It has been almost a year since the all-new Dodge Dart and I first made each other’s acquaintance.
Although back then, the setting and context were quite different. We trekked our way through the vibrant city streets of Austin, Texas, then out onto the peripheral backcountry roads dominated by large fields and vast straight stretches.
With the sun shining overhead and a temperate climate surrounding us, we merrily bonded in a state that prides itself on bigness.
While I was big on the Dart during our initial encounter, more seat time with it reinforced my appreciation of the North American carmaker’s compact sedan.
The backdrop to our latest rendezvous included a considerably greener setting, mixed with grey skies, rainfall and a lot more urban driving.
But whether the Dart is taking on the open road or mingling in a metropolitan scene in Vancouver, a few things remain the same: It has an admirable personality with a few cool tricks up its sleeve.
The follow-up seat time really gave me the opportunity to dig my heels into the finer details of the Dart.
While I remember initially liking the cabin composition, my opinion was further solidified.
The instrument cluster, along with the centre stack, looks sharp and well-put-together.
The black-and-red combination is a surefire way to please the eye, since the two hues look great together.
Not to mention that interior components comprise soft-touch materials, giving it an upscale and quality finish. Did I just say that? I guess I did.
Outfitting the centre stack with the optional Uconnect system, which includes an 8.4-inch touch screen and a navigation system ($450), certainly helps when venturing into unfamiliar territory.
And so does the Premium Audio Group ($1,000), which adds a great sound system, remote SD card slot, single-disc CD player and my favourite feature, a rear-view camera.
Even though visibility out the rear end isn’t bad, the additional support is always welcome.
Then there are the front bucket seats that have a nice way of holding me in place.
And speaking of seats, a neat feature of the Dart is the passenger in-seat cushion storage ($295). Stealthily tucked away is a tab you can pull to lift the seat cushion up and store smaller items like MP3 players, a tablet or other things you don’t want in plain sight. Just don’t forget they’re there!
The Dart has other perks.
It’s very easy to get along with, for one thing.
At the heart of its personality is a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, putting out 160 horsepower and 184 lbs.-ft of torque.
That’s not a bad batch of horses for around-town driving, but it’ll add an additional $1,300 to the Rallye’s base MSRP of $17,995.
Enabling the ponies to come out and play is a six-speed manual transmission, which I grew to like throughout our encounter, although not without reservations.
For me, the gear throws were just a tad too long. Most people wouldn’t even think twice about it. Perhaps that’s the sports-car enthusiast bias popping through.
Regardless, shorter throws would have been welcome, but I don’t think they are detrimental to the Dart’s well-being.
Another area where I would have liked to see improvement is with the turbocharged engine. I felt that there was quite a lag to tap into power.
For example, after Ishifted into second gear and floored the accelerator, it took some time to get up to speed, literally.
The sweet spot for torque comes in around 2,500 to 4,000 r.p.m., but it felt like an eternity getting there. But once I had nestled in that sweet spot, life got a little more fun.
At that point, the Dart’s lively demeanour matched up with its sinister exterior styling cues.
The Customer Preferred Package ($1,500) takes this four-door, five-passenger sedan and outfits it with black headlamp bezels, a black grille, a Rallye badge, dual bright exhaust tips, a dual exhaust and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
Not to mention a Redline two-coat pearl exterior paint to liven up this fiery ride.
All in all, the 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye is a vehicle that has no problem offering its driver and passengers a comfortable ride, cool creature comforts, a well-executed interior and exterior and a few perks along the way.
The final price as tested came out to $25,085 including the $1,500 destination charge.
© Copyright 2013