Two 2014 Dodge Darts: Siblings, But Very Much Not the Same
The 2014 Dodge Dart comes in five trim levels— SE, Aero, SXT, GT and Limited—exhibiting from respectable to excellent fuel economy with its most efficient model joining our 40 MPG Club. Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive the GT and Limited models for a week each and hope to give you a feel for the difference between two of the five models and some of what makes the Dart tick.
Running on unleaded regular, the front-wheel drive Dart GT and Limited are powered by Dodge’s 2.4-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder Tigershark engine, with MultiAir and multiport fuel injection. This aluminum block and
cylinder head engine produces 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque through the six-speed Powertech automatic transmission, delivering an EPA rating of 23 city/35 highway/27 combined mpg for the Limited and 22/31/26 for the GT. This engine and transmission combination is also available on the SXT model. The fuel economy champ of the Dart lineup is the 41 mpg highway Aero model that has a 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine and six-speed manual transmission.
Benefitting from active grill shutters that automatically close to reduce drag, in 255 miles of 80-percent/20-percent highway/city driving, the Dart GT averaged 27 mpg with the Dart Limited getting 31 mpg over 310 miles. The fuel economy difference for the same engine and transmission is due to a different final drive ratio for the GT that provides more aggressive acceleration and also features larger wheels and tires. The question for consumers is if those performance enhancements are worth losing four or more miles per gallon, which after hundreds of miles of driving will certainly affect your budget.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Based on the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta, the 2014 Dodge Dart is longer and wider than its Italian cousin, part of its Americanization for this market. The four-door GT and Limited each weigh in at a relatively (to their competitors) hefty 3,348 lbs. and have electrically power-assisted steering. Turning was easy with the all-season tires, but Dodge did something to the GT suspension that gave it a heavier feel than the Limited, which was noticeable on the freeway and cornering. Both have front stabilizer bars with independent MacPherson struts and coil springs over gas-charged shock absorbers, mated at the rear with a multi-link independent suspension with coil springs over gas-charged shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar.
The ride of the Dart GT was harsh and borderline unpleasant, telegraphing every irregularity on the road, regardless of your speed. It appears Dodge stiffened the suspension and added 18-inch wheels with low profile tires to make the GT sportier and supposedly handle better. When compared with the Dart Limited, with 17-inch wheels, higher profile tires and a not-so-stiff suspension, the Limited was the far better riding car. If Dodge’s intent for the GT suspension tweaks was to make it handle better, they missed the mark. The Limited’s cornering was as competent as the GT’s with the Limited’s smoother ride keeping suspension harshness from transmitting through the steering wheel and the tires from chattering around hard corners. The Limited just felt better planted to the road under all driving conditions.
On the freeway where the best possible fuel economy could be attained, the 2.4L engine ran smooth with the GT being louder than the Limited. This probably was due to the exhaust note that has been added to give the car a low rumbling sound and a cool burbling when lifting off the accelerator. But to achieve using as little fuel as possible meant the six-speed automatic was geared so that when needing to pass you had to tromp on the pedal and wait for the transmission to kick down a couple of gears. The GT was a bit more responsive, but not significantly. The GT also had a touchy nature in the accelerator pedal, noticeable when launching from a full stop. Even repeated feathering of the pedal could not ensure a smooth getaway. The Limited, oddly, and gladly, did not suffer from this.
Wind noise in both trim levels was minimal, with the sunroof on the Limited only needing to be closed after about 50 mph if you like a really quiet cabin.
Stopping is through power assist, four-wheel disc brakes with vented front and solid rear rotors, ABS, electronic stability and traction control.
Driving Experience: Interior
The 2014 Dodge Dart is sold in the compact car category, but due to its roomy cabin, the EPA ranks it as a midsize car. This combination of compact and roomy was a pleasure as maneuvering in tight spaces was good and the ample interior
space made for a comfortable driving environment. Sightlines were good except for a bit of a C-pillar blind spot, making using the right-side exterior mirror an important practice.
The dash is nicely sculpted with the centerpiece being the 8.4-inch display screen with Garmin navigation and the Uconnect infotainment system, which was by far the most convenient and easy to use of all the cars I have tested. Operating with an Apple iPad-like simplicity, Uconnect includes a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio with SiriusXM (One year subscription included), voice command with Bluetooth, audio input jacks with iPod control and USB port. There is an optional Alpine, nine-speaker premium system with a subwoofer and 506-watt amplifier.
Made with soft touch materials, the dash has a 7-inch instrument cluster with a reconfigurable display (fun to play with!) and a neatly and ergonomically laid-out combination of knobs, switches and buttons for the climate and radio controls that are exactly where you want and need them. The black dash on the GT was accented by red baseball stitching that complemented red inserts around the 8.4-in center stack screen and on the door panels. All controls were easy to use and figure-out due to their old-school look and feel. The only curiosity was the low resolution of the rearview camera. The image was clear enough to make out objects, but not nearly as clear nor state-of-the-art as all other back-up cameras I have tested. It was especially fuzzy at night in low light.
The black, premium Nappa leather interior in each model had a heated and power 10-way adjustable driver seat that included a power four-way lumbar adjustment and a six-way manual height adjustment. The heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel had audio and cruise controls. The front passenger seat was also heated with manual adjustment. The rear 60/40 split-folding seat has a pass through and folding center armrest with storage and the got-to-have cup holders. Rear seating is for three but two would make for a more enjoyable trip.
Both the Dart GT and Limited had all the expected convenience features such as power windows, door locks and exterior mirrors (which are also heated), A/C with automatic climate control, floor mats, 12V power outlet, multiple cup holders, auto-dimming rearview mirror and cruise control.
Driving Experience: Exterior
With color options that include Redline Red, Maximum Steel and Header Orange, Dodge is stating loud and clear that the Dart is a car to be noticed and taken seriously. The exterior design does not disappoint. Easily recognizable with its wide stance and sloping hood leading to a narrow crosshair grill, projector headlamps and fog lights, the Dart goes completely against the current design rage of cars looking like they are stunned or have a wide-open bass mouth.
With styling cues taken from the Challenger and Charger, the Dart is not as conservative in its look as other small car competitors. Its long sweeping roofline ends in a distinctive rear that can accommodate what Dodge calls their “Racetrack” lamps that are the full width of the tail and include 152 LED bulbs. The twin chrome exhaust tips are a nice touch.
Safety and Convenience
All 2014 Dodge Dart models have an Overall 5-Star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rating including Frontal and Side Crash and a 4-Star rating for Rollover protection. Safety and convenience features include exterior mirror side turn indicators, fog lamps, high-intensity discharge headlamps, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, keyless and proximity entry system, remote start, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) and 10 airbags.
The Blind-spot monitoring system works when a car is on your right or left rear side, exactly where your natural blind spot would be. The warning appears as a yellow triangle in both exterior rearview mirrors and when lit, cut-out the radio with a gentle beep. Once the offending car passes, all warnings end and the radio returns. Systems across the manufacturers are a bit different, but this one worked well, was unobtrusive and was helpful.
The Rear Cross Path detection system is helpful when backing up and a car, child or other moving object unexpectedly crosses behind your car. This works separate, but in-conjunction, from the ParkSense rear park assist System and rearview camera.
Pricing and Warranties
Base pricing for the 2014 Dodge Dart, including the $995 Destination Charge:
There are four option packages, which Dodge calls Groups: Rallye Appearance, Cold Weather, Convenience and Sun and Sound.
The 2014 Dart models Clean Fleet Report was driving, including the $995 Destination Charge had an MSRP of:
All 2014 Dodge Dart models come with these warranties:
- 3-year/36,000-mile Basic
- 5-year/100,000-mile Powertrain
- 5-year/100,000-mile Rust-through
- 5-year/100,000-mile Roadside Assistance
Observations: 2014 Dodge Dart GT and Dart Limited
Dodge re-launched the Dart nameplate in 2012 as a 2013 model after it had been dormant for several decades. To resurrect a car name after so long means that car needs to be notable and a leader in several areas to gain attention and consideration among buyers.
The Dart does this well with its Italian heritage and distinctive styling that separates it from other compact sedans that tend to look pretty much the same. Dodge also did a fine job with the interior design, roominess and instrument and
infotainment system layout.
Across the five Dart models there is respectable to very good fuel economy, topping out at 41 mpg highway in the Aero. Other than our not being a fan of the harsh ride characteristics of the GT, the Dart handles with confidence and is comfortable to drive.
So why then is the Dart selling fewer cars than its class competitors Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra and the Volkswagen Jetta? Probably, the main reason is familiarity because, as a new model, consumers are not aware the car exists and should be on their shopping list.
Dodge has a good story to tell with the five Dart models that are priced right, have earned high safety ratings and look like nothing else in its class.
The 2015 Dart is a carry-over from the 2014 models Clean Fleet Report drove. This means that if Dodge is in the usual design cycle of five years, there will be a refreshed or substantially-new Dart on the near horizon. We recommend you do not wait to test drive a Dart, but do it now as the current models are well worth your attention and consideration.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
2014 Dodge Dart | FindTheBest