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Automotive Traveler Magazine: 2012 05 2013 Dodge Dart Page 2

In the greater scheme of things, the importance of the launch of the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart can't be underestimated. It is the first concrete example of Chrysler's U.S. engineers and designers reworking an existing Fiat platform. Specifically, the highly regarded Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a four-door hatchback.

For the U.S. market, the Giulietta platform--called Compact US Wide (CUS-Wide)--gets a wheelbase stretch of almost three inches (from 103.7 to 106.4 inches). It is also widened two inches and is 12 inches longer to provide the American-style trunk preferred by U.S. buyers. This versatile platform will underpin a wide variety of upcoming Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep C- and D-segment, cars, crossovers, and SUVs.

The question I need to answer in a day's drive in the Texas Hill country outside of Austin is: Does it have the right stuff?

The 2013 Dodge Dart will be the first compact sedan offered by Chrysler since the demise of the Neon back in 2005. Although its replacement, the compact crossover Dodge Caliber, sold well initially, it was one of the chief victims of the excessive cost-cutting that was the rule at the end of the DaimlerChrysler era; and, it suffered from a lack of credible updating under Chrysler's brief ownership by Cerberus. Nowhere was this cost-cutting more evident than in its dreadful interior, a mish-mash of hard, shiny, low-rent plastics.