As revivals go, the return of the Dodge Dart doesn’t quite rank with the muscle car revival from the Big Three. But the return of a badge that racked up huge sales for Chrysler in the 1960s and ’70s gives Dodge some mojo in the compact segment, something the awful Neon never did. The 2013 Dart is Chrysler’s first car built on an Alfa Romeo platform, borrowing the DNA of the Giulietta sedan. Unlike its Italian sibling, however, the Dart’s styling leans more toward sporty than sexy. With the steeply raked hood and windscreen, dual exhaust and low stance, the Dart aims squarely at a young audience looking for an affordable, performance-oriented driving experience.
The Dart’s interior layout impresses, with the full complement of up-to-the-minute technology young drivers have come to expect. There’s an 8.4-inch multimedia screen with voice recognition, USB interface and Bluetooth streaming audio with hands-free phone capabilities and an incredibly cool, customizable TFT (thin-film transistor) instrument cluster that can deliver real-time updates on navigation, performance and other travel details. It's also fairly roomy for a compact sedan, as Dodge has both widened and lengthened the body from the Giulietta's underpinnings.
The Dart comes in five different models, from the entry-level SE (starting at just $15,995), which has a class-leading 60 safety features, to the R/T model with a 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine that jumps off around $22,500 and includes 18-inch wheels and a Nappa leather-trimmed interior. The Rallye model comes with integrated dual exhaust, a suggestive nod to the Dart’s main competitors, the Imprezas and Lancers of the world. In terms of true rally-type performance, the Dart has a ways to go. Even with the top-of-the-line engine in the R/T, you won’t be setting any land-speed records — if you drag-race a Camry in this car, you’ll likely be handing over the keys to the Toyota’s owner. In day-to-day situations, though, the car has excellent driving dynamics and enough get-up-and-go to be a fun daily ride. Overall, the Dart should keep speed junkies on a budget more than happy until they get that next big raise.