12 MONTH CAR REVIEWS: 2013 Dodge Dart SXT - Welcoming An Alfa-infused Dodge

January 8, 2013
2013 Dodge Dart SXT Front View
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It's been a long time since a Dodge was at the top of the compact-car heap. We named the original Neon our Automobile of the Year back in 1994, but later versions of the Neon and its successor, the Caliber, lagged far behind the competition. The new 2013 Dart, however, appears poised to change Dodge's fortune in the small-car segment.
For one, the Dart uses a stretched version of the chassis from Europe's much-lauded Alfa Romeo Giulietta. In addition, the Dart has fresh, contemporary styling that's among the smartest in its segment. Then a second-place finish in a compact-sedan comparison test cemented our impression that Dodge had finally built a competitive small car. It was time to order a 2013 Dodge Dart for a yearlong Four Seasons test.
"The little turbo four has plenty of energy but is coarse, hoarse, and gravelly."
The story behind the Dodge Dart goes back nearly four years to the period when Chrysler was entering bankruptcy. Italian automaker Fiat stepped in to help rescue the American giant, but the U.S. Treasury set several conditions for the takeover. Among them was a provision that Fiat help Chrysler build a 40-mpg car on American soil. The Dodge Dart was that car, and launching it allowed Fiat to up its stake in Chrysler by five percent to 58.5 percent.
Our 2013 Dodge Dart SXT won't break the 40-mpg barrier -- only the economy-minded Dart Aero does, with a 41-mpg highway rating -- but it is EPA-rated at 37 mpg on the highway. We skipped the standard 2.0-liter Tigershark four, and instead spent $1300 for the optional 160-hp, 1.4-liter turbo-four engine (the same one found in the Fiat 500 Abarth). Another $1100 got us a dual-clutch automatic transmission that is sourced from Fiat, the first-ever dual-clutch unit offered in a Dodge vehicle.
2013 Dodge Dart SXT Front Left View
We chose the Dart SXT because it provides a good balance between equipment and pricing. Our car started at $18,790 after a $795 destination charge, but the upgraded powertrain and several other options bumped the final bill to $23,195. We paid $595 for the Uconnect touchscreen and an illuminated dashboard accent, $495 for navigation and a backup camera, $195 for SiriusXM satellite radio, and $225 for LED taillights that resemble those on the Dodge Charger. Finally, the $495 popular equipment group added cruise control, remote starting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, illuminated cupholders, and an enhanced trip computer.
Because the Dart arrived at our offices in the middle of winter, we immediately called our official tire and wheel sponsor, Tire Rack, to order some cold-weather rubber. The factory Continental tires will wait patiently in our garage while we use Pirelli Sottozero Serie II tires for the rest of the winter. The Pirellis set us back $797.92, plus another $100 for mounting and balancing. Already they have proven their worth by providing plentiful traction in ice, snow, and below-freezing temperatures.
Shortly after arriving, the Dodge Dart took a 480-mile road trip to deputy editor Joe DeMatio's ancestral homeland, rural West Branch, Michigan (where the car posed for a photo-op alongside sheep and a llama at a local farm). DeMatio's first impressions: "The little turbo four has plenty of energy but is coarse, hoarse, and gravelly. The dual-clutch transmission seems to lack the smoothness and refinement of VW's unit, but perhaps it will improve with time."
We're just getting started with our 2013 Dodge Dart SXT, and it's a certainty that it will see lots more road trips -- as well as more mundane driving chores -- in the months ahead.
Body style 4-door sedan
Accommodation 5-passenger
Construction Steel unibody
Base price (with dest.)$18,790
As tested $23,195
Engine 16-valve SOHC turbocharged I-4
Displacement 1.4 liters (83 cu in)
Power 160 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque 184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive Front-wheel
EPA Fuel Economy 27/37/31 (city/hwy/combined)
Steering Electrically assisted
Lock-to-lock 2.7 turns
Turning circle 37.5 ft
Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R Vented discs/discs
Wheels 17-inch aluminum
Tires Continental ContiProContact
Tire size 225/45R-17 94H
Headroom F/R 38.6/37.0 in
Legroom F/R 42.2/35.2 in
Shoulder room F/R 58.2/56.1 in
Wheelbase 106.4 in
Track F/R 61.7/61.6 in
L x W x H 183.9 x 72.0 x 57.7 in
Passenger capacity 97.2 cu ft
Cargo capacity 13.1 cu ft
Weight 3242 lb
Weight dist. F/R xx/xx %
Fuel capacity 15.8 gal
Est. fuel range 490 miles
Fuel grade 93 octane (premium unleaded)
STANDARD EQUIPMENT 2.0-liter DOHC I-4 engine 6-speed manual transmission Stability and traction control Variable intermittent windshield wipers Remote keyless entry 4-wheel disc brakes Roll mitigation Hill-start assist Power windows Manual 6-way driver’s seats 17-inch aluminum wheels Projector fog lights Black chrome headlight bezels Body-color grille crosshairs Dual rear exhaust exits Cruise control Leather-wrapped steering wheel Premium cloth interior Trip computer
1.4-liter SOHC turbocharged I-4 engine $1,300 Underbody aerodynamic treatment Active grille shutters Bright exhaust tips 140-amp alternator
6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission $1,100
Popular Equipment group $495 Vehicle information center and trip computer Cruise control Leather-wrapped steering wheel Tire pressure monitoring system Front seatback pockets 12V power outlet Sun visors w/vanity mirrors Illuminated cup holders
8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen group $595 Illuminated instrument panel surround iPod control Remote USB port and SD card slot Single-disc CD player
Uconnect 8.4 w/navigation $494 Automatic headlights
SiriusXM travel and real-time traffic w/one-year trial subscription $--- Rearview camera
LED “racetrack” taillights $225
SiriusXM satellite radio w/one-year trial subscription $195

Long-Term 2013 Dodge Dart Reviews to Date:

2013 Dodge Dart SXT - Welcoming An Alfa-infused Dodge
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Photo Gallery

  • Our Pirelli Sottozero Serie II winter tires arrived just in time.
  • We had to spring for the $225 LED taillights.
  • Darting through the snow, laughing all the way.
  • Our interior is a bit monochromatic.
  • Navigation and backup camera added $495 to the sticker.
  • The big Uconnect touchscreen handles most of the cabin controls.
  • Dodge even offers storage under the passenger seat.
  • The Dart's 1.4-liter turbocharged heart.
  • The Tire Rack, our official wheel and tire supplier, delivered a set of winter tires just before the season's first snow storm.

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