2013 Dodge Dart Review and Prices
The 2013 Dodge Dart is the best car for you if you fancy a new America compact with Italian ancestry.
The 2013 Dodge Dart resurrects a nameplate from the 1960s and ‘70s for an Americanized version of a critically acclaimed car sold in Europe. The common element is Italy’s Fiat, which owns the Alfa Romeo brand and has corporate control of Chrysler Group and its Dodge, Jeep, and Ram truck divisions. The 2013 Dart is a compact four-door sedan based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which is not sold in the U.S. The Dart is built in Dodge’s Belvidere, Ill, assembly plant and replaces the Dodge Caliber compact hatchback. Like the Alfa, the 2013 Dart has front-wheel drive, an all-independent suspension, and four-cylinder engines. But the Dodge’s chassis is lengthened and widened to create one of the largest cabins in the compact class. And while the body shape echoes the Giulietta’s sexy curves, the nose and tail mimic the bolder flavor of the Dodge Charger.
Should you wait for the 2013 Dodge Dart? Yes. With starting prices of $16,790 for the base model and $23,290 for the top-line R/T, Dart blends surefooted Euro driving manners with good-old American room and value. It’s a welcome addition to America’s growing pack of “global” compacts, including the impressive Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus. However, while the Giulietta is known for spirited performance, Dodge must prove that the Dart doesn’t also inherit the poor reputation for quality and reliability that’s plagued Italian automotive design.
2013 Dodge Dart Changes back to top
Styling: The 2013 Dodge Dart’s styling seeks to stand out in America’s compact-car segment with visual cues drawn from Dodge’s aggressive-looking Charger full-size sedan. This strategy is most evident in Dart’s nose and tail. The front uses Dodge’s split-crosshair grille, drawn-back projector headlamps, and accentuated fenders. The rump adopts full-width, light-emitting-diode “racetrack” taillamps inspired by the Charger’s.
Dodge wisely enlarges the Giulietta’s basic structure to give the 2013 Dart interior dimensions that exceed those of such compact-class leaders as the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Jetta, and Ford Focus sedan.
Most significant, the 2013 Dart’s wheelbase is the longest in the compact class. The distance between the front and rear axles, wheelbase is the key determinate of a vehicle’s interior volume, particularly passenger legroom. For the 2013 Dart, engineers stretch the Giulietta’s wheelbase by some 3 inches to create a 106.4-inch span; the abovementioned compacts have wheelbases that range from 104.4-106.3 inches.
Dodge also broadens the Alfa structure by about 2 inches to create a U.S. compact that’s 72 inches wide overall. That’s wider than the typical compact car and supports Dodge’s promise of best-in-class hip and shoulder room for the Dart.
The 2013 Dart lineup consists of five trim levels: base SE, midline SXT, sportier Rallye, upscale Limited, and performance-oriented R/T. Dodge also plans a special “Aero” model for late 2012 designed to maximize fuel economy.
Among styling distinctions, the SXT, Rallye, and Limited come with 17-inch alloy wheels while the SE is relegated to 16-inch steel wheels with plastic wheel covers. The Rallye model has its own aggressively shaped front and rear fascias with black accents, plus fog lamps and integrated dual exhaust outlets. The Limited gets bright grille work and door handles. And the R/T has 18-inch alloys, its own front fascia with a blacked-out grille, black headlamp bezels, and the polished integrated dual exhaust outlets.
Mechanical: The 2013 Dodge Dart offers three four-cylinder engines and three transmissions. That’s a fairly generous selection for an American-market compact. And although two of the three engines employ some advanced technology, none is an alternative-fuel design. The 2013 Dart, for example, offers no counterpart to the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, the Jetta TDI diesel, or the Focus Electric pure-electric model.
The 2013 Dart engine roster is comprised of naturally aspirated 2.0- and 2.4-liter engines and a turbocharged 1.4-liter. The 2.0- and 2.4-liter fours belong to Chrysler’s global engine family and are newly dubbed “Tigershark” engines. The 1.4-liter is an adaptation of the turbocharged engine in the Fiat Abarth 500, the performance version of the Fiat 500 subcompact.
All three 2013 Dart engines have slightly more power than class competitors of similar displacement or design. The 2.0-liter has160 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This is the standard engine on all 2013 Darts except the R/T and it’s available with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic.
The 2013 Dart’s 1.4-liter has 160 horsepower but with 184 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the true muscle behind acceleration). It’s optional on all Darts except for the R/T and is offered with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. While this engine costs $1,300 more than the base 2.0-liter, it delivers better fuel economy along with its additional power. And the dual-clutch automatic provides crisper shifting and encourages sporty manual-type operation.
The 2.4-liter is exclusive to the 2013 Dodge Dart R/T and has184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. Like its “Tigershark” 2.0-liter cousin, it’s available with the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
The 1.4- and 2.4-liter engines employ “Multiair” technology, a Fiat-engineered air-intake and combustion-control design that Dodge says improves fuel efficiency by 7.5 percent, reduces exhaust emissions by 10 percent, and increases low-rpm torque by 15 percent. The 1.4-liter turbo will power the Dart "Aero" model that Dodge says will achieve “at least 41 mpg on the highway.”
The 2013 Dart’s suspension design is relatively sophisticated for an American-market compact car. Its Alfa-type independent rear suspension is especially noteworthy. The majority of U.S.-market compacts, including the Elantra and most versions of the Jetta, use a cheaper and less advanced torsion-beam rear axle, a fact evident in their less-than-stellar handling and ride control. The Focus, derived from Ford-of-Europe engineering, is an example of a U.S.-market compact with an independent rear suspension and it delivers above-average road manners. The Civic also has an independent rear suspension.
The 2013 Dart Limited is the first Dodge to employ grille shutters to help improve fuel economy. The system employs small baffles behind the front fascia that open or close automatically based on engine-coolant temperature and vehicle speed. Closed shutters reduce wind resistance at highway speeds, when less engine cooling is required and aerodynamic drag is highest. The shutters are standard on the Limited and R/T models and part of the Popular Equipment Group option package for SXT and Rallye models.
Features: Dodge says the 2013 Dodge Dart offers owners “thousands of ways” to customize their car the bills the quality of the new compact’s interior materials and assembly as worthy of vehicles in higher price classes. Fourteen interior color and trim combinations, six available wheel designs, and hundreds of factory-approved Mopar appearance packages are examples of Dodge’s emphasis on customization opportunities open to 2013 Dart buyers.
Safety-oriented features on various versions of the 2013 Dart that are seldom found in this segment include blind-spot monitoring to alert the driver of vehicles in over-the-shoulder hidden zones, and rear cross-path detection to warn of cars approaching from the sides when backing from a parking-lot space. Similarly, the 2013 Dart has 10 airbags, including standard rear-torso-protecting side airbags and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger. All three rear seating positions are fitted with latch attachments for child safety seats.
Besides extensive application of soft-touch surfaces, Dodge says the cabin’s theme includes a “driver-centric” layout and innovative use of ambient lighting. The high-tech centerpiece of the 2013 Dart’s interior is a main instrument cluster design Dodge calls the “floating island bezel.” It uses a 7-inch Thin Film Transistor customizable gauge display with light-pipe surround and includes the ability to display turn-by-turn directions on Darts equipped with the available navigation system.
The 2013 Dart also will be available with what Dodge says is the largest central dashboard touchscreen in any compact car, an 8.4-inch portal to the navigation and multimedia systems, the latter of which incorporates Chrysler’s Uconnect Touch hands-free USB iPod and Bluetooth interfaces.
Additional available features include a heated steering wheel, rearview camera, keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 506-watt audio system. There’s ambient lighting for the door handles, map pockets, footwells, and cupholders. And Dodge says the glovebox is configured to conceal a stowed iPad.
2013 Dodge Dart Prices back to top
Base-price range for the 2013 Dodge Dart is $16,790-$23,290, a span that prices it above the Hyundai Elantra but beneath the Cruze and Focus and about even with Civic. And by comparison, base-price range for the 2012 Dodge Caliber four-door hatchback was $18,130-$22,030. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Dodge’s fee for the 2013 Dart is $795.)
The 2013 Dart SE starts at $16,790. Like the SXT, Rallye, and Limited models, the SE comes with the 2.0-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission; the six-speed automatic is a $1,100 option with the 2.0-liter on any model. Standard features on the Dart SE include a driver’s seat manual height adjuster, “Denim” cloth seats, power windows, and AM/FM CD audio. Such features as air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and power mirrors are optional.
Base price for the 2013 Dart SXT is $18,790. It adds to the SE such standard features as 17-inch alloy wheels; power body-color mirrors and door locks; remote keyless entry; air conditioning; six-speaker audio; security alarm, 60/40 split folding rear seat, and a sliding front armrest. Options available on the SXT include the 8.4-inch touchscreen, a Garmin-brand navigation system, a storage bin beneath the front passenger seat, a rear backup camera, power sunroof, and a 506-watt sound system.
The 2013 Dart Rallye is priced from $19,790. In addition to the aforementioned styling details, it comes with all the SXT equipment, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, a trip computer, and more. Rallye options include those available on the SXT, plus dark-tinted “Hyper Black” 17-inch alloy wheels.
Dodge starts the 2013 Dart Limited at $20,790. It has the active grille shutters and bright exterior trim and builds on the SXT model with such standard features as the 8.4-inch touchscreen with rear backup camera, the 7-inch TFT (Thin Film Transistor) reconfigurable instrument cluster display, fog lamps, a power driver’s seat, automatic headlamps, and premium accent stitching on the instrument panel. Among Dart Limited options are premium Nappa leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, the Garmin navigation system, rear cross-path detection, and polished aluminum wheels.
Dodge says the 1.4-liter “MultiAir” turbocharged engine is a $1,300 option on the SE, SXT, Rallye, and Limited models. It comes with the six-speed manual transmission; Dodge had not released a price for the engine’s dual-clutch transmission in time for this review.
Base price for the 2013 Dart R/T is $23,290. It comes with the 2.4-liter engine and six-speed manual; Dodge had not released pricing for the R/T’s six-speed automatic transmission in time for this review. In addition to the 18-inch wheels and styling distinctions noted earlier, the R/T includes as standard a sport-tuned suspension, unique Nappa perforated leather upholstery, dual- zone automatic climate, and a heated steering wheel and front seats. The darkened alloy wheels, keyless entry with pushbutton start, xenon headlamps, and the 506-watt sound system are among R/T options.
2013 Dodge Dart Fuel Economy back to top
Fuel-economy ratings for the 2013 Dodge Dart that had been released in time for this review included only those for the 2.0- and 1.4-liter engines with the six-speed manual transmission.
The 2.0-liter rated 25/36/29 mpg city/highway/combined and the 1.4-liter turbo four rated 27/39/32 mpg. Those ratings mean the 2013 Dart is competitive with main rivals though not a stand-out. Still, fuel economy will be a selling point, given the Dodge’s relatively generous size and horsepower ratings.
Dodge had released few details on the Dart Aero model other than to project highway ratings of 41 mpg or more. That would make it a standout among gas-powered compact cars, only a few of which rate 40 mpg or more in highway driving. Note, however, that the Dart Aero presumably will fall into the category of special high-mileage compact models priced above other models in their lineups. Other examples include the Chevy Cruze Eco and Ford Focus SFE models. By contrast, every version of the Hyundai Elantra rates 40 mpg in highway driving.
2013 Dodge Dart Release Date back to top
The 2013 Dodge Dart SE, SXT, Rallye, and Limited models go on sale in June 2012. The 2013 Dart R/T and Aero models will be in showrooms starting in the third-quarter of 2012.
In recognition of its evolution from the Italian-based platform architecture, Chrysler Group says the Illinois-built 2013 Dart is based on the “Fiat Group-based Compact U.S. Wide” (CUS-wide) platform. It’s the first model to use this basic structural engineering, but resized and modified, the Fiat/Alfa Romeo-based platform will eventually underpin coming replacements for the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan and the Jeep Liberty compact SUV.
What's next for the 2013 Dodge Dart back to top
Expect Dart’s transmission choices to eventually include the nine-speed automatic that Chrysler is readying for use in front-wheel drive cars. And a hatchback body style could be added to the sedan at some point.
As for future Dart engines, Dodge will undoubtedly notice the attention Ford will grab with the pure-electric Focus Electric, said to be capable of 80-100 miles on a single charge. And rivals such as the Civic and Volkswagen Jetta are available as hybrids, with the Jetta also offering a diesel option rated at 30/42/34 mpg.
Fiat, however, is calling the shots in terms of Chrysler Group powertrain development and in the near-term, the Italian automaker seems to be concentrating on maximizing the efficiency of conventional internal combustion engines, not on pure electrics or gas-electric hybrids. Fiat has a rich history of diesels, though, so fans of that power source can hope it finds a way to offer one in the Dart.
Even if Dart maintains a purely conventional powertrain lineup for the foreseeable future, it’s possible one or more versions might get the corporation’s new nine-speed automatic transmission. And enthusiasts can hope for a higher-performance Dart iteration with more power and beefed-up handling to fight the 247-horsepower Focus ST. Dodge might look to its recent compact-car tradition and call such a variant the SRT4. Or it may reach back even further for the Dart GT moniker.
The Dart name in fact has a rich history, appearing initially on a version of Dodge’s full-size car back in 1960 and eventually gracing a long-lived family of compacts through the mid-1970s. All were rear-wheel drive and some were junior muscle cars with tire-smoking 340- and 383-cubic-inch V-8s. But most Darts were six-cylinder economy sedans aimed at budget buyers who could shop the same basic car under the Plymouth Valiant badge.
As an aside, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta name – a play on Romeo and Juliet -- goes back to the 1950s and a series of sensuously classic Italian sports coupes and convertibles.
2013 Dodge Dart Competition back to top
Ford Focus: These assertively styled four-door sedans and four-door hatchbacks came to the U.S. for model-year 2012 on Ford’s global small-car platform. They boast genuine German driving character, fine interior materials, and lots of high-tech gizmos but suffer a shortage of rear-seat room. Expect the 2013 Focus’s base engine to remain a sophisticated 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. It should again rate 30 mpg combined city/highway with manual transmission and 31 combined with Ford’s six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The SFE version should return at 33 mpg combined. The 2013 Focus lineup expands to include the sporty ST model with a 247-horse turbo four and the pure-electric Focus that Ford says can travel 100 miles on a single plug-in charge. Catering to compact buyers who don’t want to compromise, Focus is available with such upscale features as a two-tone leather-trimmed cabin, advanced infotainment connectivity, even a system that parallel parks the car with minimal input from the driver. Estimated 2013 Focus starting prices are $17,400 for sedans and $19,300 for hatchbacks, though you can easily create a $30,000 Focus if you indulge in every option.
Honda Civic: Critics who don’t believe it’s as advanced as it should be or as plush inside as it ought to be call the latest Civic a Honda miscue. Value-conscious compact-car shoppers, however, should recognize its inspiring roominess, refined ride quality, and strong reputation for reliability and resale value. The all-new ninth-generation Civic arrived for model-year 2012 looking much like its 2006-2011 predecessor. It indeed runs in place for powertrain specification and perhaps takes a step back for interior-materials quality. But there’s plenty to recommend, including aggressive pricing and good fuel economy. The 2013 Civic will return four-door sedan and two-door coupe body styles, both with four-cylinder engines ranging from 140-201 horsepower. Mainstream versions will continue to lag most rivals by offering an automatic transmission with only five speeds. Expect fuel-economy ratings to remain around 32 mpg combined city/highway for most models. Also returning will be the surprisingly enjoyable gas-electric Civic Hybrid sedan rated a notable 44 mpg combined. Estimated 2013 Honda Civic base-price range is $16,900-$25,000 for gas models, $25,200-$28,000 for hybrids.
Chevrolet Cruze: This is the most conservatively styled car in this grouping, but the solidly built sedan has become Chevy’s top-selling car since its model-year 2011 introduction. The 2013 Cruise will remain available only as a four-door sedan that, like the Focus, feels more confining inside than the Dart or, say, the Civic sedan. The Chevy doesn’t handle with the same aggressive edge as its Euro-flavored rivals, either. The 2013 Cruise will likely reprise base and turbocharged four-cylinder engines, both with 138 horsepower but with the turbo again having more torque, 148 pound-feet to 125. Transmission choices will remain a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, though no combination feels notably lively. Expect fuel-economy ratings with the more popular automatic transmission to remain 27 mpg combined city/highway for the base engine and 28 for the turbo. The Cruze Eco model should return at 33 mpg combined with manual, 31 with automatic. Expect the 2013 Cruze to start around $17,800 for the entry-level model and feature a base-price range of around $19,600-$24,500 for better-equipped turbo versions; add around $1,000 for automatic transmission.