Not the beige one

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Review

By Justin Pritchard
2014 Dodge Dart SXT Review

Summary Rating: 79%


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Space and Access

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Driving Dynamics

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General Appreciation

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Capitalizing on their association with Fiat, Dodge has released a compact car that targets a shopper unlikely to buy the “beige one” and drive 15 under the speed limit in the fast lane. If you’re a bit young, sporty, and after something with a touch of attitude, the folks at Dodge (and Fiat) are hoping you’ll go for a Dart.

What is a 2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye
Under the sheet metal and plastic skin, and between its signature “racetrack” LED taillamp and distinctive front fascia, the Dart is actually an Alfa Romeo Guilietta -- a good thing when it comes to ride comfort, chassis refinement, and the like. Plus, since the Dart is actually part Italian, you can tell your buddies it’s pretty much a Maserati.
The Rallye package added some unique wheels, fog lamps, a touring-grade suspension, special badging, and the big dual-exhausts that tell your buddies you’re rocking some serious ponies.

2014 Dodge Dart Price and Specs
The Dart SE opens the model range from just under $16,000, with the high-value, midline SXT tester starting at $18,995. The Rallye package, automatic gearbox, navigation, honkin’ stereo system, and a few other goodies make it $24,700. If you’re all fancy, GT and Limited trim grades are available on the 2014 Dodge Dart, too.

Driving the 2014 Dodge Dart
The Dart’s European-trained suspension showed minimal sign of being overwhelmed by the frost-heaved crater fields that pass for roadways in your writer’s locale. The springy bits feel solid and tough, not rattle-y and flimsy. When smooth roads pass beneath, a largely comfortable ride with a touch of sporty tautness is apparent. That’s backed by below-average levels of wind and road noise on board at speed, and a pleasingly progressive and clamped-on feel to the steering in the 2014 Dodge Dart.

Power came from the Multiair Tigershark: Dart’s awesomely named big-dog four-banger that’s now available in the SXT trim grade. This big four makes 184 horsepower from 2.4L -- far from mind-blowing specific output -- but with Fiat’s MultiAir technology, it’s all about how that power is delivered.

Multiair transmits the action of the camshaft to the valves via oil pressure, rather than a mechanism. The pressurized oil that drives each valve is channeled through a solenoid which controls when and how much of that oil pressure is applied. Translation? Engineers get unparalleled control over valve timing and lift, and the ability to control engine breathing on a valve-by-valve, stroke-by-stroke basis. And drivers get instant, on-demand torque when called upon, and the promise of more efficient cruising otherwise.

Even at low revs without a downshift, the Multiair system alters breathing to create a quiet and refined slab of torque. Hammer down, and the system turns in even and linear pull to the 6,500 rpm redline. It’s smooth and virtually vibration-free from idle to redline, even if the sound effects can be a little gruff.

Add in the smooth-as-silk 6-speed automatic, and the brief throttle-cuts it summons between full-throttle upshifts for proper rev-matching, and you’ve got a pleasing, slick and nicely behaved powertrain in the 2014 Dodge Dart. Or, save yourself $1,400 by shifting yourself with the 6-speed manual.

Inside and Out of the 2014 Dodge Dart
The tester used sculpting, depth, contrast stitching, and some striped seats towards a refreshingly upscale atmosphere backed up by decent material selection, with soft, quality-feeling plastics dispatched to cover much of the cabin. The instruments are gorgeous, and there’s plenty of storage at hand to keep smaller items organized and out of the way. The Dart’s cabin pulls its weight strongly towards its appeal as an overall package.

Feature content helps, too. My tester got a potent 500-watt Alpine stereo for blasting tunes out of its sunroof, and the best navigation and infotainment system in the segment was bolted to the centre of the dashboard. Notably, this central interface is vivid, modern, and bright. More importantly, it reacts instantly to driver inputs -- flicking through screens and controls and functions as fast as fingertips can dance around the screen.

In all, the 2014 Dodge Dart’s cabin represents a refreshing departure from the crispy grey interiors of numerous competitors that feel like they’re made of melted down Yoplait containers. The Dart is on the big side for a compact car, too – so, even individuals of generous height and girth who generally avoid salads should find it adequately spacious.

Comparing the 2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye
Shoppers in this market segment have heaps of choice. Though the Civic and Corolla may sell more units on account of their established names and reputation, the Dart should appeal well to a shopper with a heavier focus on feature content, styling, ride manners, and overall sporty bang-for-the-buck. It amounts to a good value on a car with few weaknesses and many strengths. Key competitors to test drive alongside the Dart should include the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and Mazda3.

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