The Dodge Dart compact is the first completely new product to come out of the Fiat-Chrysler alliance and it has just been tested by Consumer Reports (CR). While buyers don’t necessarily adhere to what the motoring press has to say, CR’s tests still command enough heft in the U.S. market to make a carmaker dread its verdict.
So, how did the Dart do? The good news is that CR, which tested two versions of the Dart, the US$20,680 2.0-liter SXT and the US$24,490 1.4-liter Rallye, praised their quiet cabin, nimble handling and taut yet compliant ride. The bad news is that, neither of them scored high enough to earn the coveted “recommended” tag.
“The Dart is the first decent compact car from Dodge in decades,” said CR’s Auto Test Center director Jake Fisher. “It has some solid positives. But overall it can’t yet measure up to the best in class.”
What robbed the Dart of a better rating is its powertrains. According to the tester, “the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder feels underpowered and the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is raspy and has drivability issues when mated with the optional dual-clutch automated manual transmission.”
The Cadillac XTS and Lincoln MKS luxury were also put to the test and, to the dismay of their makers, CR says that they both “underwhelmed in a class dominated by German, Japanese and Korean models”.
The US$57,200 Caddy flagship (for now) obtained a much higher overall score than its rival and was lauded for its “wonderfully luxurious, very spacious and well-appointed cabin”. Its CUE infotainment system, though, was criticized as being “convoluted and frustrating”.
Ford execs will, once again, be disheartened after reading CR’s verdict. The US$50,070 Lincoln MKS that was tested was found to have a quiet cabin with “excellent” fit and finish, but the overall road-test score of 60 puts it dead last in the luxury sedan class.
The last two models tested in CR’s upcoming January issue were the Chevrolet Spark and the Lexus ES.
Chevy’s subcompact impressed with its fuel economy, usable rear seat, features and price but its “sluggish” performance and stiff ride kept it a good distance off being recommended.
The ES, on the other hand, despite being criticized for “taking a step back in ride and interior refinement” from the previous version, is the sole model of this month’s batch to score high enough as to be recommended.
By Andrew Tsaousis