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#18

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $16,495 - $22,995
Invoice: $16,449 - $22,364
MPG: 25 City / 36 Hwy
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Dodge Dart Performance

Test drivers say that while the base 2014 Dodge Dart has one of the highest horsepower ratings in the class, its size and weight mean that the Dart isn’t quite as quick as you might expect. An optional 1.4-liter turbocharged engine is more fuel-efficient and reviewers say it’s peppier. Most auto writers prefer the six-speed manual transmission for its precise shifter, though some say that the optional automatic transmission can be slow to downshift when more power is needed. Test drivers agree that the Dart has nimble handling, especially around curves. It feels stable and well-planted, even on bumpy roads, they say.

  • "Although we appreciate the 1.4-liter turbo for both its high-revving ability and its exceptional fuel economy, we find it hard to turn down the muscular new 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. We strongly suggest you test out both engines to decide which is right for you." -- AutoTrader
  • "Less-demanding drivers will find the standard 160-horsepower/2.0-liter naturally-aspirated engine has adequate muscle to move this 3,200-pound sedan, but it's decidedly less stressed when backed by the manual transmission. The optional 1.4-liter turbocharged four with its substantially greater torque both feels and sounds more enthusiastic." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "Again, you can read that test here, but to recap, the steering is linear, the ride is quiet, and the interior is comfortable and spacious." -- Car and Driver (2013)
  • "In many ways, however, the Dart drives like a more expensive car than its price point suggests. From the good noise isolation to the way the suspension picks up its feet over road zits, there's real substance to the Dart. The steering is another high point. Though not brimming with feel, the rack is quick, builds effort in a natural way and has great on-center characteristics - rare traits for an electric power steering system, especially one found in an entry-level-ish car such as this one." -- Edmunds (2013)

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Dodge Dart comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower. Available engines include a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is available on all trims and standard on the top-of-the-line Limited. An automated manual is available on the Aero trim. Equipped with an automatic transmission, the base Dart gets an EPA-estimated 24/34 mpg city/highway, which is on the low end of the class. The turbocharged Dart gets an impressive 28/40 mpg.

The Dart’s base 2.0-liter engine has one of the highest horsepower ratings in the class, but reviewers say that because the car is heavier than some rivals, it’s less peppy and slower off the line. Test drivers report that the turbocharged Dart is noticeably zippier and gets better fuel economy. One writer notes that equipped with the 2.4-liter engine, the Dart is slower than more powerful, performance-tuned rivals like the Ford Focus ST. Some auto writers prefer the manual transmission for its short throws. A few critics say that while the automatic transmission generally shifts smoothly, it can be slow to downshift when added power is needed for passing on the highway. 

  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • “The manual transmission, with its nicely spaced gearing and relatively short throws, would be our choice among the two transmissions." -- AutoWeek (2013)
  • "Most buyers will probably choose the 2.0-liter with automatic, which is likely the slowest combination. It's leisurely from a full-throttle start, and the transmission doesn't always kick down quickly for more passing power. In normal driving, however, it's adequate." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "The 2.0-liter engine revs smoothly throughout its range and moves the Dart smartly whether equipped with the six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic transmission. Power, not surprisingly, tapers off at higher speeds, and at 60 mph there's little left for a last-minute pass around slower-moving traffic. You have to plan your move with care." -- Cars.com (2013)
  • "The 2.0-liter could definitely use a little more power, but if you are on an economy kick, it will be the go-to engine responsible for most of the sales orders for this car. With a rather tall tip-in, it does all right under protest while on level roads at sea level. It's just not Speed Racer." -- Left Lane News (2013)

Handling and Braking

Test drivers say the 2014 Dodge Dart offers a firm, controlled ride and corners confidently, adding that it holds its own against rivals known for sharp handling, including the Ford Focus and Mazda Mazda3. Steering is precise, they add. Reviewers say bumps are easily absorbed and the car feels planted, even on wet pavement.

  • "Although the Dart's Giulietta-sourced suspension tuning was softened for American roads and tastes, there's still the soul of a driver's car in even the humblest Dart SE. The ride is never harsh, but it tends toward Euro-firm, and the Dart tackles corners with verve, reminding us of the nimble Mazda3." -- AutoTrader
  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "With underpinnings sourced from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the 2013 Dodge Dart boasts the sort of lively, responsive handling you'd expect from something with Italian DNA. The steering is quick and very well weighted, while the sophisticated suspension design does an excellent job of taking corners with enthusiasm while greeting bumps with a well-damped suppleness. The Ford Focus and Mazda 3 feel a little more nimble, but the Dart's bigger dimensions make it seem more substantial when cruising down the open road." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "The Dart is surprisingly agile through the most diabolical corners and pavement changes. One supposes that if you're descended from the Italians, with their winding, narrow, angina-inducing roads, this sort of agility must be in your genes. Even on wet pavement, the Darts I drove had tenacious grip." -- The New York Times (2013)
Review Last Updated: 2/19/14

Next Steps: Dodge Dart