The majority of the compact-sedan class has been heavily revised or totally redesigned in the past two years, and Dodge has just rolled out its Alfa Romeo-based Dart, the latest entry in a hotly contested segment. Will the Dart be able to topple the best of the bunch from the top spot?
The 2013 Dart is more than just a new model -- it is Dodge's first competitive small-car offering since the Neon was killed off in 2005. Most notably, it is the first Dodge byproduct of the Chrysler-Fiat merger. Modified versions of the same platform and powertrain found in Alfa Romeo's Giulietta hatchback hide beneath the Dart's slick sheetmetal.
Last year, we rounded up the top six compact sedans and we came away impressed by the high style, advanced technology, and fun-yet-frugal engines offered in the segment. To see how the Dart compares, we've pitted it against the top four contenders from last year's test: the Ford Focus, the Honda Civic, the Hyundai Elantra, and the Mazda 3. Last time, the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Cruze finished in last place and second-to-last (respectively), so we opted to leave them out of this comparison.
We wanted to look at what most consumers will be buying, so we avoided top-trim models in favor of automatic-equipped, mid-grade sedans. There were two exceptions: Ford did not have a sedan available for our testing so we used a hatchback instead (however, almost half of Focuses sold this year were hatchbacks, so we let it slide). We wanted to test the Dart's new MultiAir 1.4-liter turbo-four, but Chrysler had just begun production of its new dual-clutch automatic, so a six-speed manual had to suffice for our test. In this very competitive group, does the 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye have what it takes to beat the 2012 Ford Focus SEL, the 2012 Honda Civic EX, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GLS, and the 2012 Mazda 3i Touring?
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