January 8th, 2013 by Steve Cypher

Dodge has announced that the 2013 Dart GT will make its debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show

The dream

First the good news.

According to the press release, “The sporty Dart GT model originally made its debut in 1963 and offered drivers enhanced performance and style, including a heavy-duty suspension that delivered improved ride and handling characteristics.”

Building on that legacy, earlier today Chrysler’s Dodge brand announced that a new Dart model would be making its debut at the upcoming 2013 Detroit Auto Show. The new model, also called the Dart GT, will come with be based on the Dart Limited and will add a number of upmarket niceties including:

•    Standard 2.4-liter Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with MultiAir 2
•    Six-speed manual or optional six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission
•    Sport-tuned suspension with frequency sensing damping shocks
•    Unique “performance” front fascia with black grille and accents
•    Black headlamp bezels
•    Racetrack LED taillamps
•    Dual exhaust with bright tips
•    Perforated heated (front) black (or two-tone black/red) Nappa Leather seats with red stitching
•    Power driver seat with power lumbar support
•    Heated multi-function leather steering wheel
•    Dual zone automatic climate control
•    Standard 8.4-inch touchscreen
•    Standard 7-inch configurable instrument cluster TFT display
•    Ambient LED interior lighting
•    Automatic headlamps
•    Projector fog lamps
•    Power windows and heated outside mirrors
•    Rear backup camera
•    Security alarm
•    Front and rear floor mats

“The new Dart GT embodies the best attributes that compact car buyers are looking for, including outstanding style, performance, technology and value,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO Dodge Brand. “With 184 horsepower, 18-inch aluminum wheels, sport suspension, premium leather interior and several class-exclusive features, the Dart GT represents the sweet spot in the compact car market, offering mid-size roominess combined with premium amenities for only $20,995 MSRP.”

The reality

Now for the bad news.

With all those goodies, the fact remains that the GT, beneath all this, remains a 2013 Dodge Dart.

Back in October when I finally managed some seat time in one, I found its manual transmission to be sloppy, although it was better than the automatic, which upshifted far too soon to offer anything akin to entertainment.

Feedback from the braking system was also vague – making it nearly impossible to modulate the brake pedal properly. Finally, the front seats were flat and unsupportive – something I hope Dodge has addressed before wrapping them in leather.

The bottom line to all this is that while the Dart is a major step up from the gone but not yet forgotten Caliber, it still can’t hold a candle to such segment stars as the Ford Focus and Mazda Mazda3.

Speaking of the Mazda3, price-wise the entry-level i Touring is about a grand less than the Dodge. And while the Mazda lacks the bells and whistles, it is capable of driving circles around any current Dart.

And while we’re hoping for both a handling and performance improvement from the 2.4-liter engine, we won’t hold our breath, as it may take another six months or more before we can get our hands on one.

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