"Check over your shoulder to merge, and the chunky B-pillar blocks most of the view."
Our yearlong loan of a 2013 Dodge Dart got off to a slow start, as the car spent most of its time in southeast Michigan. Last month, however, several staffers put big miles on the car on long road trips.
First, senior editor Joe Lorio returned the Dart from New York State to Michigan. Although he liked the steering feel and punchy engine, Lorio quickly grew tired of the car's fruity exhaust note and the jerky dual-clutch transmission. Plus, he wasn't particularly fond of the Dodge's looks: "With refrigerator-white paint, industrial-grade cloth upholstery, and hard-plastic interior, the Dart seems ready for a life at Enterprise or National."
Soon after, graphic designer John Kalmar headed south for the Kentucky Derby. He liked the Dodge's intuitive touchscreen, and drove efficiently enough to make the five-plus-hour drive to Lexington, Kentucky, on a single tank of gas. "The cabin was very quiet on the highway, and I never once felt like I was getting pushed around by air buffeting from semis," he said.
That's not to say the Dodge Dart is the perfect highway cruiser. Several drivers expressed disappointment with the funky graphics used for the Dart's analog speedometer, opting to rely instead on the digital readout in the trip computer. "The speedometer font looks cool but leaves a lot to be desired in real-world use," explains senior web editor Phil Floraday. A form-over-function approach also hampered drivers' views out of the car: "Rear visibility is actually quite good, but check over your shoulder to merge, and the chunky B-pillar blocks most of the view," says Lorio.
We remain divided on whether or not the Dart's seats hold up to longer journeys. "The seats are firm but comfort suffers because it feels like they're made of too many separate pieces," says Lorio. Not so, counters Kalmar: "I found a comfortable position quite easily and then never had to fidget for the remainder of the trip." Clearly, it's a matter of personal preference.
One thing's certain: every driver appreciates the clear, simple, and responsive 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen interface. Staffers lauded the backup camera and intuitive navigation interface, although continued to criticize the fact that changing some climate control settings requires toggling to a different page on the touchscreen. "The display is easy to use, but it's a little frustrating to be flipping between the radio, map, and temperature controls all the time," says Kalmar.
With the 2013 Dodge Dart back in Michigan, we're looking forward to spending more time on the road through the rest of the summer. Check back next month to find out where it goes next.