SLOW-STARTING DART’S SALES BLAST OFF
Base price $21,195
The Dart asks a lot of anyone looking for a new ride in this price range unless they were around during the Ford administration and specifically want a ride that reminds them of 49-cent gasoline and Bachman-Turner-Overdrive.
Specifically, the Dart asks you to forget the words “Toyota” and “Honda” and take a chance on this not-ferocious compact whose 2013 relaunch didn’t set the auto world on fire sales-wise, although it eventually gathered steam and sales are up a whopping 52% this year. The Dart’s pluses are its fun-to-drive flavor, its swank insides for the coin they’re asking and its unique looks which you may or may not love but which guarantee you’ll never lose it in parking lots. It’s even based on a modified version of a European-market Alfa Romeo, deflating some of the plastique flavor common to so many American cars, although the Dart is still more Charger-ish than Italiano.
It comes in three different 4-cylinder engines and five different trims, from the base SE to the kitchen-sink Limited, as well as including many class-specific goodies. But even my test model, the ballsier GT, outfitted with a 184-horsepower, 2.4 litre, 4-cylinder plant with an optional 6-speed tranny didn’t tear up any highways. It’s just not that kind of car, though it would be fun if it was and perhaps if sales continue their healthy upward trajectory, we’ll get a special edition with some true ferocity in a couple of years. Steering’s better than acceleration due to MacPherson struts up front, tuned to minimize camber loss for more responsive steering, and a multi-link suspension in the rear.
Its safety features are world-class, meaning if you’re buying this for your kid, they’ll be protected as well as they can be. It’s got 10 standard airbags, for instance, and crash-test results give the Dart the maximum “good” rating in four out of five crash test ratings. Go for the extras like leather seats, a premium sound system, a power sunroof, and an especially crisp, clear 8.4-inch color touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity as well as navigation, a reversing camera, and more, and you’ll end up spending around $26,000.
An optional Technology Package adds rear parking sensors, a blind spot warning system with rear cross-path detection, HID headlights, automatic high-beams, and rain-sensing wipers. New colors launched this year include Passion Red, Laser Blue, and Vitamin C. (As in “C how much fun we are?”) Soft-touch materials lend a pleasing upscale appearance to the cabin, which is also a best-in-class winner for hip and shoulder room for the big and tall among us. Another great plus is the car’s Uconnect Access integrating most of your audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit. An 8.4-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard shows you what you’re doing or where you’re going. You can also, for a monthly fee, enable Wi-fi, making your Dart a hot spot with search Apps.
The Dart is aimed at budget-minded individuals rather than those whose tastes run mainstream. We could use more of that in America, yes?