By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.3
The smallest sedan in Dodge's lineup, the 2014 Dodge Dart is a well-crafted 4-door that matches a contemporary appearance with good creature features and impressive overall handling. Based on a purpose-modified Alfa Romeo platform, the compact Dart goes head-to-head with prime rivals like the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Jetta. Attractively priced and offering the choice of three engines and a host of class-exclusive techno touches, this roomy and comfortable front-drive Dodge also earns outstanding safety ratings. Those impressive credentials notwithstanding, the Dart still struggles to take market share in a segment that remains dominated by perennial class leaders, the Civic and Corolla.
The Dart's youthful styling, spacious and accommodating interior, sporty character, innovative class-above technology, and top safety ratings make this compact Dodge sedan an attractive (if frequently overlooked) choice in an extremely competitive segment.
Considerably heavier than most of its competitors, the Dodge Dart is neither the best-performing nor the most fuel-efficient player in its segment. And buyers who demand either a hybrid or turbodiesel will still have to look to rivals like the Chevy Cruze, Honda Civic, Ford Focus or Volkswagen Jetta.
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Introduced in the late-arriving 2013 Dart GT, the 184-horsepower/2.4-liter "Tigershark" engine also becomes standard in the 2014 SXT and Limited models. Redesigned front bucket seats offer more comfort, and all but the base Dart SE boast additional standard features. Dart option packages also have been reshuffled to better reflect customer preferences.
Driving Impressions A rigid core structure and well-sorted Euro-flavored suspension give the Dart a confident and well-controlled feel that reaches a clear zenith in the enthusiast-oriented GT model. Although boasting the most...... powerful base engine in its class, the Dart also is the heaviest player in the segment. That extra mass takes a toll on acceleration and passing performance regardless of engine or transmission choice, particularly in the SE when its 2.0-liter engine is backed by the 6-speed automatic transmission. While the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo in the Dart Aero makes the same 160 horsepower, its 24 percent more torque at virtually half the revs make the Aero considerably livelier as well as less thirsty. Buyer requests for better performance led Dodge to fit the 184-horsepower/2.4-liter in the volume-leading SXT and Limited as well as the GT for 2014, but even that extra muscle can't match the 200-plus horsepower available in the far-lighter Civic Si, Focus ST and Jetta GLI.
MULTIAIR ENGINE TECHNOLOGY
Developed by Fiat and fitted to both the 1.4-liter and 2.4-liter Dart engines, MultiAir technology individually controls the lift and timing of the engine's intake valves to improve both performance and fuel economy.
FLOATING-ISLAND DASH BEZEL
A class-exclusive feature that's standard on Dart Aero, Limited and GT models, this innovative interior element is ringed in Ruby Red LED light piping and contains the reconfigurable 7.0-inch TFT (Thin Film Transistor) instrument cluster display and 8.4-inch UConnect touch-screen multimedia system.
The Dart's cabin is spacious and well-designed with lots of soft-touch surfaces and good overall control layouts. Whether trimmed in standard cloth, premium fabric or real leather, it's a quiet and comfortable realm that gains even more character in the Aero, Limited and GT models which also feature the "floating-island" dash bezel, programmable instrument display and 8.4-inch Uconnect screen. In addition to a large covered center storage bin, the Dart also has a cavernous glovebox big enough to swallow a laptop. The adult-accommodating rear seats have a fold-down seatback with a 60/40 split in all but the SE.Exterior
Sleek and sexy, the Dart's exterior blends contemporary international character with classic Dodge design cues. A long (106.4-inch) wheelbase, short overhangs and relatively wide stance give the Dart a well-planted look. Distinctive cosmetic interpretations of the division's signature "gunsight" grille and the full-width LED "racetrack" taillight surround highlight a host of model-specific color and accent touches. Unique wheel/tire fitments further separate this handsome 4-door from the rest of the compact field when it comes to curbside appeal. Previously an Aero exclusive, all 2014 Dart variants (save for the SE) also have efficiency-enhancing active grille shutters.
Even the entry-level Dart SE comes with a bounty of features including power windows, air conditioning, a tilt/telescoping steering column, a folding rear seatback, and a comprehensive suite of safety features highlighted by electronic roll-mitigation, Hill Start Assist and 10 airbags. The SXT adds the more powerful 2.4-liter engine, aluminum-alloy wheels, upgraded audio and a 60/40-split rear seat, while the Aero gets the mileage-maxing 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine and cool 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen. The range-topping Limited and enthusiast-oriented GT each have Nappa leather upholstery with the former adding Garmin navigation and the latter getting a full sport suspension and 18-inch wheel/tire package.
The sole SE extra is the Convenience Group that brings it up to near-SXT spec, while the Aero offers a Garmin Navigation system. SXT add-ons include the Rallye Appearance Group that nets a premium cloth interior and a tauter touring suspension, Uconnect Touchscreen Group with the "floating-island" dash bezel, Sun and Sound Group with a power sunroof and Alpine premium audio, the Cold Weather Group and Garmin Navigation. Beyond its dedicated version of the Sun and Sound Group, the GT and Limited offer a Technology Group that features adaptive high-intensity-discharge headlights, rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection system.
While the Dart's trio of 4-cylinder engines carries over intact from 2013, their specific fitments have changed in response to owner requests for improved performance. The naturally aspirated 160-horsepower Tigershark 2.0-liter is now only found in the base SE model, while the econo-oriented 1.4-liter/160-horsepower turbocharged MultiAir engine becomes exclusive to the highest-mileage Aero model. The 2014 Dart SXT, Limited and GT all share the same 184-horsepower/2.4-liter MultiAir2-enhanced Tigershark. Buyers can opt for either a 6-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic, but only the 1.4-liter offers the DCCT (dual dry-clutch transmission) automatic.
160 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
148 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/36 mpg (manual), 24/34 mpg (automatic)
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
160 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/39 mpg (manual), 28/41 mpg (automatic)
184 horsepower @ 6,250 rpm
171 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/33 mpg (manual), 21/30 mpg (automatic)
Pricing for the entry-level 2014 Dodge Dart SE carries over from 2013, opening at just under $17,000 including destination charges. That gives it a leg up on all of its class rivals, save for the Kia Forte. The Dart's value-oriented philosophy carries on throughout its model hierarchy, with the volume-leading SXT opening just under $19,500, and the range-topping Limited starting just below $24,000 and still sliding in around the $25K mark even with the optional Technology Package. Residual values on the Dart are projected to be marginally better than those of the Chevy Cruze and Ford Focus while matching a gasoline-powered VW Jetta. However, they do fall well behind the segment-leading Honda Civic and Jetta TDI turbodiesel, and trail the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte and Mazda3 to a lesser extent.