We’re nearing 12,000 miles on our Dodge Dart, which has proven itself a reliable road-trip car. The transmission-seizing woes of the past haven’t cropped back up, though there’s a slight lurch when nearing the stop (and the Dart prefers feathering of the throttle between shifts). But the Alfa-based compact still had some surprises--positive and negative--up its sleeve.
On the upside, I realized new nooks for storage space. The glove box is one of most cavernous that I’ve ever experienced—when reaching for a pen my arm disappears inside, and I can almost hear echoes as my fingernails scrape its depths. The passenger front seat also has a storage space in the cushion, which I could only imagine coming in handy for stashing—er, goods you don’t want prying eyes to see.
The entertainment system continues to be a high point as well. I’ve raved about the Alpine audio system in the past, and unlike old Donked out Buicks blasting Lil’ Wayne, whose interior panel rattling can be heard from a block away, the Dart’s cabin lining can withstand a lot of bass thumping before they start buzzing.
But there was one odd snag with our compact Dodge, as managing editor Justin Hyde noticed when driving the car:
My first drive with our Dodge Dart was a long one — a few hundred miles with the car around the Monterey Peninsula during Pebble Beach car week. And after that trip, I left it with the impression that the Dart needed what Pebble Beach residents would call "finishing school." In most of its basic functions — engine noise, interior comforts and especially transmission tuning — the Dart needed just a touch more refinement. In a back-to-back drive with a Chevy Cruze, the Cruze felt like a mini-Lexus compared to the Dart.
But the Dart saved its oddest behavior for the end. I had to swap cars in a crowded parking lot right before rushing to the airport. Instead of a traditional key, or a keyless push-button start, the Dart uses a plastic key fob that still has to be pushed into the ignition and turned to start and stop the engine. I parked the Dart, grabbed the key fob from the dash and climbed out. After circling in another car about two hundred yards away, I drove back past the Dart and noticed its driving lights were still on. Upon closer inspection, the Dart's engine was still running — even though I had the fob in my pocket and the ignition was turned to "off." I put the fob back in and managed to shut the Dart off, but it left me wary.
Have your own similar experiences to share? Sound off in the comments section below. Meanwhile, here’s a quick video of the car running without the key in the ignition.