Sporty, high-value Dart GT has power, but ride is too sporty
My previous test of the compact Dodge Dart was near perfect. That was the Limited model, this metallic red beauty was the sportier GT.
Blame it on age or our increasingly decrepit roads, but this one was harder on the derriere.
Oh, I still like the Dart and would recommend the Limited or any model without the sport suspension that the GT features. This one is just too stiff with the ride bordering on harsh. Racy R18-rated tires didn’t help either. The GT intends to be a boy-racer toy at a modest price and it comes close to that goal.
There’s strong power here with a 2.4-liter I4 Tigershark engine with MultiAir to increase fuel efficiency. It generates 184 horses and a torque rating of 171. So pound the gas pedal and the Dart GT responds.
In normal city driving there’s good power too, although some hesitation as you accelerate. Linked to a 6-speed manual, which is standard, you could likely have some fun with the GT. But the test car added an optional $1,250 6-speed Powertech automatic that tames the oomph factor, mostly. You’ll still hit highway speeds easily, but the car feels a bit heavy and the shifts are not as crisp or timely as they would be if the driver was handling those duties.
Still, the car looks sporty with trim lines and an attractive profile. I like the car’s nose and the full body-width LED taillight that reflects other Dodge model styling. Dart looks sharp.
Handling is as sharp as the looks too, with responsive steering that makes the car fun to navigate in tight traffic or on a winding country road.
Braking is fine from 4-wheel discs, plus traction and stability control. The Dart has a sporty feel.
Fuel economy is a major plus too. I got about 28 mpg the last time I drove a Dart, albeit with a different engine. (Dodge offers three engine choices in Dart.) This time I hit 29 mpg in about 60% highway driving, but that’s near its top EPA rating of 31 mpg highway and 22 mpg city.
Inside, Dodge’s Dart is a winner from end to end. Styling is youthful and useful.
The test car featured a black textured interior with Nappa leather seats and red stitching to match the car’s exterior. Likewise there’s red leather on the door pulls and padding on the doors, which may help keep the interior relatively quiet too. The power seats are well contoured to provide good hip and lower back support and in the GT the seats feature two-level heat and the steering wheel is heated.
That wheel is a thick one though, wrapped in leather. I felt it too thick for my hands, so smaller drivers may want to check that out during a test drive. This is a manual tilt/telescope model, so easy to adjust though.
But everything looks great with a well laid out dash and controls, including a monster 8.4-inch touchscreen for the radio and navigation. It’s easy to see and use with big radio volume and tuning knobs below the screen. Dual climate controls are standard, with a large fan knob and push buttons to adjust the temperature.
The center stack doesn’t extend all the way to the console either, so there’s a storage bin just behind the gear-shift knob. By the way, you can manually shift the tranny here if you’d like.
Most folks will enjoy the thin film transmitter instrument panel, an electronically projected screen that gives the dash a sharp high-tech look. Dodge calls the gauge cluster a floating island dash bezel and there’s a thin red LED trim and plastic dash trim around it, again giving this a snazzy look.
This model also added a tech group, $995 option, that includes a car alarm rear park assist and back-up camera along with a blind-spot warning system.
On the practical side, four adults will fit in this compact sedan and the trunk is a generous 13.1 cubic feet, large enough to carry a good bit of luggage. Rear seats split and fold down too, although in the base SE model that’s not a feature.
Pricing also is in the Dart’s favor.
The car, based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform, starts at just $16,990 for the base SE with its 2.0-liter 160-horse 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission. But there are four other trim levels, the SXT, which is the most popular, and Aero, which features a more fuel efficient 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo engine with 160 horses and a torque rating to match. The sporty GT I tested lists for $20,995 and with a $995 delivery charge and its options hit $25,125. Going with the smoother riding Limited you’re looking at a $23,990 base price.
So any way you go here you’ll get a lot of car for the money, and one that looks youthful and sporty. There are a lot of colors to choose from too, so you can get something that reflects your vision of style.
But be aware there are a lot of compacts out there from the segment leading Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic to the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and more. Drive them all and then decide, but the Dart is one of the newest and best equipped for the price, so a bit of a bargain in the segment.
FAST Stats: 2014 Dodge Dart GT
Hits: Sporty looks, stylish and well laid out interior with comfortable, supportive seats. Room enough for four adults, big trunk and good gas mileage. Responsive handling and strong engine, plus primo tech features, big touchscreen and blind-spot warning system, and heated seats and steering wheel.
Misses: Feels a bit heavy, ride is too stiff for crummy city streets and steering wheel is thick.
Made in: Belvidere, Ill.
Engine: 2.4-liter I4 Tigershark w/MultiAir, 184 hp
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 3,297 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.4 in.
Length: 183.9 in.
Cargo: 13.1 cu.ft.
MPG: 22/31 (EPA)
MPG: 29.0 (tested)
Base Price: $20,995
Dealer’s Price: $21,483 (includes delivery)
Technology group (intrusion alarm, ParkSense rear park assist, blind spot and rear cross path detection, auto. high-beam control, rain-sensing wipers, high-intensity discharge headlamps), $995
6-speed Powertech automatic transmission group (leather-wrapped shift knob, remote start, 6-speed Powertech automatic w AutoStick), $1,250
Uconnect radio/nav group (Garmin GPS, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link), $495
18-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels), $395
Test vehicle: $25,125
Sources: Dodge, http://www.kbb.com