The big change for the 2014 Dodge Dart is expanded availability of the 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Previously exclusive to the GT, it's now standard on the SXT and Limited trim levels as well. The fuel-economy-themed Aero is the only 2014 Dart equipped with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Finally, note that Dodge has made the Aero and GT trim levels and not packages, as they were last year.
If you're shopping for an affordable compact sedan, you'll almost certainly run across the 2014 Dodge Dart. One of many capable small cars on the market today, the Dart is notable for its roomy interior, slick audio-entertainment interface and eye-catching style. A few lapses in refinement and usability tempered our praise for last year's car, but things are looking up for the 2014 Dart. Dodge has made its likable, 184-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine standard on most trim levels, and even in a class that puts practicality on a pedestal, a little extra power never hurts.
To be clear, this is an impressive horsepower figure for a compact sedan, and most competitors can't match it. Couple that with the Dodge's pleasant ride quality and capable handling around turns, and there's no denying that the Dart has plenty of positives. On the other hand, we're less enthusiastic about the 2.0-liter engine in the base Dart SE. In spite of the engine's respectable 160-hp rating, acceleration is barely adequate in normal driving. The SE's fuel economy is merely average, too, although it's better than the 2.4's, which is subpar for a small sedan.
For excellent fuel economy, you need to choose the fuel economy-themed Aero trim. Unfortunately, the Aero's unresponsive automated manual transmission makes it difficult to drive the car smoothly in typical traffic situations. Finally, there are some design and fit-and-finish issues inside the Dodge Dart. In our testing, drivers of varying sizes have found it difficult to find a good seating position, due to the front seats' odd shape and overly high seat-bottom cushion. And although the Dodge Dart's trunk is decent-sized, day-to-day usability is compromised by the lid's weak hinges and sharp metal protrusions from the top deck.
For these reasons, you'll likely want to check out a few of the Dart's rivals. The 2014 Mazda 3 is one of our favorite small sedans in this price range, as it achieves a stellar balance between ride comfort and sporty handling, and has a high-quality interior to boot. Other excellent choices include the 2014 Ford Focus and Honda Civic, both of which ride exceptionally well and offer nicely furnished interiors.
The 2014 Kia Forte is also worth a look, as it, like the Dart, boasts sharp styling and a very user-friendly touchscreen infotainment interface. In addition, we can easily recommend the base engine offerings on the Ford, Honda and Mazda, as all deliver solid performance and outstanding mpg.
Published: Monday, December 23, 2013