It’s a classic battle of form vs. function.
The stylish Dodge Dart pitted against the practical Hyundai Elantra. This isn’t to imply that the Elantra is ugly or the Dart unlivable, but after spending a few minutes in each car it’s obvious which design philosophy the engineers prescribed to.
The 2015 Dodge Dart is one of the most distinct compact cars currently available. Nothing else has the same little-big car image and absolutely nothing has its wrap-around taillights. Optioned the right way, like our GT test vehicle and the Dart is one of the best looking compacts on the market.
For 2016 the Elantra GT hatchback receives a mild refresh. Although the overall look hasn’t changed much, the Elantra is a bit more angular and modern looking this year. Our only complaint is that there’s a bit too much plastic chrome splattered on the grille.
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Bigger Isn’t Always Bigger
The refreshed 2016 Elantra’s interior isn’t a huge departure from other Hyundai products, which is a good thing. In a compact car, the center stack looks and feels premium. The Dart’s interior is swathed in a rubberized soft touch material that surrounds a customizable digital gauge cluster and a huge touchscreen. If modern technology and customizable screens are your thing, none do it better in a compact than Dodge.
The Dart is the bigger car of the two, but sure doesn’t feel that way inside. Headroom for front passenger is listed at 37.4-inches which is actually more than the Elantra. In real world testing though, our taller staff members were constantly bumping their heads against the roof liner in the Dart – an issue not found in the Elantra.
Rear Seat Woes
If headroom up front in the Dart is bad, then in the rear it’s horrendous. Dodge offers one of the lowest roof lines in the compact class that may look good from the outside, but eats up a lot of head space inside. Full grown passengers with their heads still intact probably won’t fit in the backseat.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Dodge Dart SXT Review
The Elantra GT on the other hand offers the most rear headroom of any compact car. Unless of course the full-length panoramic sunroof is equipped like in our test car, at which point headroom is greatly reduced and rivals the Dart for discomfort.
Dodge’s form over function approach is once again evident when it comes to trunk space. Despite being a smaller car, the Elantra sedan has over 1.7 cubic feet more trunk space than the Dart. Opt for the Elantra GT hatchback and the advantage grows to nearly 10 cubic feet.
Power to the People
The Dart can be had with three engines, but unless the Dart came from a local rental car lot, the base 2.0-liter doesn’t really count. Most Darts now come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 184 HP and 174 lb-ft. of torque. That’s quite a bit of power for the compact class and the Dart even eclipses the Elantra’s relatively powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 173 HP and 154 lb-ft. of torque.
As good as the Dart’s engine looks on paper, it doesn’t feel quite as powerful as the numbers suggest. The Dart is a heavy car and the engine is saddled with an extra 200 lbs. compared to the Elantra GT. Don’t get us wrong, the Dodge’s engine isn’t bad, we just hoped for a bit more performance. In the Dart GT trim, the sport exhaust does make a nice subdued growl that evokes memories of the Abarth or old SRT-4.
Skip the Manual
The Dart we had was equipped with the standard six-speed manual that is, to be blunt, terrible. Throws are imprecise and the clutch pedal features one of the vaguest engagement points that is set far too high. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you’re buying a Dart GT, get the automatic.
The Dart’s suspension is set up on the sportier side in the GT model, but is still quite comfortable. As far as big compact cars go, it falls somewhere between the refined Volkswagen Jetta and the soft Nissan Sentra. The Dart drives like a larger car and feels more substantial than some key compact competitors like the Toyota Corolla or Kia Forte.
Bland But Usable
The engine and transmission combination in the Elantra GT are ok. Some of us liked it, others hated it. It’s definitely not one of the better ones on the market, but compared to the Dart we would give the Elantra the edge. The six-speed automatic can be a little slow in responding though, especially during gear kick downs.
With a smaller engine and less weight to haul around, the Elantra is more efficient. During our testing period, it returned a 30.1 MPG average compared to the Dart’s 28.0 MPG average. Still, we thought the Elantra would do even better considering its weight and engine displacement advantages.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT Review
The suspension in the 2016 Elantra GT delivers a balanced ride, which is a marked improvement over past versions of the Elantra. It’s still not the best balance between response and comfort, but it is getting better. We did find that more wind and tire noise made its way inside the car than the Dart though.
|Vehicle||2015 Dodge Dart||Advantage||2015 Hyundai Elantra|
|Engine (as tested)||2.4 L Four-cylinder||-||2.0 L Four-Cylinder|
|Horsepower||184 HP||Dart||173 HP|
|Torque||174 lb-ft.||Dart||154 lb-ft.|
|Weight||3,081-3,215 lbs.||Elantra||2,773-3,053 lbs.|
|Cargo Space||13.1 cubic feet||Elantra||23.0 cubic feet|
|Fuel Economy (US)||23 MPG city, 33 MPG highway (manual)||-||24 MPG city, 33 MPG highway|
|Fuel Economy (CDN)||10.2 L/100 km city, 7.0 L/100 km highway (manual)||-||9.8 L/100 km city, 7.2 L/100 km highway|
|Observed Fuel Economy||28.0 MPG||Elantra||30.1 MPG|
|Top Trim Price(US)||$28,410||Elantra||$26,550|
|Top Trim Price(CDN)||$29,810||Elantra||$28,394|
By now, Hyundai has the bang-for-your-buck thing down to a science. The 2016 Elantra is available with features like dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, smart key entry and a ventilated driver’s seat all for the sum of just $26,550 after destination charges. And, of course, there is also Hyundai’s killer five-year/60,000-mile full coverage warranty and 10 year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The Dart doesn’t skimp on premium features either with dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, smart key entry, rear cross traffic alert and a remote starter. But that puts the price nearly $2,000 higher than the Elantra and Dodge’ doesn’t match Hyundai’s warranty.
The Verdict: 2015 Dodge Dart vs 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT
The Dart is a stylish car, oozing with the latest technology. But there are a lot of drawbacks that can be real deal breakers. The Elantra isn’t perfect, but it continues to offer a lot for the money. With each new refresh it gets better and the 2016 GT continues that trend, beating the Dart in this comparison.
2015 Dodge Dart
2016 Hyundai Elantra GT