Chrysler on a Roll, Betting on the New Dart

New Dodge Dart, front

Hallelujah, Chrysler reported sales for April up 20 percent. It was the company’s best April since 2008 and the eleventh consecutive month of 20 percent or better sales increases. GM, Ford and Toyota were all down.

Hey, if you can’t sell cars in April, when can you sell ’em?

Sales leaders were of course the Ram, but also the Chrysler 200 and its midsize sedan cousins. Even the FIAT 500 showed good gains.

The big money, however, is riding on the new Dodge Dart which, unlike the refashioned Avenger and other Chrysler holdover products, is an entirely new car. As you should know by now, it’s built on a much-modified Alfa Romeo platform and has more than a little of the Italian flair of that marque.

The big question is how this bastard child will compete against cars like the Focus and Cruze, among others, in the hotly contended compact segment.

New Dodge Dart, interiorJudging from the first reviews, it ought to do just fine. Consumer Reports was, naturally, reserved and noncommittal. Andrew Ganz, of Left Lane, indulged himself in an irrelevant, dumb intro about Austin’s music scene and finally got to praise most of the car’s features.

Winding Road’s Seyth Miersma took six paragraphs of blah-blah to get to the Dart (I hate verbose car writers), liked the car, particularly against the competition, and hoped it might start a Dodge small-car turnaround—after a history of some pretty terrible vehicles.

Roger Hart’s review in Autoweek was the fairest and most complete, I thought. He pointed out that the Dart’s real edge is that it is available in five different trims,

with three engine choices, three transmission choices, 12 exterior color choices, 14 interior trim combinations and more than 100,000 ways in which to configure it.

The base 2-liter engine makes 160 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque; the 1.4-liter MultiAir adds more torque (to 184 lb-ft); the 2.4 MultiAir gives you 184 hp and 171 lb-ft. So, there are some interesting choices here.

The road testers didn’t get to drive the 2.4, but all liked the 1.4 with the manual tranny. Most found the base engine a bit sluggish, particularly with the automatic.

The Dart’s interior has more room than its competitors, with decent materials; the seats are supportive and sculpted. Handling and steering are good; there is some cabin noise. Fuel economy is predicted to be in the 29-32 mpg combined range. Prices range from $15,995 to $22,495.

With the enormous range of custom options, its Alfa heritage and (so far) good reviews, I’d put money on this car. Not to buy it, but to bet on its success.

Do you think Chrysler’s sales performance to date will ensure the Dart’s success?

—jgoods

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  1. Randy
    | #1

    Let’s hope it’s more Alfa than Dodge. It has the potential to be a real winner.

  1. | #1
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