2014 Dodge Dart Review
The Dodge Dart was the first offspring of Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan to leverage Fiat’s re-born engineering and manufacturing processes onto a new wave of products under the Pentastar. Did Chrysler and Fiat do this one right? Will Chrysler’s recent financial and sales resurgence continue with this new compact?
From the outside, all signs are indeed positive. The Dart appears to be a bit larger in size than the average compact sedan, but who is counting size when purpose matters most? It is handsome – perhaps the best looking product in its class. Yet, it is daring – forging elements of Dodge’s design tenets from various models onto this smaller frame.
This GT model is at the top of the range. You get a blacked out section between the two grilles, a satinized “crosshair” applique, and eighteen-inch Hyper Black alloy wheels shod with Yokohama Avid tires.
Everything in the look of the Dart has been made to entertain the eye and felt to the touch – even on the outside. There is a high degree of personality that makes the Dart stand out in a crowd – even if the crowd happens to be other Darts.
Once inside the Dart, there is a lot of offer for the driver. You can find a happy medium that fits your driving style and comfort level. The GT’s sports contoured leather seats that offer a good of amount of bolstering and comfort. The seats and dashboard are stitched in red and works well with the black leather upholstery and trim. Front room is fine, but taller drivers may want to adjust accordingly to fit. The rear seat room may not be as generous as I hoped. Both headroom and legroom are better served for average-sized adults than larger ones. Trunk space is very decent for its class.
In the GT, you get a tachometer and the fuel/temperature gauges on each side. In-between these two dials, a seven-inch central TFT LED screen houses the speedometer that you can select how you would like to see how fast you are going and what kind of fuel efficiency you are experiencing. The TFT seven-inch is the key to personalizing your driving environment per the way you want to see how fast you’re going and your trip information. Starting up the Dart GT takes a push of a button and a newfangled fob to make sure it all works when you are in the car.
In the Dart, you are presented with a new 8.4-inch touch-screen dead center of the instrument panel controlling the infotainment options depending on model. This screen offers up the UConnect Touch infotainment suite, AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio readouts and controls, Bluetooth connectivity and a Garmin navigation system along with a reversing camera. The screen is quite huge and could vie for your attention, but it is useful in all the right situations. The sound quality is fantastic.
Controls are good to the touch, with both audio and air conditioning/climate control knobs and switches living below the big central screen. The wiper controls are shared on the same left stalk that controls the turn signals and high beams. A knob on the lower left corner of the instrument panel controls the headlamps, probably best to set for automatic control. Cabin safety is covered by the installation of ten airbags to protect you and your passengers in every conceivable way.
After a couple of years of promises, the Dart is now equipped with the 2.4liter Tigershark four-cylinder with Fiat’s Multiair II induction system. With 185 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque on tap, the bigger engine loves to show you how much more powerful it is. A six-speed manual is standard, but this tester has the six-speed automatic. With the larger engine under the hood, the Dart wants to leap out in traffic – and run. The 2.4liter engine is perhaps the best engine suited for the Dart. All Darts have front wheel drive.
The most exciting part of driving the Dart GT was discovering how well its driving dynamics package has come together. The ride is solid and supple. You can feel a bit of firmness, which is balanced by some give on varying road surfaces. Handling is a similar story. The best way to describe the handling package is “near perfect.” It takes curves very flat. There is just a tad of roll in the banks and curves making the drive much more enjoyable and honest. If you attack the curves, as a good enthusiast should, the Dart truly comes onto its own. The combination of a sharper, weighted steering set and refined suspension set-up invites you to grab onto a curb without trepidation. Steering wheel action is near center with no play. Reaction from the wheel is sharp and exacting. The Yokohama tires grip very well. The brakes are actually very good – they react sharply in both normal and panic situations with great feedback.
In terms of fuel economy, Chrysler touted competitive consumption figures for all of the engine/transmission combinations. Our Dart GT averaged 27.5MPG in a mix of highway and city driving. In other Dart models, the CarSoup.com team has seen averages range up to 29.5MPG. With all things being realistic, that number is right where the class should be for a mix of city and highway driving.
The Dart lineup starts off the SE sedan with the 160-horsepower 2.0liter Tigershark engine and a six-speed manual. Starting price for the SE is $16,495. Our GT tester was stickered at $25,125, with the Technology Group and other upgrades. However, the best value of the Dart lineup is an SXT model, add the Blacktop package and several technology options for a sticker price of $22,815.
Was the Dodge Dart good enough for this competitive market segment? The results were beyond expectations. Feel the vehicle, hear the engine, throw it into a curve – the Dart will indeed reward you handsomely.
If you are interested in a Dodge Dart, log onto CarSoup.com to find out what is available on sale.
Photos © Chrysler Group LLC