Italian Immigrant Is Pretty Sharp, But A Few Degrees Short Of A Bullseye
The 2013 Dodge Dart is the most visible manifestation of the still-new monogamous relationship between Chrysler and Fiat, the Pentastar’s savior from the depths of government-sponsored bankruptcy (or worse). If you’ll recall, one of the big problems pundits, management and government officials identified with Chrysler’s US lineup was its complete lack of competitive small cars.
Now would be a good time to mention that Dodge had a good thing with the original Neon. Not only did the little subcompact sell in conspicuously high numbers, it was also pretty fun to drive, especially in 150-horsepower ACR Coupe trim. In fact, so entertaining was the little two-door coupe, powered as it was by a dual-overhead-cam version of Chrysler’s 2.0-liter four cylinder, that it spawned its very own racing series.
The successful Neon got a redesign in the year 2000, and as has so often been the case, the Pentastar Crew didn’t do nearly enough to keep it competitive amidst a sea of Civics and Corollas, save the way-too-quick-for-its-own-good Neon SRT4, that is. The response to lagging market share? The Dodge Caliber, introduced in 2007. Suffice it to say that the Caliber was not the answer small-car buyers were looking for.
Enter the Dart. Is this compact the small-car savior Chrysler envisioned when it paired with Italy’s Fiat? Let’s take a closer look.