The Dodge Dart nameplate is coming back for the 2013 model year and is being featured by Chrysler at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Forget the 1960s and 1970s compact family sedan with the legendary slant six-cylinder engine, for this is Chrysler’s new entry in the highly competitive but high-volume midsize C-segment.
The other Detroit entries are the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus. Add in the Asians—the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, and Mazda3—and it's obvious a new entry needs style and content to get noticed. The new Dart is Chrysler’s first adaptation from a Fiat corporate product and is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which is derived from Fiat’s compact platform. The Dart version, a sedan vs. the Giulietta hatchback, got a 4-in (102-mm) wheelbase stretch to 106.4 in (2703 mm), a slight widening, and a 12-in (305-mm) increase in overall length to 183.9 in (4672 mm). Interior EPA volume is 97 ft³ (2750 L) and cargo room is 13.1 ft³ (370 L).
One engine—a 1.4-L four-cylinder turbocharged Multi-Air unit—will be from Fiat. The two others —2.0- and 2.4-L four-cylinders—are from Chrysler, although the 2.4-L has been modified to incorporate the Fiat's Multi-Air, an infinitely variable valve timing and lift system.
In addition to its platform, the Dart shares the Giulietta's MacPherson strut front suspension, multilink rear, and four-wheel disc brakes. From that point on, the Dart takes its own path.
Its body is all-new, with 68% of its weight in high-strength steels; curb mass ranges from 3173-3297 lb (1439-1496 kg). Dart is an aero-centered styling job designed to produce a low Cd (coefficient of drag), which Chrysler said it expects will be best-in-class. Because production versions of the sedan are not yet available for testing, Chrysler has not announced the Cd, and most manufacturers do not provide the specification. The Dart’s competitive list, however, includes the Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra, for which Cd numbers are available, the Elantra at 0.28, the Mazda Skyactiv version at 0.27. That would indicate that Chrysler expects to have a 0.27 number or below for the Dart to claim the aero bragging rights.
Aero features, some of which also contribute to NVH control, include underbody covers that close off almost everything except the suspension and exhaust, special wiper blades, and a laser-brazed roof that causes airflow to “glide over” instead of the sealing strips in a conventional design. Spats are attached to the fender liners, and perimeter sealing is affixed to the hood and the deck lid to direct airflow away. Active grille shutters close at highway speeds under most operating conditions.
Unlike most newer transverse front-drive cars, the exhaust system is on the forward side, which positions the engine as an NVH barrier for some of the exhaust noise.
The ride/handling equation attempts to strike a balance, Chrysler said, between the Euro handling of the Alfa and a firm but not harsh ride that will be accepted in the American passenger car market.
Bright black paints—called piano black on trim pieces, hyper black on wheels—replace chrome in some trim package offerings.
The vehicle interior has considerable use of soft surfaces, optional two-tone stitching, and bright color panels and trim pieces such as the citrus yellow on one display car. The car's 8.4-in Chrysler touch screen has the UConnnect connectivity system and a 7.0-in reconfigurable TFT (thin film transistor) instrument cluster. An optional LED light pipe bezel surrounds the cluster and screen, producing a “floating island” effect. A heated steering wheel will be available, which Chrysler claims is an exclusive for the class at this time.
The Dart’s safety package includes 10 standard airbags and available blind spot and rear cross path detection systems.
The Fiat-developed 1.4-L turbo with the Multi-Air system, rated at 160 hp (119 kW) and 184 lb·ft (249 N·m), will be the only engine offered with a Fiat DCT (dual clutch transmission). The two others, extensively reworked, naturally aspirated versions of the Chrysler four-cylinder “world” engine, are newly labeled as Tiger Shark engines, and will be paired with an optional six-speed automatic (a six-speed manual is the base transmission with all engines). World engine changes were made to provide major reductions in NVH and move the torque curve toward the lower rpm end.
The 2.0-L, which will be the base engine, is a dual-overhead-cam powerplant rated at 160 hp (119 kW) and 148 lb·ft (201 N·m). The 2.4-L, with the Multi-Air system as noted, produces 184 hp (137 kW) and 171 lb·ft (232 N·m).
The Dart’s exterior rear lighting treatment is an LED type adapted from the Dodge Charger, which gives the Dart a Dodge family look.