Review and photos by Greg Wilson

2013 Dodge Dart SXT 2.0
2013 Dodge Dart SXT 2.0. Click image to enlarge

For those with a short attention span, I’m going to give you my conclusion right now: forget about the Dart’s standard 2.0L engine – get the Dart with the turbocharged 1.4L motor, or the upcoming 184-hp 2.4L engine – or buy another car. Now you can go back to your Facebook page.

But for those of you who want to know the dirty details, read on. This bigger, fatter North American version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is currently available with two engines: a 160-hp normally aspirated 2.0L four-cylinder and a turbocharged 160-hp 1.4L MultiAir four-banger. A 184-hp 2.4L MultiAir motor is coming to Canada soon. Equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission (the most popular choice), the 160-hp Dart 2.0 takes a leisurely 11.0 seconds to get to 60 mph, according to Consumer Reports. That’s over two seconds slower than the 160-hp Dart 1.4T with the six-speed dual clutch manumatic transmission. You may reasonably ask, why the difference if they have the same horsepower? The answer lies in the 1.4T’s superior torque: 184 lb-ft between 2,500 and 4,000 rpm compared to the Dart 2.0’s 147 lb-ft at 4,600 rpm. As well, Fiat Group’s MultiAir technology, which features electro-hydraulic valve control to more accurately control air intake and combustion increases low-rpm torque by up to 15 percent, as well as improving fuel economy. The 1.4T puts the power to the ground sooner, giving it notably faster acceleration times.

2013 Dodge Dart SXT 2.02013 Dodge Dart SXT 2.0
2013 Dodge Dart SXT 2.0. Click image to enlarge

But the Dart 2.0 is not just slower than the 1.4T, it’s slower than its major competitors (all equipped with automatic transmissions): the 138-hp Chevrolet Cruze (10.5 sec), the 160-hp Ford Focus sedan (9.2 sec), the 138-hp Honda Civic sedan (9.7 sec), 148-hp Hyundai Elantra sedan (9.5 sec), the 130-hp Sentra (9.7 sec), and the 155-hp Mazda3 Skyactiv sedan (9.1 sec) are all quicker than the Dart 2.0. Assuming equally skilled test drivers, there can only be one reason why the Dart 2.0 is slower than its less powerful competitors: it weighs more. A quick check of the curb weights of these popular compact sedans reveals that the Dart 2.0’s (auto) curb weight of 1,470 kg (3,242 lb) is 65 to 225 kg (140 to 500 lb) heavier than its competitors. That’s a lot.

Not only that but the Dart’s otherwise smooth-changing six-speed automatic transmission is programmed to shift very early and stay in higher gears in order to keep revs down and fuel economy stingy. When I needed to speed up to avoid merging semis, I found myself pushing the gas pedal further and further down wondering when the tranny would shift and get me out of harm’s way. Okay, there is a manual shift mode, but I shouldn’t need a Plan B.

2013 Dodge Dart SXT 2.0
2013 Dodge Dart SXT 2.0. Click image to enlarge

Weight affects fuel economy too, and despite the Dart’s aerodynamic shape, active grille shutters, variable valve timing, and fuel-saving transmission, the Dart’s fuel economy is near the bottom of the pack: the posted EPA average fuel consumption is 8.7 L/100 km. That compares to the Cruze (8.7), Focus (7.6), Civic (7.4), Elantra (7.4), Sentra (7.1), and Mazda3 (7.1). During my week’s test drive, my test car averaged 8.5 L/100 km. The EPA rates the Dodge Dart with the optional turbo 1.4L engine and six-speed dual-clutch manumatic transmission at 7.6 L/100 km combined, while the Dart Aero 1.4T with its underbody panels and aerodynamic tweaks averages 7.4 L/100 km and gets 5.9 L/100 km on the highway.

Connect with Autos.ca