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2014 Dodge Dart: Have it your way

by: CHRYSLER FIAT MOTOR COMPANY - The Dodge Dart is all dressed up and ready to go for 2014.Dodge has come up with neat trick to keep its 2014 Dart competitive in the hotly-contest compact car market niche — offer it with a dizzying array of trim levels and option packages that allow buyers to tailor it to their needs. And offer all of them at ridiculously low prices.

As a result, the base Dart starts at under $17,000 and tops out at less than $25,000, both vary affordable process these days. Engines include a fuel-sipping turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four, the base 2.0-liter inline four, and the most powerful 2.4-liter inline four. Buyers can choose from five trim levels and add option packages that include special colors, two larger alloy wheels, exterior and interior appearance upgrades, a sunroof and improved sound system, and an 8.4-inch touch screen.

All of this is available on a sleekly-styled compact that offers almost as much interior room as some midsize cars. Dodge's optional Uconnect multimedia system is also one of the easiest to use on the market, allow drivers to stay connected and quickly adjust convenience, entertainment, information and navigation functions without becoming overly distracted.

Our test 2014 Dart came with the 2.4-liter engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. It was also equipped with two very complete option packages. One was the Rallye Appearance Package, which included can't-miss orange and black paint, special cloth seat covers, 17-inch black aluminum wheels, a touring suspensions and more. Another was the Consumer Preferred Package, which included the 8.4-inch Uconnect Touch Screen Group, remote CD player, and iPod connectivity.

With all of that, our Dart still listed at under $23,000, which is a bargain these days.

The Dart was the first joint design effort between Chrysler and Fiat since the two companies essentially merged during Chrysler's bankruptcy. The Italian company's influence is apparent in the body and interior designs, while traditional American buyers will appreciate the creature comforts and conveniences.

The Dart is also the first compact Chrysler since the Neon, which was sold by Dodge and the now-defunct Plymouth brands between 1995 and 2005. Like the Dart, Neons could be ordered with a wide range of trim levels and option packages, including a rally race-ready ACR version and a toned down R/T model. A high-performance turbocharged SRT-4 version was also available during the last few production years.

The Neon was replaced by the Dodge Caliber, a crossover that was available with all-wheel-drive. It got worse mileage than the Neon and came out as gas prices started spiking, however, leaving Chrysler without a real economy car just when that became important again.

The Dart now fills that gap nicely.

2014 Dodge Dart

Base price: $16,495

Price as tested: $22,520

Type: 4-door, 4-passenger front-wheel drive hardtop

Engines: T1.4 I-4, 2.0 I-4, 2.4 I-4.

EPA estimated mileage: 23 city/35 highway

Overall length: 183.9 inches

Curb weight: 3,186 pounds

Final assembly: Belvidere, Illinois