Though no definitive statement has been made when the Dart will descend into its last throes, it’s clear that the model’s future is decidedly unclear.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) raised eyebrows earlier this year when it did some thinking aloud about phasing out the compact Dodge Dart and the mid-size Chrysler 200.

Observers noted this would leave the company without any smaller family vehicles to which the manufacturer suggested the market was moving – permanently – towards trucks and small crossover utility vehicles. A view shared by some of its rivals.

Though no definitive statement has been made when the Dart will descend into its last throes, it’s clear that the model’s future is decidedly unclear!

Undoubtedly, the existing Dart will go but now there is a possibility that the name will continue but its manufacture will be outsourced to another company. Go figure.

2016 Dodge Dart Limited
2016 Dodge Dart Limited
2016 Dodge Dart GT
2016 Dodge Dart
2016 Dodge Dart
2016 Dodge Dart Limited

All of which says nothing about the current model but is mentioned so would be buyers know what they are getting into. The Dart competes in a challenging market segment, even if it is one that is dwindling in size before our eyes. All that said, there is much to recommend this compact. Its latest (last?) iteration is attractively packaged, priced (starts under $20,000) and economical, if unexciting.

There are three engine choices across the range and some interesting special editions designed to appeal to those looking for a basic car that doesn’t look so basic!

Let’s start with the engines for it is where I break from many of my colleagues. I recently drove the Blacktop edition with a 2.4-litre engine (10.1/6.8    L/100km – city/hwy), which offers a perky performance. There’s been much criticism of the 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre power plants, often dismissed as lacking in performance.

No, you will not do well in a performance rally but I seriously doubt owners of these cars are looking for whiplash-inducing acceleration. Economy and price rule.

In the past year, I’ve sampled all powerplants and a mix of manual and auto transmissions.

The 1.4 is turbocharged (8.4/5.9 L/100km – city/hwy) and does have some pep but the 2.0 (9.9/7.0 L/100km – city/hwy) matched to a six-speed manual transmission will not disappoint on the daily commute and longer drive. Good handling. Impressive is just how little road noise seeps into the cabin at highway speeds.

The Dart comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. A rearview camera is available on all but the base SE trim.

An optional Technology package on the GT and Limited editions includes rear parking sensors, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Dart earned the highest possible rating of five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for total frontal-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded it a top score of ‘Good’ in three tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset impact test, the car earned an ‘Acceptable’ rating (second highest on a scale of four). The seat and head restraint design were rated ‘Good’ for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

The interior offers supportive seats for the journey and while its fabrics are not deluxe, it’s competitive with its segment rivals. The padded surfaces and stitching create a good first impression. There is room for five adults, four in long trip comfort. Good cabin stowage and great trunk space for a small car.

The optional multimedia centre with an 8.4-inch touchscreen is the largest in its class and a worthy investment. Interestingly it is available as a pure infotainment centre or with additional navigation. Its menus and large on-screen buttons are the best I have encountered and meshed well with my iPod and iPhone.

Base price range: $19,195 – $25,195.
keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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