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by Jaime Hale in
February 2015 (4.0)
Years ago Chrysler de México struck a deal with Hyundai to sell two cars under the Dodge label, badged as the “Athos by Dodge” and the “Verna by Dodge.” Later, they became the i10 and the Attitude. Honda had a Fit when they saw Dodge had an Attitude. (Sorry for the bad joke.)
In 2013, the agreement came to an end, and during 2014 Dodge Mexico was left without any car in the lower segment of the market — by and large, the most important one in the country, in which Dodge had been competitive with very good products, albeit with Hyundai's “H” badge prominently displayed.
This has now changed, thanks to the launch of a Mitsubishi-designed-and-built replacement, still called Dodge Attitude. I managed to get the keys of one and take it for a spin in the neighborhood. Except, the word “keys” is wrong. The car opens up with a proximity fob that includes three buttons, to lock, to unlock, and to open the giant trunk. No keys — I think that's a first in this market [at least in this price class].
This particular car is a gray job with black fabric upholstery and is the top of the line; there are four versions, base and upgraded, both of which come with either a five-speed manual or CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission).
When I first sat down I had a pleasant surprise, as the seat held my 5'11” frame and 220 pounds not only firmly but comfortably as well. The materials used in the dash and the interior consist of plastic, cheap plastic as I expected for a car of this type, but nonetheless fit and finish were superior to, well, the Dodge Vision which I drove earlier this week and which I duly reported to you. Ouch!
This is when comparisons get bad. The dashboard of the Vision is glitzier, shinier than the Attitude's. The Attitude's dash is Spartan by comparison but nevertheless interesting. The glove box is made of sturdier plastic so you can close it, and it will close, unlike the Vision's.
The Attitude's instrument cluster contains a speedometer and tach. A LCD screen set between both provides some information like in which gear you're driving the CVT transmission (which seems like a contradiction), gas level, and other stuff when you push a little button next to it, which toggles among other functions like trip odometer and mileage.
The leather steering wheel is thick and comfortable. You have the usual twin stalks on either side, on the left for lights and on the right for wipers.
Visibility is very good and the driving position is relatively high.
The rear seat is not only comfortable, it's surprisingly big for a car this size. I drove around with our sales manager seated next to me on the passenger seat and a salesman seated on the rear. He was also pleased with the car's comfort.
Driving this car was also another surprise on several counts. For starters, the three-cylinder, 12-valve engine performed remarkably well, pulling the car happily around the neighborhood coupled to its CVT automatic transaxle. The engine felt rather like a small four-cylinder. The CVT is very smooth and when needed, kicked down in no time to keep the car moving.
The suspension isn't as tight as in the Vision, which has a better grip on the road, possibly due to the wheels and tires.
I drove the car down a famous incline, doing my engine braking with the transmission, which behaved very well, no jolts like in the Vision. The brakes are very good too. When I got to the lowest part of the incline, I made a U-turn and drove back. The three cylinders showed up this time. With three adults, tipping the scales at about 320 lbs, the car really suffered to get us up. It was doing 4,000 rpm at 25 mph and had trouble climbing but the drive train never quit, shuddered or expressed any kind of disagreement with me driving it hard, with my foot all the way down to the firewall.
Ahhh, the stereo. Made by Sony, it has a removable face with its corresponding plastic box for storage. Either on or off, the buttons of it kept changing colors while I drove, from yellow orange to pink to green to blue and then back. It looked nice and sounds better than the Vision's too.
The little engine didn't complain when I turned on the A/C (we're in the mid-80s as I'm writing this – eat your heart out!). It delivered nice cold air almost immediately. It's operated by two levers that let air from the outside, the other is the temp gauge and you have the fan knob under both, with another button to turn the A/C on or off. Very, very simple.
On top of all the above, this top-of-the-line version comes equipped with power windows all around, the driver's having the one-touch feature. Electric door locks are there too. This is good because for the price of the car, Dodge clients are getting plenty of bang for their bucks.
The trunk, ah, the trunk. It's as big as it can get. Really big. 450 liters which is about 119 gallons. Enough to fit luggage for four plus another bag or two. [This is nearly the size of the 300C's trunk.]
But styling is something else. Don't get me wrong, the car looks good but it's not a sight to behold. Frankly speaking, the style of Hyundai's Attitude was much prettier than this one. For short, I think this car looks rather old now and it may not be that appealing for the younger people who may be the target market. This opinion though will fade when people fill the fuel tank because this car sips gas. It's rated mileage is even better than that of diesels! Does 47mpg sound reasonable?
As for the specs, as I mentioned earlier the car is powered by a 1.2-liter, DOHC 12-valve engine, coughing up 79 hp @ 6,000 rpm, with peak torque at 4,000 rpm delivering 78-lbs/ft.
The Attitude has electrically assisted power steering, front disk brakes and drums in the rear, and McPherson struts up front with a rigid torsion axle in the rear. I must say that the car doesn't drive as solidly as the Vision. The cheaper versions have 14” wheels coupled to 175/65 tires and the unit I tested comes with 15” wheels, sporting 185/55 tires.
The list of equipment is extensive. All versions have two airbags, for driver and passenger respectively. Adjustable head rests for both front and rear passengers, three-point seat belts for everybody, EBD, ABS in all versions except the cheapest one with a manual tranny, electric door locks, remote opening and closing of door locks and trunk. The Sony stereo has Bluetooth and can play CDs, MP3, WMA, WAV and it has a USB port as well as iPod input. The more expensive versions have four speakers, the others make do with two.
As tested, this little car will set you back around $US13,300. Not a bad deal at all considering all the equipment you get for that kind of money and also, you get the car with the best fuel economy in town.
Now, what will happen between it and the Vision?
I think both are strong contenders in their field. The Vision looks more upscale than the Attitude and perhaps more luxurious. It's slightly bigger and it feels more solid. Its materials are also better but not their fit and finish. The Attitude looks and feels cheaper but its upholstery is better.
It's good to see that Dodge is back in the econobox market in the country, and back in force. There are five smart choices and all of them are good, very well equipped and prices competitively. On top of them, we have the new Fiat Uno which I still have to drive, and the Attitude's sibling, the Mitsubishi Mirage, which is a hatchback and is starting to sell very well. You know, I was scared because I thought that up here in the mountains the three-cylinder engine just wouldn't cut it, but it does. Yes, it's slow going up but if people don't like that, they can always buy a Challenger from us.
Which would I buy, between the Attitude and the Vision? The Attitude. Why? Because I like the CVT much more than the Dualogic. I did a simple test: we have a garage with a steep ramp going down from the street. Getting the Vision out of there earlier this week was a problem. Even with the gas pedal at more than half its travel, the car wouldn't move! The Attitude didn't even complain. The CVT is smoother than the Dualogic and in that incline, it responded better than the Dualogic. Neither car is intended for competition, fast acceleration or high speeds but the Dualogic, in my opinion, doesn't make it.
My prediction is that in the future Dodge will have to put a CVT in the Vision instead of the Dualogic, at which time the Attitude will establish itself as the car of choice from Dodge in the segment.
I for one, am glad that at last Chrysler de México has plenty of options for customers in the economy car market, with the Attitude, Vision, Fiat Uno and Mitsubishi Mirage as well as the RAM 700. Dodge has been doing a good job introducing the new cars to the market, too.
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