Younger car buyers have no memory of original Dodge Dart, which is just as well since the new model deserves to be evaluated with a clean mental slate. It's a formidable compact sedan developed in conjunction with Chrysler's Italian connection, Fiat.
The Honda Civic needs no introduction. It's a perennial favorite of buyers who want economical transportation with a touch of sophistication.
How does the Dodge-come-lately stack up against the familiar Honda?
Though officially compact, the Dart is longer and wider than nearly all of its competitors. Buyers stepping down from a midsize car will notice little difference from between the wheel. The extra mass pays off in the form of exceptional rear-seat comfort and a substantial feel when cruising down the road. The lively interior is easily one of the nicest in this class, with a look and feel that's indistinguishable from many higher-priced sedans.
The Dart's 2-liter four-cylinder produces 160 horsepower and returns 29 mpg in combined driving with the standard six-speed manual. The optional 1.4-liter turbo delivers the same horsepower, but substantially more torque for swifter pickup, not to mention a few more mpg. GT models get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 184 horsepower, which puts it in contention with other sporty compacts.
The current Civic debuted in 2012 and received a significant refresh the very next year, so you can expect the latest engineering from Honda. You also get a heavy load of standard features, like a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and a data-rich color information display. Interior refinement ranks near the top of the compact class.
The Civic continues to offer nimble handling, multiple trim levels, and a deep engine roster. Power plants range from 110 to 201 horsepower and include hybrid and natural gas choices. At 44 mpg, the hybrid is the mileage champ of the lineup.
What's the Difference?
If there can be such a thing as a plush cruiser in the compact class, it's definitely the Dart. The Civic is a sophisticated small car that can be equipped to meet the needs of a wide range of buyers.
Our Verdict: Honda Civic
The Civic endures as a highly practical and engaging econo-sedan.