Dodge says everything but the name will be new on its upcoming 2013 Dart.
The car, a compact sedan, will be a success if it can approach the run (1960-1976) of its namesake and its sibling, the Plymouth Valiant.
The Dart, introduced Monday at the Detroit Auto Show, is aimed at giving Dodge a solid presence in the compact sedan segment. Based on Fiat’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta, it replaces the entry-level Caliber hatchback and should give Dodge its first viable compact sedan since the Neon.
Consumers will have the choice of three upgraded engines and what Chrysler is calling “thousands of ways to personalize the Dart.” The LED taillight treatment is similar to that readily identifiable style on the Dodge Challenger and Charger.
New Englanders will be interested to see an optional heated steering wheel. There is also a customizable gauge cluster, high-quality interior touch points, an assortment of storage spots, and a glove box designed to accommodate an iPad.
The outgoing Caliber was saddled with an outdated engine and CVT (continuously variable transmission). The Dart will have three new engine options: a 2.0-liter, a 2.4-liter MultiAir, and a 1.4-liter turbo. Both the turbo and MultiAir, which promises a 7.5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, 15 percent increase in low-rpm torque, and 10 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, project to be interesting options. Three transmission combinations (including a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic) will be offered as well.
The Dart hits an EPA-estimated 40 mpg highway, a feat that allowed Fiat to increase its stake in Chrysler to 58.5 percent under a government agreement. Pricing is expected to start at $16,000.
The Giulietta, a vehicle Fiat dealers were hoping to get, is known for its agility and driving dynamics. A big question will be how well that will translate into the Dart’s lengthened and widened platform.
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