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2013 Dodge Dart (pictures)

Dodge's newest compact car has an old name and Italian underpinnings. The car is the first fruit from Fiat's purchase of Chrysler.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 12 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
The new Dart is the first fruit from the takeover of Chrysler by Fiat, and represents very rapid development for a new model. The car was built on the same platform as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a compact hatchback. For the Dart, Dodge went with a sedan design, which is more popular in the U.S.
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Dodge clearly was not chasing another manufacturer in the styling of the Dart. The new car has its own unique look. The front corners are very rounded, with the hood inset rather than hanging over the sides. A single contour line runs down the side of the car, keeping the look simple yet elegant.
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Dodge will offer three engines with the Dart. Shown here is the 1.4-liter Multiair, the same engine as in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. This engine uses a turbocharger to make up for its lower displacement, and an innovative intake valve actuation system allowing infinitely variable timing. This engine boasts a highway fuel economy number of 39 mpg. Dodge will also offer a base 2-liter engine, with less power and lower fuel economy than the Multiair, and a 2.4-liter engine in an R/T version of the Dart.
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As a compact sedan, the Dart is designed for five passengers, with cargo in the trunk space.
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Dodge did not skimp on the Dart's components. It gets disc brakes on all four wheels, along with a variety of electronic stability systems. It also uses a bi-link rear suspension, rather than the cheaper torsion bar rear suspensions seen on many cars in this class.
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To improve aerodynamics, Dodge bolted pans to the underbelly, allowing easier air flow underneath. The grille also has an active shutter system, which causes air to flow around the car at higher speeds rather than letting it into the engine bay.
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Initially, the Dart will come in three trim levels: SE, SXT, and Limited. Dodge believes the SXT will be the biggest seller, as it offers more tech options, yet starts at only $17,995. The Limited model, which goes for $19,995, comes loaded with an 8.4-inch touch screen, although navigation is extra. Later, an aerodynamic Rallye version will also be offered, as well as a high-performance R/T version.
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On this top-trim Limited model with optional leather seats, the cabin offers a very premium feel. The seats are comfortable, power-adjustable, and are well-bolstered.
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The cabin feels very roomy. Dodge made the Dart 2 inches wider than the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, on which it is based, allowing more shoulder room.
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As with the current Charger, Dodge keeps the Dart's instrument panel relatively simple. The 8.4-inch touchscreen serves as the interface for stereo, phone, navigation, and other functions. This model also has the six-speed manual transmission. Dodge will offer two other transmissions, a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual and a standard six-speed automatic.
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One of the most unique features is the TFT instrument cluster, although it is only available in the top trim models. Drivers can reconfigure this instrument cluster to show specific information.
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We previously saw this integrated head unit in the Dodge Charger. Along the bottom of the screen is a menu strip, letting drivers call up any function in the system. Navigation software comes from Garmin. This head unit comes standard in the Limited trim Dart, although the navigation software is an option.

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