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Aiming for the consumer bull’s eye
by Craig Cole

It’s been a looong time since Chrysler’s offered a competitive small car. Early in its lifecycle the bubbly Neon was a pretty compelling choice with some powerful engines and friendly styling, but it quickly fell behind the field in its second generation.

After the company’s experiment with noble gases came the star-crossed Caliber, a product that went nowhere faster than Detroit’s People Mover, a circular monorail of depression.

But now the reinvigorated Pentastar brand is aiming for the consumer bull’s-eye with Dodge’s stylish new Dart. Did they hit the target or is this just another lamentable Chrysler compact (and another bad pun)?

Thanks to the company’s tie-up with Fiat, the engineers in Auburn Hills have access to a wide range of excellent vehicle architectures. Instead of rehashing the Caliber’s underpinnings or reusing the Neon’s outdated bones, product planners did a wise thing. They borrowed from their allies in Italy.

The newly minted Dart shares a foundation with Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta, a compact hatchback. Fortunately the Dodge sedan is wider and longer than its European counterpart; you could say it’s designed for American-sized customers. But no matter how you measure it, the Giulietta’s rigid structure was a fine starting point.

Dart drivers have a choice; three different engines are available under this compact car’s hood, though according to number-crunchers at the EPA it’s technically a midsize model, if only just.

The base engine is a forgettable 2.0-liter four-banger. It cranks out 160 horsepower with 148 lb-ft of torque. It’ll get the job done but it’s no fun. Consider this the car’s least enjoyable powertrain option.

Stepping up from there is a 1.4-liter turbocharged and intercooled unit. Fitted with Fiat’s fancy MultiAir variable valve lift technology it delivers 160 ponies with a substantial 184 units of twist...
To read more of this 2013 Dodge Dart GT Review visit
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