Baby boomers will remember the Dodge Dart. More than 3.6 million boomers bought Darts during its run from 1960 to 1976. Generation Y may not remember the original Dart, but its members would do well to take a good long look at the new one. I don’t know if 3.6 million of them will be sold during a 16-year run, but the introduction of the new compact sedan couldn’t come at a better time for Dodge.

With gasoline prices remaining ridiculously high, the company has long needed a small, affordable sedan with good style and better mileage.

When designing the Dart, Dodge engineers turned to Fiat, building the new car on the same platform as the award-winning Alfa Romeo Giulietta. The engineers lengthened and widened the platform, making the Dart a more spacious compact sedan. The Dart will begin arriving at dealerships in June.

“This is a whole new way of doing compact cars,” said Richard Cox, director of the Dodge brand. One of the biggest changes is the ability to personalize the car, he said. With five trim levels, 12 exterior colors, 14 interior color and trim combinations, six wheel options, three engine choices and three transmissions available, there are “100,000 ways to customize” each Dodge Dart, Cox told journalists invited to Austin for a daylong test drive.

Not including destination charges, the SE trim starts at $15,995, the SXT starts at $17,995, the Rallye starts at $18,995 and the Limited starts at $19,995. The R/T package, which will be available later this year, hasn’t been priced yet.

As with colors and trim levels, Dodge is all about choices when it comes to engines as well. Most models of the Dart will be powered by a new 2.0-liter Tigershark DOHC engine that delivers 160 horsepower and 147 lb.-ft. of torque. Dodge is also offering a 1.4-liter turbocharged MultiAir engine, that also delivers 160 horsepower, but boosts torque to 184 lb.-ft. The third engine choice is a Tigershark 2.4-liter MultiAir 2 engine that will be standard on the R/T model. The 2.4-liter will crank out 184 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. The 2.4-liter engine will be available later this year.

With the 160-horsepower Tigershark engine and a 6-speed manual transmission, the Dart is expected to get 25 miles per gallon in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, for a combined 29 mpg. The 1.4-liter choice will deliver 27 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Besides the 6-speed manual transmission, Dodge offers a 6-speed automatic and a 6-speed dual clutch automatic.

On our test drive, we drove the Rallye trim with a 6-speed manual transmission. Approaching the front of the car, Dodge’s hallmark split crosshair grille appears to float in the front fascia. In back, I think the Dart resembles the Charger, with a wide LED taillight setup that has 152 glowing lights and available dual exhausts.

Inside the cabin, the hair I still have at the top of my 6-foot-1 frame slightly brushed the bottom edge of the power moon roof. Otherwise, the cabin had plenty of room. In fact, the interior space almost reaches midsize sedan category. The front bucket seats were comfortable and supportive.

The Dart shines in the safety category with 10 standard airbags, blind-spot monitoring, four-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist and rainy brake support, stability control, hill-start assist, and a standard backup camera and rear park assist.

If you’re in the market for a compact sedan – a very large and growing segment – the Dart, with its range of features and affordable prices, should definitely be on your radar.


Engine: 2.0-liter Tigershark, 1.4-liter turbo, 2.4-liter Tigershark

Horsepower: 160, 160 and 184 respectively

Test Model Base Price: $18,995 (Rallye model)

EPA mileage rating: 25 mpg city / 36 mpg highwa, 29 mpg combined (2.0-liter engine with 6-speed manual)

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