Fun At The Wheel And 41 MPG For Less Than $20,000

Written By Thomas Ponco on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 | 10:30 PM

The first Sports Cars are considered to be (though the term would not be coined until after World War One) the 3 litre made in 1910 Vauxhall 20 hp (15 kW) and 27/80PS Austro-Daimler (designed by Ferdinand Porsche).

Published August 9, 2012

By Philippe Crowe


Photo by P. Crowe.

Dodge is in the midst of launching its all-new compact car, the Dart, a car which promises European handling and top class interior for the segment.

Why are we featuring this car on a Web site dedicated to green cars? How about the possibility of reaching at least 41 mpg out of a gas-powered 3,191-pound car.

Before we get to that, we’ll note the Dodge Dart can be powered by a 160 horsepower 16-valve 1.4-liter MultiAir Intercooled Turbo engine. This 1.4-liter MulitAir turbo engine mated to the six-speed manual transmission has an EPA fuel economy rating of 27 mpg City / 39 mpg Highway / 32 mpg Combined.

This engine is available from the SXT model as a $1,300 option. While the Dart starts at $15,995, the lowest priced Dart with MultiAir will cost in the U.S. $19,295 (SXT at $17,995 + $1,300 for the 1.4 liter MultiAir).

MultiAir is a technology developed by Fiat that helps deliver optimum combustion at any speed under all driving conditions by allowing direct and dynamic control of air intake and combustion. The result is up to a 15 percent increase in low engine rpm torque and a 7.5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency.

Like the Focus, the Dart equipped with the MultiAir has louvers behind the grille adjusting the airflow to the engine according to speed, which helps aerodynamics.

Talking about aerodynamics, the regular Dart is rated at an impressive 0.285 cd.

And as for the aforementioned hybrid-like fuel economy without the hybridization, Dodge will introduce a Dodge Dart "Aero" model (available 3rd quarter 2012) that will achieve at least 41 mpg on the highway. Dodge officials were tight lipped when asked about the difference between this Aero model and other Dart equipped with the 1.4 MultiAir.

What we do know is that the Aero will have specific aerodynamic modifications and the model is expected to have a slightly remapped version of the 1.4 MultiAir. This model will go head to head with the Cruze Eco on the marketplace.

For comparison’s sake, a 2013 Malibu Eco will return 37 mpg on the highway, a Ford Focus will return 38 mpg on the highway and a Toyota Prius liftback 48 in the same conditions. As for the Cruze Eco (3,011 pounds), the Dart Aero’s direct competitor also with a 1.4 liter turbo, it returns 42 mpg highway out of 138 horsepower; the regular Cruze with the same engine returns 38 mpg.

We sampled a Dart Rallye model with the 1.4-liter MulitAir Turbo engine coupled to the 6-speed manual for a short 50-mile initial drive.

Those expecting a sluggish off the line vehicle will be surprised. The 1.4 liter engine gets up and goes easily and is a decent performer. Interestingly, the fuel consumption was very close to the advertised ratings (according to the computer) even though we did not drive it in an economical way.

The Dart is based off of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and the handling showed. This compact Dodge features nice driving dynamics while still being comfortable. To create the Dart, the Giulietta platform was widened by two inches, the wheelbase lengthened by three inches and the overall car is a foot longer.

We are looking forward to a longer test to be able to properly measure fuel consumption and see if the car delivers as advertised, on highway and in the city. Our initial contact looks promising for those who may need space, still want decent fuel consumption but can’t financially stretch themselves all the way to a $24,000 Prius liftback.

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