For those not following along at home, the Cruze went in the shop yesterday due to a bad PCV. On this particular engine it’s integral to the cam cover and the whole assembly costs about $80. Lucky for me I have a little bit of warranty left and this was covered. The dealership had the part in stock and was able to fix the car yesterday, unfortunately I didn’t get the call until it was too late for me to make it up there, so I went this morning to pick the car up.
That also meant I got to spend a little bit more time with my 2016 Dodge Dart SXT rental car. It’s hard to give a very thorough review of a car when you only have it for 24 hours, but I’ll highlight a few key things that jumped out at me below:
Looks: Call me crazy, but I think the Dart is a nice looking little car. It somehow straddles the line between aggressive and cute, like a puppy who thinks he’s a full grown dog. It certainly beats the Civic and Corolla in my mind, both of which I think are ugly.
Performance: Dodge always seems to hit the mark here. The Dart can be had with 3 engines, a 2.0L 160HP, a 1.4L Turbo 160HP, and a 2.4L 184HP mill. All cars have the option of either a 6 speed manual or 6 speed automatic. My rental SXT had the 2.4L and 6 speed automatic. The 2.4L felt pretty fast and effortless. My Cruze is tuned to about 180HP and I would say the Dart feels just as fast, though lacks the midrange urgency of the Cruze with it’s turbo at full spool. The 6 speed automatic was good, but not great. Shifts were usually pretty snappy and it picked the right gear most of the time, making it better than other autoboxes I’ve driven recently but it still leaves something to be desired. It has a manual mode which I fooled with a little bit, and it was again better than some implementations I’ve tried but not the best.
Ride and Handling: Again the Dart gets good marks here from me. I didn’t have a chance to really beat hard on it, but it felt responsive and grippy. Steering was particularly notable as feeling quite direct and having just the right amount of heaviness.
Interior: Here’s where the Dart begins unravels. I will say that it’s not absolutely terrible, it’s better than the old Neon, but it’s just not up to snuff. The materials still feel cheap and the dash is a vast expanse of hard plastic. I found the seats to be less than comfortable, though I did warm up to them a little bit after more fiddling, but they still aren’t great. The climate control is simple and easy to use, the traditional 3 knob arrangement, but I found the radio and steering wheel controls for the DIC to be non-intuitive. Again, it’s not completely terrible, I just think Dodge is really a generation behind here, as I’d liken the interior to my Chevy Cobalt.
Another note, Dodge’s build quality seems to strike again. This car seemed to make a lot of random noises and rattles, especially at highway speeds despite it being a 2016 with only 9200 miles.
Verdict: This car offers a performance value in the compact/economy segment if you can live with the offputting interior and questionable build quality.