As great a year as Chrysler had in 2011 after introducing 16 new vehicles, Dodge brand President and CEO Reid Bigland knows compacts are one area where it needs to improve.
So the rejuvenated automaker, which saw sales increase 43 percent last year, unveiled the new Dart compact four-door sedan at the Detroit Auto Show Monday. It enters the country’s largest segment, one that is expected to grow as more people downsize in the face of increasing fuel prices.
Affordability, reliability and great fuel economy are just the minimum barriers for entry in the compact class, the automaker’s new entry in the market will focus on customization and features, some of which it claims are not currently available in this class.
The resurrected 2013 Dart, which will replace the Caliber. Bigland said the automaker was able to start with a clean sheet of paper when it designed the car that will replace the Caliber.
The Dart is based on a platform from Alfa Romeo, which is part if Italian owner Fiat.
The car will be available with three engine choices, as well as three transmissions. Five trim levels, 12 exterior colors and 14 color and trim choices, six wheel options and five model trim levels, will give buyers thousands of choices to customize their vehicle. A reconfigurable instrument panel offers hundreds of customization options.
It will also come standard with 10 airbags and class-exclusive safety features including rear available cross-path detection.
As is becoming the norm these days, the Dart will offer plenty of connectivity options. A downloadable cellphone app will allow owners to locate their car in a parking lot, start and unlock their vehicle.
The Dart borrows a feature first seen in the Journey crossover – under-seat storage.
Bigland said the Dart may have compact dimensions on the outside, but it has midsize space inside.
Dart’s three four cylinder engines are:
- Base 2.0-liter – 160 horsepower, 145 pound-feet torque,
- Optional 1.4-liter – 160 horsepower, turbocharged using Fiat’s Multi-Air technology
- Optional 2.4-liter – 184 horsepower, Multi-Air
Bigland said that while final figures are not yet available, Dodge expects the Dart to be rated at as high as 40 miles per gallon on the highway.
Dodge is also hedging its best on transmission offerings. A six-speed manual will be standard, but it will offer two automatic options: a conventional six-speed automatic and six-speed dual-clutch automated manual. Some drivers have been turned off by the new automated manuals, which may be why Dodge will give automatic drivers a choice.
Prices will start at $15,995.
The Dart will be built in Belvidere, Ill., where the Caliber is currently built.