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2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

2013 Dodge Dart Sedan - FROM $15,995

The 2013 Dodge Dart offers a lot of space, features and style for the money, while being surprisingly fun to drive. The more efficient and torque-rich turbo engine is the one to get, but no Dart is especially quick.

2013  Dodge Dart Sedan

What's New for 2013

The 2013 Dodge Dart is an all-new small sedan.

Introduction

It seems fitting that we first drove the 2013 Dodge Dart in Austin, Texas. You see, this up-and-coming city represents a different sort of Lone Star State that's more tie dye than 10-gallon hat; more downtown condo than Southfork Ranch. And yet, there's still plenty of barbecue-tinged Texas flavor to go around.

Similarly, the Dart is a different sort of Dodge. It's a front-wheel-drive small sedan based on an Italian hatchback that's a pretty sharp contrast to the brawny V8-powered Chargers and Challengers the brand is most famous for. And yet, there's still plenty of true-to-form Dodge flavor sprinkled throughout to make the Dart fit in with its siblings and stand out in a very competitive field.

It starts with its basic structure, suspension and steering borrowed from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta sold in Europe. This produces a car that's legitimately fun to drive, albeit in an agile, corner-taking sort of way rather than the tire-shredding "yee-hah" style of a Dodge Challenger. The optional turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine is also shared with the Alfa Romeo, and it balances its 160 horsepower with 184 pound-feet of torque, which makes this rather heavy car feel robust around town and deliver one of the quickest 0-60 times in the class. Meanwhile, the Dart's standard, normally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-4 makes the same 160 hp as the turbo but only 148 lb-ft of torque and delivers fractionally less mpg besides.

Yet the 2013 Dodge Dart isn't just a Giulietta with a trunk and a Dodge crosshair grille. It's bigger than the Alfa in almost every dimension, especially its extra foot of length. More importantly, it should make Texas proud by being the biggest compact sedan on the market, with dimensions that exceed those of the Volkswagen Jetta. The Dart is especially wide, which not only imparts more passenger space but also creates the feeling that you're driving something rather substantial. It really doesn't feel like a compact car.

That's an important point, because it makes the Dart's reasonable price seem like a bargain in light of its ample list of comfort, convenience and technology features. Plus, Dodge has gone out of its way to offer the Dart in a refreshing selection of bright colors and different trim materials as a way to bring some of the Alfa Romeo's flair to the compact segment. Going from a Honda Civic with its three choices of gray paint to the Dodge Dart and is multi-hued palette is like falling asleep in Kansas and waking up in Oz.

So count the 2013 Dodge Dart as another American compact car that outdoes the perennial all-stars from Honda and Toyota in almost every way. However, that doesn't mean the Dart hits the segment bull's-eye. The 2013 Ford Focus feels more agile, yet also offers a quieter, more comfortable ride and plenty of interior space. The 2013 Mazda 3 is more fun still, and its new SkyActiv engine is a fuel economy champ. Meanwhile, the stylish 2013 Hyundai Elantra offers plenty of value, while the Chevy Cruze's turbocharged engine is standard on all but its base model.

Yet the fact that the Dart is deep in the heart of the compact segment at all is a coup for a brand that hasn't competed in this corner of the market since the Dodge Neon. The 2013 Dart may be a different sort of Dodge, but as with Austin, different can be a cool thing.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2013 Dodge Dart is available in five trim levels: SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T.

The base SE comes sparsely equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, power windows, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Value Group adds power mirrors, power locks, keyless entry and air-conditioning.

The SXT includes all of the above, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, upgraded cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a sliding front armrest, an upgraded instrument panel and a six-speaker sound system. The Rallye adds to the SXT foglamps, unique exterior and interior trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

Both the SXT and the Rallye are eligible for several option packages. The Uconnect Voice Command package adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a USB port. The Popular Equipment Group includes cruise control, active grille shutters, underbody aerodynamic enhancements, remote ignition (automatic transmission only) and an enhanced trip computer with an upgraded display and tire-pressure monitoring information. This package also includes automatic headlamps when you also opt for one of the below packages that includes the large touchscreen electronics interface. The Premium Audio Group adds the touchscreen, a rearview camera, a USB audio jack, an SD card slot and upgraded interior trim. The UConnect Touch Multimedia Center includes those items plus an iPod interface and a single-CD player located under the center armrest between the front seats.

The Dart Limited includes all of the above, plus a six-way power driver seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment, Bluetooth (available separately on the SXT and Rallye) and chrome exterior trim. The Dart R/T (late availability) is equipped similarly to the Limited, but also gets a more powerful engine, 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery and different exterior and interior trim.

Both the Limited and R/T can be equipped with the Technology Group, which adds keyless ignition/entry, automatic wipers, automatic headlamps, rear parking sensors, a blind-spot warning system and a rear cross-path warning system. Also available on both trims is the Premium Group, which adds leather upholstery (Limited), heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control.

A Garmin-based navigation system with real-time traffic and satellite radio can be added to the Limited, R/T and those models with the UConnect Touch Multimedia Center option.

Powertrains and Performance

Every 2013 Dodge Dart except the R/T comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 160 hp and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic transmission is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, the 2.0 engine with a manual brought the Dart from zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds, which makes it one of the slowest vehicles in the class. Estimated fuel economy is 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined with the manual transmission and 24/34/27 with the automatic.

Optional on all trims but the R/T is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automated manual transmission is optional. In Edmunds testing, we found that the turbo and manual transmission combo was good for a 0-60-mph time of 8.3 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest cars in the class. Given that fact, its estimated fuel economy is even more impressive at 27/39/32 with the manual. Estimates for the automatic are to be announced later.

A special trim level known as the Aero will be a late addition to the Dart lineup. Featuring the turbocharged engine, it will achieve at least 41 mpg on the highway due to aerodynamic enhancements, low-rolling-resistance tires and a lighter weight resulting from low feature content.

Finally, the Dart R/T (late availability) gets a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. It gets the same transmission choices as the 2.0-liter. Acceleration and fuel economy estimates were not available as of this writing.

Safety

Every 2013 Dodge Dart comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. A rearview camera is available, as are blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert.

In Edmunds brake testing, the Dart came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, putting it among the best in the segment.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Dodge Dart features one of the nicest cabins in its class, and it only gets nicer as you move up the trim level ladder. Whereas competitors just add leather upholstery or some fake metal trim to improve the ambience, the Dart actually slathers on extra padded surfaces, dash stitching and flares of colorful trim. To be honest, a loaded Dart Limited really doesn't feel like it belongs in the small sedan class.

The Dart's dimensions also reinforce an experience that's more than you expect from a small sedan. It's noticeably wide, with a generous amount of rear legroom, so we expect the Dart will have one of the most welcoming backseats in the class. Space up front is what you'd expect, but the driver seat feels as if it's mounted too high and can't be lowered enough for those of longer leg. Some may also find the seat to be a bit lumpy. Trunk space stands at 13.1 cubic feet, an average capacity in this class.

We highly recommend springing for the available 8.4-inch touchscreen interface for the entertainment and navigation systems. Also found on some other Dodge models, it features easy-to-navigate menus, big touch buttons and an accompanying knob that makes whipping through iPod menus a breeze.

Driving Impressions

With underpinnings sourced from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the 2013 Dodge Dart boasts the sort of lively, responsive handling you'd expect from something with Italian DNA. The steering is quick and very well weighted, while the sophisticated suspension design does an excellent job of taking corners with enthusiasm while greeting bumps with a well-damped suppleness. The Ford Focus and Mazda 3 feel a little more nimble, but the Dart's bigger dimensions make it seem more substantial when cruising down the open road.

The base 2.0-liter doesn't really have enough guts for a car this size. It can feel passably robust with the standard manual transmission, but opting for the six-speed automatic sucks even more life out of this engine, and we found that it can be slow to downshift. We recommend paying extra for the turbocharged 1.4-liter, which achieves better fuel economy, a punchier power delivery and quick acceleration. We have yet to drive the Dart R/T, but we expect it to arrive later in the year.