Reviews

2013 Dodge Dart Walk Around

The Dodge Dart looks athletic, with the skin tightly wrapped around the wheels, and a hint of Coke bottle contours: wider at the front and rear axles, slimmer between. A hint of forward-leaning rake, plus modest front and rear overhangs, suggests sportiness. The styling doesn't provoke many double-takes, however.

The design team took great pains with aerodynamics. The shape evolved through extensive wind tunnel time, and thoughtful details include active grille shutters that close to restrict radiator airflow when cooling air isn't needed, to reduce aerodynamic drag. The underbody is fully enclosed, and a rear diffuser manages underbody airflow to enhance stability.

The net of all the aero attention is a praiseworthy drag coefficient of 0.285, enhancing fuel economy and also helping to minimize wind noise.

Dodge signature elements for its latest offering are a new interpretation of the division's crosshair grille, and a taillamp treatment, adapted from the Dodge Challenger, that spreads across the entire rear end, incorporating 152 LEDs.

One other exterior note, that relates to the interior. At 183.9 inches long, 72.0 inches wide, and 57.7 inches tall the new Dart is one of the biggest of the current compact crop, and the designers have put those dimensions to work inside, creating one of the roomiest interiors (over 97 cubic feet) in this class. The 13.1-cubic foot trunk can be expanded by folding the rear seatbacks forward. In the base model the seatback is one piece. In other trim levels it's a split-folding setup.

Interior

Roominess is always a plus in a family sedan, but it's much more compelling when it's nicely appointed. Here, too, the Dart scores well. Nothing inside these new cars looks cheap, even in the most basic model, and soft-touch surfaces abound, dashboard, door panels, center console and elsewhere.

The basic cloth upholstery is attractive and looks durable, denim inserts are offered in the SXT trim level, and leather is an option in the top-of-the line Limited model. The seats are long-haul comfortable, with enough lateral support to feel sporty. Like all sedans, the cabin is rated for five, and like all of them the center rear position will accommodate an adult occupant about as far as the end of the driveway before complaints begin to fill the air. There's not enough shoulder room for three adults in the back seat, but it's okay for two adults for short distances.

Thoughtful storage touches: a glovebox big enough to swallow a laptop computer, and a bin under the right front passenger seat, accessed by folding the seat cushion forward.

As we expect of new cars today, there are plenty of optional electronic goodies. Foremost on this list is an 8.4-inch touch-screen display, dominating the center dash of the higher trim levels (not available on the base Dart). A nav system is offered for the Limited model, as well as a configurable electronic instrument package and an LED-powered light pipe surround for the entire instrument panel, which some may like, while others may find a bit garish.

Like other carmakers, Chrysler has taken notice of the success of Ford's Sync infotainment system and responded with one of its own, called U-connect. As expected, there's good audio, upgrade audio, satellite radio, and connections for MP3, your iPod, Pandora, or what have you.

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