To find inspiration for their newest compact car, Dodge decided to go to Europe. They borrowed the basic platform and architecture for the new Dodge Dart from Alfa Romeo. The platform has been stretched for a little bit more room and given an American assortment of engines and transmissions, yet provides more sophisticated driving dynamics than Americans may be used to in the compact car segment.
The Dodge Dart is available in five different models. Three engines and three transmissions are available and six different rim styles are sold on the car. Dodge is clearly looking to give customers a wide range of choices. The five basic models are SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T.
The Dart SE is the most basic Dart model and also the cheapest. It features a 2.0L 160-horsepower engine and a 6-speed manual transmission, though a 6-speed automatic is an option. Projector headlamps and LED tail lamps are standard as is an AM/FM/CDMP3 player.
The SXT adds amenities such as power door locks and mirrors, keyless entry, a 6-speaker stereo, 17-inch wheels and air conditioning.
The Rallye comes similarly equipped to the SXT, but adds a much more aggressive looking front end, with a blacked out grill and fog lamps. In back a dual exhaust system protrudes from a more aggressive rear bumper. Inside, the Rallye gets a leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and a trip computer. Optional black wheels are available to further enhance the car's 'bad-boy' look.
The Limited builds on the SXT by adding an 8.4-inch touchscreen in the center console, a 7-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster, automatic headlamps, a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, a rear back up camera and fog lamps. Options on the Limited include leather seating surfaces, a navigation system, a heated steering wheel and polished aluminum wheels.
A pair of FIAT-sourced engines power the Dart--a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine makes 160 horsepower and 148 lb-feet of torque. An optional turbocharged 1.4L engine is available on SXT, Rallye and Limited Darts. Though the 1.4L engine makes the same horsepower as the standard 2.0L, it manages better fuel economy and 184 lb-feet of torque. Highway mileage is improved by 3 mpg while city driving is improved by 2 mpg.
Safety features on the Dart are numerous. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control are aided by more interesting features like Electronic Roll Mitigation and Hill-start Assist. A rear back up camera and parking assist are also standard across the Dart range. 10 airbags are standard, more than any other car in its class. Optional safety features include blind-spot monitoring and Rear Cross-Path Detection.