Bottom line: The compact-family-sedan segment is a crowded, highly competitive field. The new Dart belongs there and has enough model iterations to match varied needs and wants. But the Dart’s many rivals offer good things, too. Shop around carefully before buying.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The new Dart gets good marks in all three.
Head-turning quotient: The new Dart is attractive in a wide field of very attractive compact cars, which means that, despite its hyped promotion, the Dart does not really stand out.
Body style/layout: The new Dart is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, wide-bodied compact economy family sedan based largely on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. It is offered in three basic trim levels — the SE, SXT and Limited. Also offered are two sporty subgroups — the Rallye and R/T.
Engines/transmissions: There are two gasoline engines — a base 16-valve, 2-liter in-line four-cylinder model with variable valve timing (160 horsepower, 148 foot-pounds of torque) and a turbocharged 1.4-liter in-line four (160 horsepower, 184 foot-pounds of torque). The standard transmission is a six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic that can also be operated manually is available.
Capacities: There are seats for five people. Cargo capacity is 13.1 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 15.8 gallons. Regular gasoline is fine with the 2-liter four-cylinder engine, but premium grade is recommended for best performance in the turbocharged model.
Mileage: Real-world mileage in Darts with 2-liter and turbocharged 1.4-liter gasoline engines averaged 23 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway — not bad, but nothing to cheer about.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear, four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability and traction control, and side and head air bags.
Prices: Prices for the base Dodge Dart SE start at $15,995 with a dealer’s invoice price of $15,369. The SXT is $17,995 with a dealer’s invoice price of $17,069. The Dart Rallye with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine (package 23T in the pricing literature) is $22,670 with a dealer’s invoice price of $21,393. The price includes $3,880 in options, such as the turbocharged engine and onboard navigation with backup camera, and a $795 destination charge.