A-List Rides: 2014 Dodge Dart

After a 7-year absence from the compact class market, the Dodge launched its Dart brand in 2013. This vehicle is the first Chrysler Group vehicle based upon a Fiat architecture that was adapted from the award-winning Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

I participated in one of the initial launch events for the Dodge Dart in Maryland, and it’s great to see how the vehicle has evolved over the year since its launch. In a climate where the economy is bad and gas prices are high, it’s no wonder that the U.S. compact car segment comprises 15 percent of the U.S. new car market. It was a smart business move for Dodge to get back in on that business.

The Dart is the first true Chrysler small car since the Neon went away. Some would contest that the Dart leans more towards the mid-size market – I even misrepresent it as mid-size on the video below – as it’s very spacious for a compact car. The Dart has large back seats and more space than many of its competitors.

Like a lot of vehicles with six-speed transmissions, the Dart is tuned to keep the engine running below 2,000 rpm under steady load, for best fuel economy. The 1.4-liter gives you power, but not until it revs past 3,000 rpm, which may mean not one but two downshifts.

It’s a good drive, solid and steady. The vehicle maintains the hum of a sports car, which compliments the sportier design of the Dart.

As far as gas mileage is concerned, the 1.4-liter turbo Dart is rated at 27 mpg city, 39 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 32 mpg. The base 2.0-liter model gets a combined rating of 29 mpg, with both those figures being for the six-speed manual gearbox version.

On the inside, it’s a comfortable vehicle. The design is thoughtful and makes great use of its space. There are compartments to carry various things and enough cup holders for everyone – something often overlooked in smaller vehicles. There are also multiple power adapters and auxiliary plugs, offering state of the art technology accessibility.

The Dart is a safe vehicle as well, having achieved five-star ratings overall from the federal government and Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Spin Control: It has a base price of $15,995 and my test model was $22,495. It’s economical, it’s competitive and it’s bigger than most vehicles in its class.

Industry Status: Grade B

VIDEO: Take an inside look into the 2014 Dodge Dart.

Take an inside look into the 2014 Hyundai Equus.

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