For the longest time, the compact car segment has been the biggest in Canada. It’s the most competitive, and as the entry point for many first-time new car buyers, an important segment for a brand hoping to “get ‘em young”.

Which is why Dodge has put so much effort into the Dart.

The Dart is very much the underdog in the market too. Honda’s Civic sold more than 65,000 units last year, Hyundai Elantra some 50,000 and Corolla just a shade shy of that. Dodge moved just under 8,000 Darts: which is a shame, frankly.

For many people a compact car is an appliance. It needs to achieve a fairly broad set of goals. It needs to look half good, because that makes them feel better, it needs to get them from A to B reliably, and it needs to achieve a minimum level of comfort and luxury to provide value for money. The top three all execute these functions brilliantly. All other comers need to differentiate themselves somehow.

Dodge differentiates itself with premium materials, a luxury finish and the single best HMI and entertainment system in the segment. The interior is well put together and beautifully designed, but that’s not what impressed me the most.

In this class, I’d choose the Dart for Uconnect alone.

The massive information screen in the dash, plus the massive touchscreen in the centre stack are rich with glorious graphics, an unparalleled depth of information and easy to use controls. There are hard buttons when you need them and, due to the scale of the touchscreen, icons are large and well-spaced, so you always hit them. The system responds faster than almost any other too.

The best feature? The back-of-steering wheel controls for tuning/song selection, audio source and volume.

But there’s more. I always neglect to mention the other thing that sets Dodge products apart from regular audio systems equipped with Bluetooth – you can rewind it. So if you’re driving home from work and BackSpin is playing the Fu-Gee-La, and you want to hear it again, you can! This also meant I was able to keep listening to the ‘Gees as I descended deep into the underground carpark. Usually my ride down into darkness is done in silence.

So, yeah, I love Uconnect. And if you’re buying a car to get from A to B, how you listen to music/keep yourself amused on the journey becomes an important part of your purchasing decision.

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