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2013 Dodge Dart long-term update: Big utility in a small package

May 16, 2013

At the four-month mark, our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye checks in with 6,500 miles on the odometer, a log book filled with plenty of compliments — and some grumblings about the transmission we’ll address in the next update.

Praise starts with the Dart’s interior. Front and rear seats are comfortable and, despite feeling ‘cushy,’ hold up well on long trips, as we noted back in March. Six-footers will find plenty of leg and shoulder room. Most pleasantly for a car in this price range, road and wind noise are kept to a minimum even at freeway speeds. My daughter even noticed that there were strips of a velvety material on the sides of the seatbelt buckle to keep extraneous clatter to a minimum. It’s the small things that make the interior satisfying.

The infotainment with the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect  system is my favorite feature on the Dart. The intuitive Garmin navigation system works quickly and is easy to use. We have also had a lot of success with the phone connectivity, and voice clarity on both ends has been exemplary. Frequently used controls like volume and tuning are also available via large rotary knobs on the dash. Same goes for the climate control with separate cold, hot, and defroster buttons, and a dial for fan speed. Staying analog for the essential controls and bucking the trend of touchscreen buttons lets the driver keep eyes on the road, which is where they should be.

Also, the $495 Alpine system with subwoofer proves to be money well spent with its clear, balanced treble. Sirius satellite radio sounds great in this car, in spite of the compressed nature of the satellite signal. Music sounds even better when plugging an audio player into the Aux input or the SD card slot, both of which are tucked away in the center armrest bin.

For a compact sedan, the storage space is deceptively plentiful, with lots of door slots and a neat hidden compartment under the front passenger seat cushion. On one trip to Home Depot I hauled seven 2-cubic feet bags of topsoil in the trunk. That’s 14 cubic feet of space weighing over 350 lbs. It didn’t sag like a poorly dropped low-rider, either; driving the car you would have never known that such a heavy load was stashed in the trunk.

Overall gas mileage has been respectable, netting an average 26.9 mpg. Things improve to 30.4 mpg when looking at only the miles driven during our Dart’s three 700+ mile roundtrips to Southern California up and down Interstate 5. Not bad, but pretty far off the EPA highway estimate of 36 mpg. Our average price for unleaded gasoline has been $4.13/gallon. Rejoice or weep depending on where you live in the country, but so far the Dart has proven to be a trusty hauler.