"Uconnect is one of the best infotainment systems on the market because it's so quick and easy to navigate."
The Dodge Dart didn't venture far from home during its third month in our care, covering just 574 miles since our last update. The few staffers who drove the car were smitten with the optional touchscreen navigation and audio interface.
"Uconnect is one of the best infotainment systems on the market because it's so quick and easy to navigate," announced associate web editor and gadget freak Ben Timmins. Unlike the much-maligned MyFord Touch, Chrysler's touchscreen responds instantly to commands, and its large icons are easy to find at a glance. We were similarly impressed with the same system in our departed Four Seasons Dodge Charger.
"Reversing is totally drama-free because the backup camera is clear and fills up most of the enormous infotainment screen," says managing editor for digital platforms Jennifer Misaros. In other words, there will be no excuses for anyone who crunches the Dart's sheetmetal.
"Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' sounds great at full volume," reports road test editor Chris Nelson, who was the first to use the CD player hidden in the car's center console. (The rest of us use iPhones and satellite radio to rock out.) "The radio controls mounted on the back of the steering wheel are far easier to use than front-mounted ones," adds Misaros. "I love that they toggle through individual radio stations, not just presets like on some cars."
Our only gripe is that climate control functions are split between the Uconnect interface and physical buttons below the display. After adjusting the temperature and fan speed with the chunky knobs, choosing which vents the air emerges from "requires clicking the 'climate' tab on the touchscreen," complains associate web editor Donny Nordlicht. "I wish there were a simple 'mode' button on the center stack."
With three months of driving completed, we have enough logbook data to see whether the Dart matches its lofty fuel-economy promises. The 1.4-liter turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission are supposed to return 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. So why have we averaged just 25.4 mpg thus far?
Much of the blame goes to enthusiastic driving styles -- "I love, love, love the raspy exhaust note," admits Nelson -- and staffers who cruise above the posted speed limit. Still, we expected better results from a small car designed to be a fuel-economy leader. That the turbo engine drinks premium fuel makes each fill-up even more costly.
As is the case with most cars, the Dart's on-board trip computer is somewhat optimistic when it comes to fuel consumption. Nordlicht was overjoyed when the computer reported 28.8 mpg on one journey, but careful scrutiny of the logbook reveals he actually averaged 26.4 mpg. Our mileage may vary indeed.
Next month we'll get a chance to see how the Dodge Dart fares on a long road trip when we take it to New Jersey. Let's hope a long stint on the highway will increase our middling fuel economy numbers.