Remember the Dodge Neon? Yes, yes, there are plenty of jokes out there concerning this car especially because of boy-racer internet forumites telling fables of their SRT-4s dicing M3s and Mustangs and leaving them for dead.
It was funny at the time, because it was cool to hate a Dodge. The Caliber that replaced the Neon was even funnier, unfortunately… How times have changed. Pretty much the entire 2012 model year Chrysler family catalogue is filled to the brim with excellent cars. Durango, Charger, 300, upcoming SRT8 Challenger, Chrysler 200… Not to mention that we're soon getting a Viper-shaped treat.
Dodge is no laughing matter any more. Particularly when you look at the new Dart, just launched in Detroit.
The 2013 model blends Alfa Romeo DNA — don't forget that Fiat's Sergio Marchionne is in charge these days — with a North American-bred design. This means the Dart sits on an Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform but the American team stretched the wheelbase by 4in and widened the track too. That should pay dividends for ride comfort, dynamics and interior room.
The awesome looking exterior was entirely designed in the States and was inspired by classic cars that didn't need unnecessary jewellery to make them stand out.
"The Dodge Dart was a dream to design," said Joe Dehner, head of Dodge design. "The Alfa Romeo-based architecture allowed us to design an exterior with great proportions that say ‘fun-to-drive' when you look at it. Add in the Charger-inspired ‘racetrack' taillamps, a new, sleek crosshair grille and piano black accents and it all adds up to a performance-inspired design with just the right amount of attitude."
We don't usually print quotes such as that one, because what else is a designer of a car going to say other than, "it's the greatest thing ever"? But this time, we agree. And why not? For a compact saloon pitching into Dh60K territory, the Dart looks absolutely fantastic.
It even gets better on the inside, with some nicely sculpted shapes dominating the dash design, and a smattering of high-quality materials. The Dart's layout is all "driver-centric", meaning everything is close at hand, while the in-built 8.4in display and 7in instruments are customisable. To keep us interested, Dodge is also offering 14 interior colour and trim combinations, seven wheel options, and in total 150 customisation options.
The 2013 Dart will boast a range of three four-cylinder engines, kicking it off with a new 160bhp Tigershark 2.0-litre, Fiat's 160bhp 1.4-litre turbo, and another new Tigershark 2.4-litre good for 184 horsepower. You'll also get a choice of three six-speed gearboxes; an auto, a twin-clutch, and a manual, but only an auto in the GCC when it gets here in Q4.
It all sounds to us like Dodge simply took a pretty sweet car — the Giulietta — and just made it better in all areas. In fact, even the aerodynamics and safety performance have been improved with the Dart. And since a 168bhp Giulietta gets from 0-10kph in 7.7 seconds, we expect the 184bhp Dart to comfortably carry the tag of performance compact saloon.
Now, anybody want to come up with some Dart jokes? Thought not…