Sometimes the smallest of things can sour a relationship. We were barely past the honeymoon phase with our Four Seasons 2013 Dodge Dart SXT when we began wondering whether it was time to call it quits. Surging, inconsistent power delivery from its turbo engine and a recalcitrant, clunking dual-clutch transmission overwhelmed any other affection we had for the Dart. Dodge appears to have had the same misgivings, and has relegated the 1.4-liter turbo engine and dual-clutch to the low-volume Aero model. With a new powertrain under the hood of the 2014 Dodge Dart SXT, we decided to take another look and see if we could reconcile with the car.
The 2.4-liter Tigershark engine in this 2014 Dodge Dart has more horsepower but less torque than the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo of our Four Seasons car, but the key difference is its linear and predictable throttle response. With the larger engine, you never have to wait for turbo boost to build or suffer through its surges and lags when you're accelerating. The six-speed automatic, too, is blissfully unremarkable, whereas the dual-clutch frustrated us by hesitating, lurching into gear, and frequently picking the wrong gear altogether. The updated car drives just like any other compact sedan, and that's a big improvement.
With powertrain problems solved, we can focus on the 2014 Dodge Dart's many virtues. The optional UConnect infotainment system remains one of our favorite touchscreens for its intuitive, quick operation. Taut handling and strong brakes make the Dart fun to drive, although it's not quite as good as the segment-leading Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Jetta. The cabin is spacious, the trunk deep, and outward visibility is impressive. In fact, the only demerits are the unusual seat stitching patterns on the sandstone-colored interior fabrics, which clash with the black color scheme and are readily felt through one's backside.
The 2014 Dodge Dart still isn't practical or exciting enough to make it our favorite compact sedan; a Dart GT with this powertrain combo was knocked out early in our most recent compact sedan test. Yet had our Four Seasons Dodge Dart SXT been equipped with this engine and gearbox, we would have liked it a lot more than our unlamented test car.
2014 Dodge Dart SXT
Price As Tested:$22,025
Cargo Capacity:13.1 cubic feet
Fuel Economy:23/35 mpg (city/highway)
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