2013 Dodge Dart GT
2013 Dodge Dart GT. Click image to enlarge

Review and Photos by Jeff Wilson

You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.

I’ve heard my dad say that old adage dozens of times since I was a kid and now more than ever I really get what he means by it – and surely the folks at Dodge will too.

Automotive journalists and enthusiasts all over North America are crying daily about the impending doom for manual transmissions.  Woe is us, there won’t soon be any cars left in which we can row our own.  How can we possibly have a joyous and engaging motoring experience without three pedals?  We might as well all fold our arms, pout and sit there waiting for the autonomous cars to arrive.

I’ve been among the most vocal, proudly wearing my “Save the Stick” t-shirt as often as laundry day will allow it.

So how is it I’m sitting here straight-faced now and telling you, “Buy the Dart GT with an automatic”?

Quite simply, it’s because the shifter and clutch setup in the Dart GT is just not worth the effort of trying to sequence the movements of left leg and right arm.  It is a joyless and awkward setup that stymied not just me and my near quarter century of manual transmission driving experience, but also a few of my esteemed colleagues too.

2013 Dodge Dart GT
2013 Dodge Dart GT. Click image to enlarge

During a recent multi-car comparison test I witnessed both Senior Editor Yarkony and Editor Black stall the red Dodge.  Each has shown at least a modicum of proficiency operating three pedals and a stick shift before, so it must be that confounded set up in the Dart that is posing problems.  A long clutch travel, rubbery shifter and engine accelerator pedal that seems to have difficulty rousing the Dart’s horsepower contribute to make for a lot of herky-jerky starts no matter how carefully one tries.  The cheap-feeling aluminum-coloured plastic ball that is the shift knob doesn’t win any favour either.

It’s a shame too, because otherwise the Dart is a pretty nice machine.

Outside, even in basic trim, Dodge’s compact car offering is handsomely styled.  But dressed up as a GT (which is even more limited than the Limited!) the Dart looks both clean and sporty from its aggressive blacked-out grille all the way back to the “Racetrack” LED tail lights and dual exhaust on our test car.  In true contemporary form, not a lick of chrome can be seen anywhere on the Dart.  And the five-spoke 18-inch wheels really help finish off the sporty persona.

The interior is where Dodge really starts bragging about the Dart.  Proudly showing off their mettle in winning one of Ward’s 10 Best Interior designs, it’s easy to see why.  The heated and perforated Nappa leather feels smooth and soft, and of course the passenger seat features Chrysler’s clever under-your-butt smuggler’s bin.  That said, I found a strange ridge at the back edge of the seat base that pushed uncomfortably into my delicate derriere.  [Tell us all about it, princess. –Ed.]

2013 Dodge Dart GT2013 Dodge Dart GT2013 Dodge Dart GT
2013 Dodge Dart GT. Click image to enlarge

The rest of the interior is slick and modern and that “Racetrack” LED light theme from the taillights is carried over to a gimmicky (though admittedly well executed) red ring circling the main controls of the upper dash.  Plus with primary gauges replaced by a 7-inch reconfigurable graphic display accompanied by the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen on the centre dash, a driver surely remains well informed.

Graphic-intensive screens aren’t the only technology that makes the Dart GT feel luxurious.  It’s also got features like a heated steering wheel, a 500+ watt stereo and automatically adaptive high-beam headlights that are usually found only on high-end luxury cars.

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