Dodge's new compact is a huge improvement but it's got a few weak spots.
A must-make shot
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Base price: $15,995
Base engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Fuel economy: 25 City / 36 Hwy
Before the new Dodge Dart hit the streets, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne had said the carmaker couldn't afford to miss the target with this one. He was absolutely right.
As the first model born entirely from Chrysler and Fiat's marriage, the Dart has much more riding on it than just compact car sales. The Dart is based on a combination of Fiat engineering and American design. Americans are looking to it as an indication of what these two carmakers can really do together.
And the answer is... They can do pretty well. But if they really want to score, they'll need to do even better.
The Dart is a huge improvement over the Dodge Caliber which it's replacing, but that's not saying much. It was easy to be better than the Caliber, a car so bad that even Chrysler executives no longer tried to defend it.
But compared to its true competition -- other high-quality compact cars -- the Dart is actually a strong entry in its segment. It beats most competitors in many areas that car buyers really care about, such as interior roominess.
But there's still plenty of room left for improvement.