- It's meaner looking than most economy cars, at least.

Looking for a cheap commuter car?

The Dodge Dart isn't a bad car. So why is it so cheap?

2y ago
2.6K

I've been shopping around for a cheap car that gets decent mileage lately, as I may be starting a new internship with a decent commute. I'm not getting serious until I know anything for sure, but it's fun to window shop, isn't it? Craigslist is a bit of a drug for me. I've never actually bought anything off it, yet I browse cars trucks, and motorcycles constantly.

Anyway, my Craigslist escapades have brought something to my attention: Dodge Darts are cheap. REALLY cheap. Like, way to cheap for a car that's at the absolute most 5 years old.

If you don't know, the Dart was Dodge's last entry into the economy/commuter car market. They only ran from 2013-2016, alongside the 2014-2017 Chrysler 200. They were on Fiat-Chrysler's compact-wide unibody platform. You could have one with a selection of 3 different inline-4 gas engines, and a manual or automatic 6-speed transmission.

The 3 engines are: the 2.0L "Tigershark" base engine rated at 160hp, a 1.4L "FIRE" turbo engine rated at the same horsepower but with a surprising 184 lb-ft of torque, or the highest "Tigershark" 2.4L engine with 184 hp, but a disappointing 171 lb-ft of torque. If you're looking for economy and peak torque, the 1.4 turbo is the engine you want. For simplicity and a smoother torque curve, go for the 2.4. Don't go for the 2.0. It's the slowest by far, and only marginally more efficient than the 2.4.

I don't know much about the automatic transmission, and I don't care. You don't need to, either. It changes gears or something, whatever. You don't want that. What makes these potentially fun is the 6-speed manual. It's perfectly fine, and does it's job. Though, these have sort of a "idiot-proof" clutch that's supposed to prevent you from absolutely dumping it, but where's the fun in that? Either way, it's very easy to disable, it just requires swapping out a small part in the hydraulic line to the clutch. I've done it, it only takes an afternoon.

My father daily drives a '15 example, with the 2.4 and manual transmission. It's very comfortable, and quite handsome for a puffed-up econo-cruiser. The interior in his is good-looking and functional, though snug. It's worth noting, though, that his is a GT trim with the works (leather seats, sun roof, etc). He's a tall guy, and just clears the headliner. So, if you're exceptionally tall, don't get the sunroof (it steals some interior height).

It's been incredibly reliable too, in 4 years of ownership and 5x,xxx (I can't be bothered to go check the odometer, but it's pretty many) miles, he hasn't had a single problem. Oh, except that the gas door had to be replaced because it wouldn't stay shut or something. But that was covered under warranty.

Cut to the chase!

Alright, chill. I'm really not sure why these Darts depreciated like mad, but they sure did. I guess in general- people are less interested in compacts since crossovers are in style, and gas is cheap? (sorry France)

Whatever the reason, you can find yourself plenty of examples of this car for $5000-$6000 on Craigslist. And not beat to hell either. I mean, you're not getting one with 300 miles on it, but under 80k is entirely doable. Any engine and trans configuration, you can find it. But what you want is the 1.4 turbo with the manual. If you're not in the 30-35 mpg range with that configuration, you're doing it wrong. The turbo is as fast as the 2.4, but without the 2.4's humdrum gas mileage. One to watch for is the Aero trim. It's the "efficiency" model, and somehow averages about 1 mpg better than other trims. I have no idea how.

The GT trim is pretty nice, and comes with a sportier, stiffer suspension. But, you're likely not going to find one as cheap as your run-of-the-mill Dart. Those run more like $10k-12k.

So, consider Dodge's offering at the economy altar. They're not popular, but they are fairly efficient, very comfortable, and pretty good-looking. And now, incredibly cheap.

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Comments (10)

  • Nah they're pretty bad. The transmission is just horrible and the quality of the Dart and 200 are just awful.

      2 years ago
    • I don't know anything about the 6-speed automatics in the darts, but the manual seems acceptable from my experience. The 9-speed in the 200s is a bit wonky, I'll admit. They're usually mechanically sound, but have many electronics bugs.

        2 years ago
  • I drove my 1973 Dart from Seattle to Anchorage a few months ago. Great car. Nothing like the newer one.

      2 years ago
  • I have a 73 Dodge Dart. It’s a great car because nothing on it is made by FIAT.

      2 years ago
  • The Dart was "oversold" and the initial release was a mess. There were more manuals available than automatics. On the plus side it avoided the nightmare of the ZF 9 problems the 200 faced.

    FCA should have resurrected the Neon name for this car. The Dart name wasn't used for decades. I still see old Neons on the road. Outside of vintage shows I may never see a Dart.

      2 years ago
  • IIRC, they had a poor initial launch (quality problems and promises not met being the things I remember most). The quality probably improved a bit as they went on but I think the damage was done. Then there were all the Mopar concepts with parts they promised but never actually made good on (which stunk), and the SRT4 that was in the 5-year plan but never got (that cut deepest for me). Don't get me wrong, I wanted one for a long time (I still do to some extent), I really like the car, but those are all the reasons I can recall as to why the car didn't take off.

    The Dart-based Chrysler 200 are pretty cheap now too. I think you can get the top-of-the-line model for easily less than 24K (I think 20s or something like that).

      2 years ago
    • Actually, the 200s are even cheaper than you think. A 200S V6 AWD will set you back around $15k from what I've seen.

        2 years ago
    • Oh, wow! That's great for those wanting a 200 on the cheap side. It's terrible for those hoping the value wouldn't drop so much though.

        2 years ago
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