Compact Contest: How Will The 2013 Dodge Dart Compare to its Rivals?

Dodge is making a strong effort to grab a portion of the sales pie that is the compact-car segment with the 2013 Dart. The new sedan will replace the aging and unloved Dodge Caliber as the brand’s smallest vehicle. Although official information on the car will likely remain sparse until the Detroit auto show in January, we decided to take a look at how the new Dodge sedan might stack up against other compact cars.

The 2013 Dart will be built on a chassis called Compact U.S. Wide (CUSW), which is a slightly longer and wider version of the platform used by Europe’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Based on the specifications of the Giulietta hatchback, it seems that the Dart sedan will be sized to compete head-on with the top-selling compact cars in the U.S.

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta measures 171.3 inches long, 70.8 inches wide, and 57.7 inches tall. If the CUSW platform is, say, eight inches longer than the Alfa chassis, that gives the Dart a similar footprint to its key rivals. The Ford Focus sedan measures 178.5 inches long and 71.8 wide, the Hyundai Elantra is 178.3 inches in length and 69.9 inches wide, the Chevrolet Cruze spans 181.0 inches in length and 70.7 inches in width, and the Volkswagen Jetta sedan is 182.2 inches long and 70.0 inches wide. The Dodge Dart, then, would be almost exactly the same size as those compact cars.

As to weight, the Giulietta weighs between 2816 and 2904 pounds depending on trim and engine choice. We can expect the Dart to pack on a few more pounds, because it will be larger than the Alfa and also will probably have more safety gear to meet American regulations. Still, the Dart likely won’t be considerably heavier than its extant competition. The Ford Focus sedan weighs 2907 to 2935 pounds, the Chevrolet Cruze scales at between 3082 and 3143 pounds, and the Volkswagen Jetta weighs 2804 to 3210 pounds, depending on specification. The Hyundai Elantra is a comparatively featherweight 2661 to 2877 pounds.

The big deciding factors will likely be power and fuel economy. Dodge has announced two new inline-four engines called “Tigershark” for the Dart, displacing 2.0 and 2.4 liters respectively. The Dart also will feature a Fiat-sourced turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four; in the Giulietta, that engine is rated for 170 hp at 5500 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm. Alfa says a Giulietta so equipped sprints to 62 mph in just 7.8 seconds and returns the equivalent of 41 mpg in combined driving.

The key metric there is the 41-mpg claim. It’s now becoming almost a requirement for compact sedans to achieve that magical number in EPA highway testing. Compact sedans that currently hit that mark include the Mazda 3 SkyActiv, Chevrolet Cruze Eco, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford Focus SFE. One other important note: Dodge’s new parent compact, Fiat, has long promised to launch a small, Fiat- or Alfa-based car in the U.S. that returns at least 40 mpg on the highway.

We’re also excited to get behind the wheel of the Dodge Dart because it is supposed to retain much of the fun, engaging driving experience we loved in the Euro-market Giulietta. Can Dodge’s new small sedan really inject a blend of power, fun, economy, and style into the compact sedan class? We’ll find out when we get a chance to drive the 2013 Dart sometime next year.

Sources: Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Hyundai, Volkswagen

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