 per month with a down payment of $2,039. For the Ford Focus SE, a lease is $186 per month with $1,939 due at signing. Chevrolet will lease a Cruze LS for $154 per month with $2,053 down. Over the life of the lease, the Focus is $4,312 less expensive while the Cruze is $5,350 cheaper.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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