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2015 Dodge Dart REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/3/2017

Con: Sluggish acceleration with base engine; Aero model's unrefined automated transmission; front seats are oddly contoured and mounted too high.

Interior: The Dodge Dart makes a nice first impression, with padded surfaces, dash stitching and available flares of colorful trim. Build quality isn't exactly up to that of the segment leaders, though. We highly recommend springing for the available 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, which you can get with or without a navigation system. It features straightforward menus, large on-screen buttons and an accompanying knob that makes whipping through iPod menus a breeze. Processing times are quick, too, and if you need to enter a destination on the move, the voice control works surprisingly well. In Darts without this interface, the standard stereo head unit clumsily plugs into the same spot, reinforcing the notion that you missed out on something better.

There's good space for occupants up front, but the Dart's front seats are oddly shaped and feel as if they're mounted too high. As a result, longer-legged drivers may find they can't lower the seat-bottom cushion enough for optimum comfort. In addition, the steering wheel has a limited range of tilt adjustment, so you may find you can't position that low enough either.

Meanwhile, the backseat offers plenty of legroom for adults, though 6-footers may run short on headroom. Trunk capacity is 13.1 cubic feet, an average number in this class. Although the trunk holds a decent amount of gear, the hinges on its lid are unusually weak, making it all too easy to close the trunk accidentally when loading bulky or heavy items.

Body: The 2015 Dodge Dart is a five-passenger compact sedan available in five trim levels: SE, SXT, Aero, GT and Limited.

The base SE comes sparsely equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, power windows, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable front seats, cloth upholstery, a folding rear seat, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an MP3 player and an auxiliary audio jack. The optional Convenience Group adds underbody aerodynamic enhancements, active grille shutters, body-color door handles, power mirrors and locks, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a USB port.

The SXT gets many of the Convenience Group features as standard (the USB port, active grille shutters and underbody enhancements are not included), and then adds 16-inch aluminum wheels, automatic headlights, upgraded cloth upholstery and interior trim, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a sliding front armrest, a rear seat armrest with cupholder and a six-speaker sound system.

The SXT is eligible for several options packages. The Uconnect Touchscreen Group adds an upgraded instrument panel, an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, satellite radio, a rearview camera and a USB/iPod interface. The Sun/Sound Group adds the same equipment as the Touchscreen Group along with a sunroof and a nine-speaker Alpine sound system. The Cold Weather Group adds power heated mirrors, heated front seats and remote engine start (on Darts with the automatic transmission). The Rallye and California Appearance Groups differ only in badging, and add 17-inch black aluminum wheels, active grille shutters, underbody dynamic enhancements, a sportier tune for the suspension, special exterior and interior design elements, dual exhaust tips, foglamps and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The Blacktop package adds 18-inch black aluminum wheels, foglamps, side mirrors with unique black trim and Yokohama tires.

The fuel-economy-themed Aero has all the SXT's standard equipment (minus the auxiliary audio jack, CD player, rear seat armrest and 60/40-split rear seat), and adds low-rolling-resistance tires (16-inch), active grille shutters, underbody aerodynamic enhancements and the Technology Group.

The Dart GT includes the SXT's equipment, along with the Technology Group, Cold Weather Group and the Aero's aerodynamic enhancements. It also gets 18-inch wheels, foglamps, dual exhaust tips, keyless ignition and entry, an even sportier suspension calibration than you get with the Rallye package, different exterior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a soft-touch instrument panel and ambient interior lighting. A version of the Sun/Sound Group with just the sunroof and Alpine audio system is optional on the GT.

The Dart Limited has all the GT's equipment (minus the exhaust tips) but reverts to 17-inch wheels and the Rallye package's suspension tune. It also comes with remote ignition, a sunroof, a navigation system (optional on all other trims but the SE), real-time traffic, perforated leather upholstery and chrome exterior trim. The Alpine stereo is a stand-alone option.

Both the Limited and GT can be equipped with the Technology Group, which adds xenon headlights, automatic high-beam control, automatic wipers, rear parking sensors, a blind-spot warning system and a rear cross-traffic alert system.

All trims are available with a Mopar Interior package that adds a cargo net, all-weather floor mats, a cargo tray and unique door sill guards. Available Mopar Exterior packages add special body cladding.

Driving: The 2015 Dodge Dart has responsive handling and well-weighted steering, and overall, it goes around turns with confidence. Almost all trim levels also offer a comfortable ride, making it a good candidate for road trips. The exception to all this is the Dart GT. It handles more crisply than other Darts, but the degradation in ride quality -- the GT gets pretty jiggly over rough pavement -- isn't worth the incremental handling improvement in our opinion.

None of the Dart's three available engines are standouts. The Dart's base 2.0-liter engine doesn't really have enough guts for a car this size. Acceleration is passable with the manual transmission, but the optional six-speed automatic slows the car down significantly. The Aero model's turbocharged 1.4-liter engine achieves better fuel economy and provides punchier performance, but it gets noisy during hard acceleration. In addition, the automated manual transmission that most buyers choose is slow to respond to gas pedal inputs and often feels like it's in the wrong gear. The best pick is the 2.4-liter engine. You don't get optimal fuel economy with it, but it nevertheless feels considerably more lively in real-world driving situations, with highway merging and passing maneuvers being significantly easier.

What’s New: The 2015 Dodge Dart's touchscreen adds Android smartphone compatibility for Bluetooth phones and streaming music, as well as USB connectivity to play music from the device. The CD player is no longer standard on all models and is now a stand-alone option available on certain trims. Finally, the 2.4-liter engine is now available with Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) specifications in the 14 California Air Resources Board (CARB) states.

Three engines are available for the 2015 Dodge Dart. The base SE model comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 160 hp and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped Dart with this engine accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds, a slow time for a compact sedan in this price range. An automatic-equipped car would be even slower. The EPA rates the manual version at 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway) while the automatic rates 27 mpg combined (24 city/34 highway).

Standard on the Aero is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automated manual is optional. In Edmunds testing, a Dart with the turbo engine and manual transmission hit 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, which is average for the segment. The automated manual transmission added only 0.2 second to that time. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 32 combined (28/41) with the conventional manual and 32 combined (28/40) with the automated manual.

Standard on the SXT, GT and Limited is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the SXT and GT, while a six-speed automatic transmission is optional on these trims and standard on the Limited. During Edmunds testing, a Dart GT with the automatic also did the 0-60 sprint in 8.4 seconds. EPA estimates for the SXT and Limited are underwhelming for the small car segment, however, at 27 mpg combined (23 city/35 highway) with the automatic; the manual is the same apart from having a 22 mpg city rating. Ratings for the Dart GT are 27 combined (23/33) for the manual and 26 combined (22/31) for the automatic.

Safety: Every 2015 Dodge Dart comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. A rearview camera is available on most trims. The optional Technology package on the GT and Limited includes rear parking sensors, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

In government crash testing, the Dart earned the highest possible rating of five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for total frontal-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Dart a top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset impact test, the Dart earned an "Acceptable" rating (second highest on a scale of four). Its seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Dart Limited came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, putting it among the best in the segment. A Dart GT performed the same feat in an impressively short 116 feet. A Dart Aero equipped with low-rolling-resistance tires, however, took 134 feet, which is 10 feet longer than average.

Pro: Spacious cabin; excellent optional electronics interface; energetic acceleration with the 2.4-liter engine; top safety scores.

Edmunds Say: For the money, the 2015 Dodge Dart offers roominess, ample feature content and abundant style. But powertrain and refinement weaknesses relegate it to mid-pack status in the small-sedan segment.

Introduction: With its eye-catching sheet metal and roomy cabin, the 2015 Dodge Dart makes a strong first impression. However, get to know the sedan and it becomes clear it falls short of its rivals in fundamental areas. Whether or not this good-looking Dodge is the car for you will depend on where your priorities lie.

In many ways, the Dart is a rewarding companion. Its sheet metal is striking enough to turn heads, and its cabin is both accommodating and attractive. The available "Uconnect" touchscreen infotainment interface looks slick and modern, and leads the pack with its user-friendly design and expansive functionality. Non-GT trims of the Dart boast impressive handling, and the sedan's safety scores are beyond reproach.

However, the Dart lacks an overall refinement that its main rivals possess and stumbles in areas that are of importance to many buyers in this segment. First of all, its powertrain lineup misses the mark. The base engine is slow and unremarkable. You get good fuel economy with the Aero trim's turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, but its unrefined automated manual transmission makes smooth driving difficult. Meanwhile, the 184-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder that's standard on most trims provides satisfying acceleration, but fuel economy is middling. Another weakness concerns seat comfort, as the Dart's front seats are marred by placement and contours that will likely make them an unpleasant fit for many passengers.

Given all this, it makes sense to seriously consider the Dart's competition. The 2015 Mazda 3 is very impressive, with engaging handling, exceptional fuel economy and a refined interior. The 2015 Ford Focus and Honda Civic are also worth a look, as both cars ride quite well and feature attractive cabins. Like the Dart, the 2015 Kia Forte boasts head-turning sheet metal and an intuitive touchscreen infotainment interface, but it doesn't suffer from the Dart's drawbacks. What's more, the 3, Focus, Civic and Forte all offer base engines that outpace the Dart's both in performance and mpg. Each also received "A" ratings from Edmunds.com, while the Dart got an overall "C" rating. So while the Dart might be an appealing choice for a driver keenly focused on style and performance, we think most small sedan shoppers will be happier with one of the aforementioned options.

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