Jan 082015
 

2014-09-23 18.Dart

Some vehicles make a good first impression, others may need to grow on you.

I first met the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart at the launch in 2012. It immediately impressed me with its technology, design, and fuel economy. After spending three months with the 2014 Dodge Dart Limited, I’m happy to say my first impressions have held true—it’s a game changer for the brand offering good fuel economy and value.

When it was first introduced, the Dart was configurable in 100,000 possible ways. Not surprisingly, the features have since been bundled among five models, SE, SXT, Aero, Limited and GT for 2014. I’m driving the Limited.

The first Chrysler vehicle to share a platform with its European siblings, the Dart also grows the manufacturer’s fuel-efficient lineup. All Limited models are powered by a peppy 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 184 horsepower. The test model comes equipped with the six-speed automatic but a six-speed manual is the standard transmission on every trim level but the Limited, which is rare—most standard transmissions are relegated to base models only.

2014-09-24 09dart.dashThe EPA estimated fuel economy is 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway for the 2.4-liter. I’m averaging 26 mpg in the city and the best mileage so far on the highway has been 33 mpg.

I spent $395 in gasoline during the loan and traveled 4186 miles. While I like the fuel economy, it was a challenge to stretch $20 of gas beyond four days before heading back to the pump.

The best fuel economy on any Dart comes from the Aero model, powered by 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo—it should get 41 mpg on the highway. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder powers the base model.

The Dart is styled with the unmistakable Dodge split crosshair grille and racetrack taillamps with 152 indirect glow LEDs. I was approached more than once in grocery store parking lots with questions and compliments about it.

2014-09-24 09.Dart.seatsOn the inside, the sculpted instrument cluster grabs immediate attention. The test model included standard leather seating that reflects Dodge’s new attention to fit and finish. The stitching on the dash adds polish, but the choice of white (bone) and black leather seats with black accent stitching takes confidence. Admittedly, the white leather did show some black scuffs after three months, but saddle soap removed them quickly and easily.

The focus on detail is also apparent with soft-touch accents throughout. The available seven-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) customizable gauge cluster display offered easy interactivity and striking graphics. I settled on the eco graphic with a sunflower that added or detracted petals based on fuel-efficient driving. FYI, I completed my flower once I achieved 30 mpg or better, typically on a road trip.2014-09-23 19.Dart.sunflower

The display was also helpful when the tire pressure monitor indicator came on. Most tire pressure monitors just alert you that you need to add air but not to which tire. The Dart TFT also included a tire pressure screen that showed tire pressure levels for each tire.
2014-09-12 20.Dart.tires

For added versatility, the 60/40 split seats are easy to deploy, just pull the loops on either side, adding extra storage to an already roomy trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of cargo room.

Multiple storage options include a roomy glove box that harkens back to the days when a glove box fit more than just an owner’s manual. An excellent package of standard equipment on the Limited included 60 safety and security features, particularly a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, and blind side warning.

2014-08-10 18.04.55Pricing on the base model, or Dart SE, starts at $15,995. With an MSRP of $24,985, the Dart Limited that I drove packed a lot of features into that cost, like a sunroof, leather seats, a heated steering wheel as well as front seats, a digital configurable instrument panel, and an eight-inch touch screen above the center stack with navigation that has been extremely easy and intuitive to use. There were several locations that I don’t think I could have found as easily and quickly without navigation, and the Dart’s system was particularly simple and intuitive. The voice prompt that overrides manual programming if the car is moving was a little less effective. I would also appreciate at least six more presets for the XM stations. But the best news is that you can get a CD player. It’s standard on all trim levels but located in the center storage compartment on the Limited to make room for the eight-inch display screen.

2014-07-02 14.50.23Optional equipment on the test model included the Customer Preferred Package  ($995) with the afore mentioned safety and convenience features, like a blind spot monitor, and rear back-up camera (how did we ever parallel park without them?).

I was impressed with the Dart when we first met and two years later, I like it even more.

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