The 2013 Dodge Dart is a constant surprise: I was surprised by its sophisticated design, great interior fit and finish, its price and power. But are all the Dart's surprises good ones?
The compact sedan's looks are great, and the interior is a pleasure to sit in. The not-so-good surprise was that the optional turbocharged four-cylinder's engine lacked power in 1st gear. Acceleration didn't come on strong until hitting some higher rpms in 2nd gear; the Dart caught up with the pack, but it wasn't quick off the line. I was glad my test car had the optional six-speed manual transmission to compensate for this lack of zip.
The turbocharged 1.4-liter engine also was noisy — so much so that it made me question whether it was a diesel. Many bystanders asked me that as well.
The 2013 Dodge Dart has a starting price of $16,790, including a $795 destination charge. My top-of-the-line Dart Limited had an as-tested price of $25,065 price, and it included lots of features that kept me pleasantly surprised throughout my test.
Today's Dart looks nothing like the Darts of the 1960s and early '70s. While it doesn't really turn heads, it's a good-looking car with a teardrop profile that doesn't look too masculine or feminine. Dodge's signature crosshair grille on the Dart looks aggressive without being over the top.
This Dart allows for easy entries and exits by all but the youngest kids. Its sloping roofline will likely lead to backaches and head bonks when loading kids into child-safety seats. Of course, once the kids get older and taller, those issues fade into the background. The doors are lightweight and not difficult to open or close, even from inside.
The 13.1-cubic-foot trunk easily managed a trip to a warehouse store. While the Dart has 60/40-split folding rear seats to expand the cargo area, the opening into the cabin is a trapezoidal shape that cuts down on usability.
The Dart has a standard 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that gets an EPA-estimated 25/36 mpg city/highway when paired to an available six-speed manual or 24/34 mpg with a six-speed automatic. My test car had the optional 160-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. When paired with the standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, it gets 27/37 mpg, and with the available six-speed manual, it gets 27/39 mpg. Both engines use regular unleaded gasoline, but premium fuel is recommended for the turbo four-cylinder.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The Dart's mix of light-colored leather seats and door trim with the black dash and carpet look modern, and the chrome shift knob adds a visual pop. The uncluttered dash creates an inviting, unintimidating environment.
There's plenty of tech in the five-seater, too. There's an optional 7-inch configurable display that sits between the gauges and an available 8.4-inch touch-screen with Dodge's Uconnect multimedia system. The Uconnect system is straightforward and easy to use, but I really appreciated that I could control the Dart's climate with actual knobs and buttons.
Other features that made me happy were the available heated seats and my new favorite, an available heated steering wheel. This is one of those features that once experienced, it's hard to live without, especially in cold Colorado. In addition to the steering wheel being heated, it just felt good in my hands. It echoed the rest of the Dart's high-quality interior.
I also was surprised by the Dart's comfortable seats. They were bolstered and held me snugly when I zipped through curves and around corners. The front passenger seat has a secret storage compartment that's accessed by flipping the bottom cushion forward. The compartment can hold a gadget, tablet or wallet. It was cool to stash stuff in an unconventional location when I'd park the car to go for a hike.
My school-aged kids liked the backseat and were surprised by the ample legroom. They made good use of the fold-down armrest with two cupholders. There's also a pass-through to the trunk. There are two seatback pockets, but other than that, second-row storage is lean.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2013 Dart Limited has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control and anti-roll control, active front head restraints and 10 airbags, including side-impacts airbags for the second row's outboard seats and a driver's knee airbag.
Guess what else came standard? A backup camera. Hooray! The optional Technology Package ($995) adds rear parking sensors, rear cross-path alert and a blind spot warning system.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named the 2013 Dart a Top Safety Pick, its second-highest award. To earn this safety nod, a car must receive the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It hasn't undergone the small overlap front crash test. It also received an overall safety score of five stars of five from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It earned five stars in both front and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover crash test.
The Dart has two sets of lower Latch anchors and three top tether anchors. The bolstered seats made it necessary to manhandle some child-safety seats to get a good fit. A rear-facing infant seat was a tight fit but doable as long as I didn't recline the driver's seat too much. The seat belt buckles were recessed into pockets in the bench, which could be difficult for younger kids to use. Find out how the 2013 Dart performed in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.
Get more safety information about the 2013 Dodge Dart Limited.
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