Dec 052015
 

2015-05-22 DartinLA

Trying to compete in one of the toughest automotive segments, the 2015 Dodge Dart hits the bull’s-eye with features not normally associated with compact cars, as well as neat styling and good fuel economy. I’ve driven it multiple times, including a three-month test drive, and most recently, in Los Angeles. My first impression remains the same—this is a lot of car for the money.

Dart trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of volume.

Dart trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of volume.

When it was 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. On a test drive in California, I drove the SXT.

All Darts include the unmistakable Dodge split crosshair grille and racetrack tail lamps with 152 indirect glow LEDs. I was approached more than once in grocery store parking lots with questions and compliments about it.

On the inside, the dash grabbed my immediate attention, beginning with the seven-inch digital gauge cluster that can be configured in multiple ways to suit the driver’s preference, a capability normally found on luxury models.

2015-05-25 DartNLAThe Dart’s 8.4-inch touchscreen above the center stack is easy to program, from radio station presets to Bluetooth. For 2015, it’s updated to be compatible with an Android smartphone for Bluetooth, voice command and streaming music, and USB connectivity.

The Dart was also one of the first in its segment to offer advanced safety features like a rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines, a blind-spot monitor, and rear cross path detection. I put these features to use navigating through shopping destinations and parking in Beverly Hills.

2015-05-25 11.DartLAseatsAs a compact, the Dart must offer competitive fuel economy. It achieves this via three four-cylinder engines, a 2.0-liter, 2.4-liter, and 1.4-liter turbo. Happily, all three can be matched to three available six-speed transmissions, starting with a six-speed manual. I drove one of two available six-speed automatics. The best fuel economy should come from the 1.4-liter-six-speed-manual combination that has an EPA estimated 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

Competing in the value driven compact car segment, the Dodge Dart certainly holds its own.

Pricing for the 2015 Dart starts at $17,490. For 2015, air conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control and power equipment can be added to the Dodge Dart SE base model for a reduced price of $775. The test model Dart SXT also included the California Package that added a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual rear exhaust tips, and a touring suspension, among other features. With that and more extras, the as-tested price came to $23,070.2015-05-23 dart.rear

 

Sí: Well-equipped, the Dart offers technology like a configurable gauge cluster, normally reserved for fancier models and a six-speed manual transmission on more than just the base model.

No: Air conditioning should be standard on a base model, not part of a package, even an affordable one.

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