PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) -- The marriage of Chrysler and Italian automaker FIAT has been nothing but good so far with new engines, new Vipers, new auto industry jobs and a new attitude for the automaker.
The latest product of the union is the Dodge Dart.
The Dart, you might remember, was one of the most popular compact cars of the '60s and '70s. A car that had something for everyone from the gas miser slant six to the killer 340 GT, which was one of the fastest muscle cars of the '70s.
The new Chrysler takes the same tact with this new 2013 Dart from fuel efficient base models to a rumored high performance SRT coming down the pike in 2013. What the Dart is to everyone, is a stylish, fun-to-drive car that can find something to please almost anyone looking in the smaller car segment.
While Chrysler started with the base of an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, one of Europe's most popular cars, it would be tough to tell that the two were fratelli side by side. Outside, the Dart looks cool standing still. The wide track stance, big mouth grille and slim headlamp housings give the Dart the Dodge DNA. From the sides, the rakish look with soft accents over the wheel wells stay away from the steroid look and flow easily into the short deck. The wall of light emitting diode tail light give it the mini charger look from the rear spiced up with dual oval exhaust ports. Did I say cool looking?
Inside, the car feels roomier than it looks on the outside. Getting in and out is easy and once inside, the interior is more Camry or Sonata size-wise, than compact. Dodge spent a lot of time looking at quality and usefulness -- getting it right on all counts.
Seats are supportive, stylish and very comfortable. The flow of the dashboard is eye catching, with a floating pod concept encasing the gauges in front of the driver, as well as a big-time screen for navigation and controls.
There are also the redundant heater controls as well. The glove box includes space to store your ipad, as well as storage space under the seats. The interior gets an A+ for styling and quality. It never gets boring even in its base materials.
I had the chance to roll in the Rallye version that had the 1.4-liter 160 HP turbo that delivered 184 pound-feet of torque. While not neck snapping-ly fast, the Dart delivered big when I hit the gas, although it needed some degree of downshifting of the Fiat 6 speed transmission to get the engine where I wanted it to go but once I did this little sportster was sailing.
Handling was above average with the suspension seemingly set up to hang tough in the corners, while taking the steroids they left out of the fenders and putting it in the suspension. This car was flat out enjoyable to drive. It had a solid, composed, energetic road feel to it, behaved well when you turned the wheel and still had a nice feel of comfort while edging close to Mazdaland in sports car DNA.
The version I tested, the SXT Rallye with the Turbo and six speed, pretty well loaded, with a sticker price of $23,560.
Less virile versions can be had starting at just under $16,000. EPA estimates say that you can expect 27 miles per gallon in the city, 39 miles per gallon on the highway and 32 miles per gallon combined. In my testing those figures were somewhat liberal . The Dart gets top ratings in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Crash Tests.
So far, the marriage between Detroit and Turin has been nothing but cool. One company on the edge of extinction, being revived by injecting style into the lineup by another. Even better American car buyers seem to be responding to it!
The Dodge Dart is the next step, a fun to drive solid car that can play a lot of roles. All of them with style.
For more information go to http://www.dodge.com/en/2013/dart/
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Reviews, news about cars and the people who drive them, interviews and tips on how to get more out of your driving experience all on Drivetime with Vinnie Richichi and Rob Pratte Saturday mornings 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Newsradio 1020 KDKA. Also listen to Vinnie on The Vinnie and Cook Show Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan.
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