*Note* Get comfy, this could take a bit. :cop:
Well I’ve had my Dart for about 3 weeks now and she’s starting to feel comfortable, not to imply anything is uncomfortable about the car, but comfortable in a ‘that’s my car’ kind of way. I’ve put about 325 miles on the car so far and have been able to test most of the systems out. I’ll try to break this down into a couple sections to keep it simple and organized.
The Car: 2013 Dodge Dart Limited
1.4T w/ 6 speed manual
Maximum Steel Metallic w/ black cloth interior
I’ve had a chance to drive both city and highway so far along with putting around in the burbs however I have not had a chance to get her out on the interstate yet. The first couple days that I had the car I was running around in downtown St. Paul, and running errands in the surrounding burbs and the one feature that really stood out for me was the hill assist. St. Paul is a fairly hilly city and as everyone knows when driving downtown in a major metropolitan area it’s a mix of stop & go, lane changes, and keeping track of all the peds. The hill assist feature is nice in that it will hold the car in place when it senses you’re stopped facing up hill and keeps the brakes engaged until it feels the car start to move forward and then releases them. Very handy!
This car is classed in the compact segment of the market but it’s very close to being a mid-sized car so you may have trouble fitting it in those ‘compact only’ slots at parking ramps. That being said it’s small enough to maneuver just fine in downtown traffic and ramps and the car has excellent lines of sight with a fairly small blind spot on each side. The car sits high enough that I’ve had no trouble with curbs or speed bumps.
In city driving the 1.4 has enough power on its own to be able to keep the revs under 3k. If you need to put your foot in it the turbo kicks in at about 3k and there is a slight turbo lag but nothing that really bothered me. As long as you’re not looking to race or anything it should provide more than enough power for this sized vehicle. When the turbo does kick in you can feel it and the car will move with a purpose making passing and highway entrances a breeze.
My highway drive took me down the Minnesota side of the Mississippi from Hastings to Wabasha and then back up the Wisconsin side to home. It was about 120 miles round trip on curvy hilly roads with small towns sprinkled every 10-15 miles along the route. The sun was out with a few puffy clouds and a light wind so it was a beautiful for a drive along the river.
The car was very comfortable to cruise in and once you get it in 6[sup]th[/sup] you can engage the cruise control and the car will take hills and curves at 60mph @ 2k rpm. There is very little lateral G’s. The traction control and the contoured seat negate the bulk of them. The suspension is firmer than my wife’s Avenger but still soaks up normal road bumps. The low profile tires don’t do you any favors going over manhole covers or potholes though.
The brakes work well as you would expect from 4 wheel disc brakes. The ‘fly by wire’ steering was fairly impressive too. I really could not tell the difference between the steering in the Dart and my wife’s Avenger which has traditional linked steering. Kudos to Dodge on this point.
As far as gas mileage goes I’m pretty close to hitting the advertised 32mpg combined. It’s interesting watching the real time mpg gauge, when you have the clutch in or are coasting down a hill it will read 99mpg when you put your foot in the turbo it will read in the single digits. I’m usually hitting 27mpg around town and close to 40+ when I have the cruise control engaged out on the highway.
Fit & Finish:
The exterior paint is pretty interesting. (Max. Steel Metallic) Its much darker in the shade than I had anticipated, almost black even, but out in the sun it really pops and depending on how the light hits it you can get some nice gun metal blues and greens to show up. The metal flake looks like it’s applied evenly across the vehicle and adds a nice touch to the finish. I could not find any flaws in the finish.
All of the doors along with trunk and hood were aligned properly and functioned as they should. The trunk in particular has a nice balance point to it so you don’t have to worry about a gust of wind bringing it down on your head. The doors close smoothly but with authority if that makes sense. They have that satisfying ‘thud’ you expect to hear in a nice car.
I did spring for the sunroof option and I’m glad I did. Once you’ve owned a car with a sunroof you tend to miss them as my wife found out when her Avenger didn’t come with one. It’s a nice dual function power roof where you can have it slightly tilted up in back for what they call ‘vent’ mode. It has full auto forward and back and of course you could stop it at any point too. One interesting feature is the popup mesh wind diffuser that engages when the roof is open. It works pretty well at cutting down on wind noise however it does have the drawback of being equally good at catching bugs.
I absolutely love the racetrack taillights in the rear and the wrap around headlights in the front. The fog lamps are a nice touch too. The wide stance and forward leaning posture gives it a bit of an aggressive look. When you look at from the rear you can really see the car has some ‘hips’ to it.
I passed on the premium group and opted to go with the black cloth interior. I don’t regret the choice as there is still plenty of soft touch surfaces inside. The cloth looks like it will be pretty durable too. All of the stitching looks solid and I couldn’t find any fit issues on the interior.
The ambient lighting is subtle, which is a good thing. The photos you see on the web advertising this feature have definitely been enhanced to accentuate the feature. The LED floating island bezel only shows up red when it’s completely dark outside and even then, it’s not intrusive. The dials and other components that are backlit have a normal brightness that can be adjusted via a wheel down by the left knee. There is also an adjustment for the interior lighting located in the same area. Cup holders and cubbies also get a nice subtle white ambient glow too.
There are cubbies everywhere in this car including the cubby of all cubbies, the glove cavern. The ones I find useful are the main compartment under the armrest, the large cubby under the touch screen, and the pop-down eyeglass holder located by the interior lights. The rest of the cubbies in the doors and in on the sides of the console are contour shaped (?) and are fine for some items however not practical for most. The little one by my knee in particular gives me the impression that one good tap of the brakes and the contents would be around my feet.
As to the glove cavern, I have yet to figure out why you would need this voluminous space unless you really do need to keep a laptop at the ready as indicated in the advertisements. The thing is so deep you have to be in the passenger seat to reach the back and for me that’s just not practical. (I suppose I could pack a survival kit in there; you know, like a week’s worth of food and water in case I get snowed in somewhere.)
Speaking of the passenger seat, anything you put in the cubby located underneath the seat will be promptly forgotten until you are already in the house/work and actually need said item. I recommend putting your first aid kit there and hope you never need it. I can stare right at the seat when I’m getting ready to exit the car and forget the cubby is even there, repeatedly. Go figure…
Comfort-wise the seats do very well. They contour my body nicely and even my wife says they are more comfortable than the seats in her 2010 Avenger, which has the premium seats in it. I’ve rode in both front seats and they are pretty similar. I can’t tell that there is a cubby under the passenger seat and that’s a good thing. I’ve sat in the back, and it seemed fine but I have not spent any road time back there so I can’t comment on ride comfort for rear passengers yet. The driver seat is full power adjustable and the passenger seat is manual adjust.
I have the Limited with the Tech package and it can only be described as LOADED! Tack on about 10k+ for similar features in other brands. This was one of the main reasons why I purchased this vehicle and so far I have not been disappointed.
The TFT display is crisp and very responsive and can give you a whole host of information on the vehicle. I have it set pretty much the way I want it now and don’t see myself changing it that often to tell you the truth. It’s nice that you can keep the general setup that you like, including type of speedo and location of major components while still being able to rotate through the different data types. The controls are on the left front of the steering wheel making access a breeze.
You can rotate through about a half a dozen menu items on the display which have 3 or 4 modes each. There are 2 trip meters, a gas mileage item, vehicle temp(s) menu item, tire pressure menu item, one other one I can’t place at the moment. If you have the nav on the car will rotate between the nav display and data display as needed such as coming up to a turn on the route. This is very handy so you don’t have to look off to the side at the main nav screen when your attention needs to be forward.
The 8.4n touchscreen is very nice! It’s crisp and responsive and has a fairly intuitive layout. All of the buttons are good sized and easy to hit on the fly. The main menu is laid out along the bottom of the screen for easy access leaving the bulk of the screen open for that item’s function. There are also shortcut buttons on the sides of the screens for quick access to secondary functions such as traffic.
Main radio functions such as volume/tuning can be accomplished from a number of places such as the back of the steering wheel, physical knobs below the touchscreen, and the screen itself which I find particularly useful as I have a manual stick. The climate controls also get a set of physical knobs and buttons too which helps cut down on touches to the screen. The screen is of the matte variety and doesn’t reflect much glare but it still gets ‘finger-printed’ pretty bad. (I recommend carrying a microfiber shammy in the car if you have an ‘ism about fingerprints like I do)
I did spring for the optional Alpine package and in my opinion it was well spent money. The sound, for lack of a better term, is awesome! Keep in mind I love listening to music when I drive and sound quality is a key sticking point with me. I can’t compare it to the regular 6 speaker setup of the other Dart models but I can say that it sounds better than the wife’s Boston Acoustics setup in her Avenger and she agrees.
The automatic headlights and wipers work as advertised and the technology behind them is pretty impressive. Even during dusk/dawn periods the lights work appropriately, meaning they come on when I would consider turning them on manually and they dim for oncoming traffic or if I get too close to the back of another vehicle, much as I would do if I were to manually perform these actions.
The wipers come on when the windshield starts to get wet as I would expect them too. They work in fog equally well too. The only drawback to this setup is that the sensors for both are right behind the rearview mirror presenting those of us in the ‘hanging parking badge’ world a bit of a problem as there is no place to hang any badges.
The cross-path detection and blind spot monitoring are pretty cool and actually work pretty well. I was a bit skeptical about how useful these features would actually be but I’ve been pleasantly surprised as both of these features have proven very useful so far. I know they’ve save my car from being clipped at least once so far.
I’m sure there is other tech that I haven’t even noticed yet or am not in a position to appreciate, such as the active grill shutters or the SD card slot but I’ll get around to them eventually. Winter is right around the corner so the tech I’m most looking forward to trying is the traction control in snow.
Well there’s not much not to like about my Dart but it’s not a perfect car either. I’m suspect that there might be a gas gauge issue as it’s sometimes slow to register a full tank after filling. Granted I’ve only put 3 tanks in and on the last one the gauge functioned normally so we shall see. Once full it seems to track true and the average mpg lines up with my manual tracking.
The Bluetooth tends to only recognize the default music player on the phone, at least my phone so if you’re streaming via Amazon or using a player that is not the default player it will sometimes get confused and switch on you. It doesn’t happen all the time and I’m not sure what triggers it but I suspect it’s when I try and skip to the next song when one is playing.
Well I have 1022 miles on the car as of this writing and if you’ve stuck with me so far you know that it’s been a fun couple weeks. I really appreciate the little things that Dodge put into this car and the attention to detail really shows. I look forward to many years with my new Dart hopefully and can’t wait until I can stretch her legs on a trip out to the rocky mountains this fall. Should be fun.
Good job Dodge, you created a fun car that has pretty good value for the money and it made my wife envious to boot!
To everyone at the Belvedere plant who worked on my car and anyone else who had a hand in its creation, thank you, I love it! :1st:
Link to the photos