By Emme Hall.
It’s been a few good years for Detroit. American car companies have been producing some of the best mid-size sedans on the market recently, and we’re going to take a look at two of them: the 2013 Dodge Dart and the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze. Which one wins our showdown?
The Dart is a front wheel drive 4 door sedan with a 2.0L four cylinder engine producing 160 horsepower and 148 lb/ft of torque. A six speed manual is standard but those not willing to row their own gears can get a six speed automatic. 0-60mph comes pretty slowly, at 9.9 seconds. EPA fuel ratings are 25 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. The automatic returns slightly worse numbers, at 24/34/27.
A turbocharged 1.4L four cylinder is optional, good for 160 horsepower and 184 lb/ft of torque. A six speed manual is standard but you can get a six speed automated manual (read paddle shifters and no 3rd pedal). 60 mph comes in at a much faster 8.3 seconds without sacrificing fuel economy. In fact, it improves to 27/39/32 with the manual and 27/37/31 with the automatic. Expect slightly higher numbers on the Aero.
There is also a GT version, offering a turbocharged 2.4L four cylinder engine good for 184 horsepower and 171 lb/ft of torque. The six speed manual is standard but a six speed automatic can also be had. 60 mph comes in about 7 seconds and EPA fuel ratings are 23/33/27.
The Dart is available in five trim levels: SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited, and the GT. If you’re looking for a basic car, go with the SE. You’ll get 16” wheels, power windows, a four speaker sound system with a CD player, and a height adjustable driver’s seat.
Upgrade to SXT and you’ll get 17” wheels, power accessories, keyless entry, air conditioning, and a six speaker sound system. Rallye owners will enjoy fog lamps, some different interior and exterior trims, and a leather wrapped multi-functional steering wheel. The Limited trim line adds Bluetooth, cruise control, and 8.4” touchscreen, rearview camera, iPod connectivity, tire pressure monitoring, an SD card slot, 6 way power adjustable driver’s seat, and some chrome accents.
The Dodge Dart GT adds 18” wheels, the more powerful 2.4L engine, upgraded suspension, and different interior and exterior trim. The Dodge Dart gives you a seemingly endless array of optional features that you can order. From and Aero package, Popular Equipment Group, Value Group, Technology Group, all the way to stand alone options lie a sunroof, navigation, and satellite radio. There are many ways to you’re your Dart your own.
Without a doubt you should spring for the 1.4L turbo engine. The naturally aspirated just doesn’t have enough guts and the turbo will get you better gas mileage, with livelier performance. Similarly, I also recommend the manual. Well, I always recommend the manual but in this case it’s more than just preference. The automated manual is not up to par with other manufacturers, returning slow throttle response and poorly chosen gears.
While the Dart, even the GT, is no GTI, it’s still reasonably fun to drive. Much of its suspension was influenced by the Alfa Romeo Guilietta and it displays a bit of spark when called upon while remaining composed enough for daily driving. Steering is well weighted and communicative but the car’s curb weight of just over 3000 pounds keep it from being the nimble sedan we all wanted it to be.
The Chevy Cruz is powered by a 1.8L inline four cylinder engine good for 138 horsepower and 125 lb/ft of torque. A turbocharged 1.4L inline four-cylinder engine is also available, producing 138 horsepower and 148 lb/ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels via a standard six speed manual transmission, but a six speed automatic is optional. The manual is not available on the LTZ trim line. 60 mph comes in about 9 seconds for the turbo Cruze and EPA fuel ratings are 25 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined for the 1.8L with a manual transmission. The automatic returns 22/35/27. The turbo Cruze returns 26/38/30 for either transmission. The Cruze Eco impresses with 28/42/33 with the manual and 26/39/31 with the automatic.
The base Cruze LS includes 16” wheels, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a six-way (manual) adjustable driver seat, power accessories, a multi-functional tilt and telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Eco gets the turbocharged engine, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7-inch touchscreen display and the Chevrolet MyLink system. There is an available Driver Convenience package which adds a rear view camera, a six-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and heated mirrors. The Eco also get some different aerodynamics, like low rolling resistance tires to bring the weight down and the fuel efficiency up.
You get your choice of LT trims with the Chevrolet Cruze. 1LT you 16” alloy wheels, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and cruise control. The 2LT adds 17” alloy wheels, a sport tuned suspension, disc brakes on all four corners, and heated front seats. The same features in the Eco’s Driver Convenience package are also available for the 1LT.
The top of the line Cruze LTZ adds 18” alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry, a rear view camera, foglamps, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Like the Dodge Dart there are many ways you can customize your 2013 Chevrolet Cruze. The Enhanced Safety package is available for all but the LS model and many of the standard features found in the upper trim levels are optional on the lower. You can also get navigation, a sunroof, a nine-speaker premium sound system, and some unique exterior styling on upper trims.
As with the Dart I also recommend getting the turbocharged engine. It’s not much of a bump in horsepower but if you find yourself cruising the mean city streets, the extra torque is welcome. The firmer suspension on the upper models is also worth it, creating a decently handling car with out sacrificing comfort. The automatic transmission was a bit of a dog, upshifting rather quickly and hesitant to downshift. Sure it gives you better fuel economy, but at the price of fun.
The 2013 Dodge Dart starts at $15,995 for the SE, while the GT can be had for $20,995. The 2013 Chevy Cruze starts at $17,130 for the LS and goes up to $23,550 for the LTZ. With the huge choice in trims and engines, it’s tough to make a choice, but I would go with the Dart GT with the turbo 2.4L and the manual. It’s got more horsepower and torque, resulting in better acceleration while still returning decent fuel economy.