The compact segment is anything but compact. Crowded with vehicles from nearly every automaker on the planet, compact class success requires real innovation; you have to bring something new to the table or risk obscurity. Fortunately, the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart leapfrogs the field with a little help from Alfa Romeo and a lot of class-leading features.
Designed, at least in part, from the architecture of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, an upscale hatchback from the legendary Italian automaker, the 2013 Dart (starting MSRP $15,995) is designed to exhibit many of the nimble, compact qualities of its European inspiration. Dodge widened and adapted the vehicle’s framework to better suit the Dart’s larger, more powerful character. In five versatile trim levels – SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T – the new Dart captures the dynamic, road-hugging spirit of the Giulietta and adds a number of class-leading and exclusive features designed to shake up the compact segment.
Shaped with the high tail and sharp points of an arrow, the appropriately named Dart brings a much-needed level of athleticism to the compact class. A wide, low stance is race-inspired, while the racetrack-style LED taillamp that stretches the width of the sedan mirrors that of the powerful Charger. The narrow crosshair grille (Hyper Black on the R/T, with a distinctive front fascia) flows beautifully into a pair of wraparound high-intensity headlamps with available black bezels. Optional class-exclusive Hyper Black aluminum wheels (on the Rallye) and a pair of bright exhaust tips separate the Dart from its competitors in a decidedly aggressive way.
Beneath the hood, the sporty Dart gets a trio of innovative new engine choices – the most diverse lineup in the segment – starting with the 2.0-liter 16-valve Tigershark™ inline four-cylinder. Through the standard six-speed manual or available six-speed automatic transmission, the I-4 makes 160 hp (the best standard horsepower in the compact class) and 148 lb/ft of torque. Rallye trims get an efficient and segment-exclusive 1.4-liter MultiAir® Intercooled Turbo engine that makes 160 hp and bumps torque to 184 lb/ft, for a little more growl off the start and in the passing lane. Finally, top-model R/Ts get the new 2.4-liter Tigershark™ MultiAir™ II, a four-cylinder that makes 184 hp and 171 lb/ft of torque through a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission with the clutchless AutoStick.
The Dart stance and its Alfa Romeo DNA impart an impressive agility and nimbleness, traits that blend nicely with its bold, powerful Dodge heritage. An already fun to drive suspension setup gets a little sport tuning and dampening on the racier upper trims (particularly the R/T), for even more dynamic drivability. Class-leading standard safety includes four-wheel antilock brakes with Brake Assist, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control and ten airbags.
Inside, the new Dart is impressively roomy, sporting the comfort and spaciousness of a midsize sedan in a modern, attractive compact package. The cockpit is nicely appointed with upscale amenities like available premium Nappa leather seating with stitched and sewn accents, and leather-covered consoles, shifter boot and steering wheel (with mounted audio controls). Subtle elements like front passenger in-seat storage blend careful refinement with considerate functionality.
The Dart has been specifically engineered to be the most technologically advanced vehicle in its class. Something as simple as the gauge display has been modernized far beyond segment standards, and in the Dodge takes the form of a seven-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display, a fully customizable screen that displays real-time vehicle information in full color with rich, vibrant graphics. The Dart also features the largest available touch-screen in its class, the 8.4-inch Uconnect™ system, which intuitively provides touch and voice activation for the available performance audio, navigation, hands-free phone and even web connection systems. The 2013 Dart even includes an available Blind Spot Monitoring System with Rear Cross Path Detection, yet another class exclusive.
Can a vehicle still be considered compact when there’s more exclusive content crammed inside of it than in any other vehicle in its class? If so, the 2013 Dodge Dart looks to become the most innovative and advanced compact on the road.