Our long-term Dodge Dart has been unfairly maligned in these pages before. But we all agree it has its shortcomings. For instance, the suspension really is too soft. The pedals' placement is weird. The engine kind of loses steam shifting between first and second gear.
Have these complaints caused us to lose perspective on the Dart? Maybe we've forgotten that it's the replacement for the hated Caliber. Maybe we haven't considered that our Dart is priced at less than $25,000 -- even with an impressive options list.
The Dart has heated leather seats, still supple after almost 19,000 miles. It has the same two-screen infotainment system you get in a Maserati Quattroporte. There's a fancy, nine-speaker sound system with satellite radio. The interior is good enough overall to make you want to ignore the bits of hard plastic.
As suggested before, the little Dart isn't the most powerful car on the market, and indeed, until the turbo spools, it's kind of a dog. Some might find the challenge in keeping the turbo turning fun. Plus, we're still hovering at a fuel economy average of just under 30 mpg -- that must count for something, right? The chassis shows potential, but it's clear it's been tuned for the mass market. Comfort is prioritized over performance here.
More problematic are the quality and reliability issues we've been starting to see. Reading the Dart's logbook reveals a series of check-engine-light issues that are not of the “loose gas cap” variety. We had an overboost condition that left the car down on power, trouble with the clutch, and a couple of service bulletins, but nothing that's kept the car out of service ... at least not this quarter.
Many cars have “issues” during their first year or so of production. It's worth questioning if our Dart's issues are of the first-year teething variety or more a matter of long-term quality.
Before we recommend it, we need to know. However, the fair price, solid chassis and generally pleasing design both inside and out leave some of us looking forward to future Dart iterations, even if the bugs aren't worked out yet.
AS-TESTED PRICE: $24,790
MILES DRIVEN (QUARTER /TO DATE): 7,994.5/18,705.7
FUEL ECONOMY (QUARTER/TO DATE): 30.37 mpg/28.7 mpg
FUEL COST (QUARTER/TO DATE): $1,047/$2,515.27
DAYS OUT OF SERVICE (QUARTER): NONE/NONE
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