The Return of the Dodge Dart Rallye

With the 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye, Chrysler takes aim at the small car segment. Though they didn’t quite hit bullseye, they got a whole lot right.

The Dart’s exterior is aggressive, with lamps like evil insect eyes. The sporty and modern downward-tilting hood aids in aerodynamic efficiency. Close to the ground with a low centre of gravity, it corners neatly, but getting in and out is no great challenge. You don’t have to be in the full flush of youth to operate it.

Inside, that insect–eye motif extends 360 degrees. The striped bucket seats throughout provide a pleasing visual consistency with the bold swaths of colour on the inner door panels.

The ergonomics are more than functional enough for the price. The “premium cloth” in our tester is still cloth and one coffee spill away from losing that new car smell.

There’s not much legroom in the back, but when you consider the category the Dart’s playing in, it contends. With heaps of space in the trunk, you could use it for any family vacation that doesn’t involve skiing.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel’s comprehensive audio controls, touch-sensitive electronic media interface, rear-view parking camera, GPS and SIRIUS satellite radio are all excellent features. And they’re all not included in the base model.

The Dart rides sporty but the seats well-cushioned, so you get efficient power output without shattering a hip, ant the 6-speed standard transmission shifts smoothly.

“This is a stick?” asked my 16-year-old daughter. “There’s no jerking.” (A huge compliment)

The 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo has a touch of lag, but pushes well enough when revved. Which leads to the soundproofing. No amount of engine flogging drowned out conversations or quiet bridges in music.

Though not as agile as the Fiat 500, the Dodge Dart Rallye handles well. Thanks to a bonehead with a cell phone, I had occasion to test the four-wheel antilock disc brakes during a hurricane. They’re excellent and, dare I say, haptic. (You’re welcome, Dodge engineers).

Only time will tell where this Dart lands on the circular wall-affixed target that is the North American auto market. ONE HUNDRED-AND-EIGHTY!

2013 Dodge Dart Rallye
Starting at $19,495 

This is a test