After one year and 17,392 miles, our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart test car is heading back home to Michigan. Like a loyal hound, the car proved to be a versatile companion for Yahoo's staff, who between us, utilized the four-door compact sedan for road trips, daily commutes and even a bit of spirited canyon drives. For the most part, the Dart performed admirably.
Our tester was the SXT Rallye model, featuring the optional 1.4-liter turbo from the Fiat 500 Abarth. With a 0-60 mph time in the mid 8-seconds, it's not particularly fast, but it doesn't feel slow, either. Turbo lag is less noticeable than in the Abath, although the Fiat's Lamborghini-esque bark is tuned in favor of a more sensible hum. Perhaps our biggest critique with the Dart is its sluggish dual-clutch automatic transmission; it's not so much the speed of the shifts, rather the time it took to find the right gear upon acceleration. The optional manual gearbox is without question the way to go.
While we never quite matched the Dart's highway EPA estimates of 39 mpg, we were routinely in the mid 30s, and never dropped below the car's 29 mpg city estimates. In a world where fuel prices fluctuate more wildly than Tesla's stock, the Dart's solid fuel numbers lived up to expectations.
From behind the wheel, we found the interior to be well equipped and comfortable. One of our taller drivers noted the roominess in the cabin; at 6-feet-2, that remains something he has struggled with in similarly-sized vehicles. Dodge sent us a Dart with the optional 8.4-inch color touchscreen, with the navigation portion powered by Garmin. Chrysler's UConnect is remarkably simple and easy to use; it doesn't offer much by way of special features, but it does provide everything one would need. A feature you could option for if you are willing to pay the price is the ability to turn your Dart into a wireless hotspot. But when practically every cell phone today has 4g, we aren't sure why you'd bother.
Cruising on the highway, we found the Dart to boast cushy suspension, ensuring long journeys don't leave you like Quasimodo. When the roads twist, its Italian DNA doesn't present itself as prominently as we'd like, but it does corner with confidence and plenty of grip. The steering is a little light and emotionless — something that's unanimous throughout the compact sedan segment — however the Dart's brakes work well and boast solid feel.
With our Dart SXT Rallye featuring the upgraded 1.4-liter turbo motor, navigation and other goodies, the sticker price was $24,885. However, the base Dart starts at just under $16,000, so a decently optioned version can be had for less than $20,000. With a year behind the wheel now under our belts, anyone in the market for a slick-looking sedan that won't break the bank should consider taking the Dart for a test drive.