The history of the Dart nameplate goes back to 1960, when it was attached to Dodge's full-sized chassis. In 1962, the wheelbase was reduced from 118 to 116 inches, and sales plummeted. In 1963, the Dart nameplate was moved to the all-new compact line, when the Dodge lineup was completely reworked in the aftermath of the disastrous 1962 downsizing.
Sharing its chassis with the Plymouth Valiant and the Barracuda, the engine bay of the Dart found itself hosting a variety of Chrysler's most powerful V8s, displacing 383, 426 (including the original Hemi), and 440 cubic inches. The car seen above is a 1968 M-Code Dart, stuffed with a 440-cubic-inch V8, courtesy of Chicago's legendary Grand Spaulding Dodge. The original Dart left the scene in 1976, replaced by the rust-prone Aspen.
If past is prologue, we expect to see an SRT4 version of the new Dart within 12 months. Rumors say it will get a 300-horsepower version of the 2.0-liter four, giving it a leg up on Ford's Focus ST. Other insiders suggest it will get all-wheel-drive--but I think that's a long shot.
Length: 183.9 inches
Width: 72.0 inches
Height: 57.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,190 pounds
Engine: I-4, 1,368 c.c. SOHC 16-valve with MultiAir, turbocharged and intercooled
Horsepower: 160 @ 5,500 r.p.m.
Torque: 184 lb.-ft. @ 2,500-4,000 r.p.m.
Transmission: six-speed manual
EPA estimated m.p.g. city/highway: 27/39
Base price: $19,995
As-tested price: $23,275
Also consider: Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla