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Old 08-29-2012, 10:10 AM   #1
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2013 Dart test drive by a 2012 Focus owner

As the title says I own a 2012 Focus SEL which slots in equivalently to a Dart Ralley. I also own a 03 PT Cruiser GT turbo that I am considering trading for a Focus ST, Speed3 or Dart SRT. Yesterday I test drove a Dart Ralley with the 1.4 turbo and 6 speed manual. I figured i would share my thoughts for any one interested. Below is my comparison of how it stacks up to the Focus.

Exterior:
I like the front end of both cars equally well. From the side and back the Dart is more distinctive looking. The Focus sedan looks too much like an Elantra from the side and back. However, we have a 5 dr hatchback that overall I like the looks of better than the Dart but I do like the overall looks of the Dart. I don't like the renditions I have seen of the Dart hatchback at all.

The car we drove was bright red which really didn't do anything for me, i like the Focus race red better. The other Dart on the lot was an SXT (SE equivalent) in grey metallic again an OK color but didn't excite me. Our Focus is Candy Blue which is a very distinctive color that I happily paid extra for. The aluminum wheels on the SXT and Ralley were the same powder coated silver 17x7.5 with 225/45 tires, overall they are good looking wheels, the optional wheel is hyper black finished 17x7.5. There are quite a few wheel choices as there is with the Focus.

Interior;
Immediately sitting down in the Dart I got the sense of roominess. The Focus center console is wide and high. For me it feels like you are sitting in a hole. I like the overall feel of sitting in the Dart.

The Dart steering wheel is thicker and the leather cover feels better than the Focus wheel. The Focus wheel has bumps at 10 and 2 that I guess is supposed to support your hands but they don't feel natural to me, also the covering is supposed to be leather but doesn't feel like it and the stitching is course feeling. The Dart speedo is easier to read, the Focus has mph and kph graduations that are about equal in prominence which makes a quick glance harder to distinguish between. Neither dash has a full compliment of gauges which I don't understand, at least having it as an option would be good. I like the blue back lighting of the Focus better than the red of the Dart. The Dart has a lot more places to store things, I really like the storage under the passenger seat.

Both the Dart and Focus have very fresh and contemporary styled interiors. I like them both a lot. They both utilize soft touch surfaces and varying textures. The Focus is a little flashier with the use of brushed stainless surfaces. The fabric on the seats of the Dart is nicer than the fabric on our SEL seats. This trim level Dart doesn't have a leather option.

My Focus only has the basic SYNC system that works very well. The Dart had that and the 8" touch screen. I only just tried the voice command and it seemed to function the same. The touch screen was very easy and intuitive, it only took seconds to figure out how to use. I don't have the Ford MTF in my car but from the forums and road tests MyFord Touch system has been very buggy and is not easy to use.

Performance;
I only drove the 1.4 turbo with a 6 spd manual. It really didn't have any seat of the pants advantage over the NA 2.0 in the Focus even though it had 20 ft-lbs more torque (same 160 HP). I don't feel it's worth the $1300 premium. The 2.0 Dart and Focus 2.0 are rated for the same power and torque. Coming from a turbo PT I don't think the 2.4 available in
the Dart RT will be satisfying either. So, my choices to replace the PT will be the SRT, Focus ST or the Mazda Speed3.

I couldn't find a chewed up road in the area to test the suspension but I did drive it over every hole, dip and bump I could find. The Dart is every bit as composed as the Focus and both are light years better than the PT. I am not a canyon carver but the Dart and Focus had the same precise handling to the extent that I pushed them.

In the end the lack of power from the 1.4 turbo will keep me from purchasing a Dart at this time. I will wait for the Dart SRT before making a choice. If the car was for my wife, there is enough more she liked about it over our Focus that if the Dart had been here last year when we purchased the Focus, the Dart would have gotten the nod.


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Old 08-29-2012, 10:39 AM   #2
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I've driven the Dart as well but I can't say I agree with you on most of the points you're trying to make.

Styling wise the Dart looks like a facelifted Neon at 130% scale, it looks fairly plain and ugly. The Focus does not look like an Elantra in so much as the Elantra came after the Focus therefore the Elantra would be accused of cribbing the look from Ford.

The Dart's leather wrapped steering wheel on the Rally trim (Not Ralley) felt to be more slippery, but not necessarily in a good way. The "indentations" as you lament on the Focus are there to guide your hands to the 10 and 2 driving position where they should normally be. This one I'm torn on, the wheel in the Focus looks and feels better in my hands but the leather might be a touch softer in the Dart.

The interior of the Dart was by far and away not as nice as the Focus I drive daily. The only somewhat neat thing was the optional storage space underneath the passenger seat cushion but I believe that would preclude the availability of heated seats and that's no good.

The Dart also featured more hard touch plastics in the places where your hands usually touch or feel while driving, and overall it didn't feel as nicely finished as the Focus.

Now as to performance, I've driven several Darts, the 1.4L turbo M6, 1.4L turbo DCT, and the 2.0L i4 6AT. None of which impressed me that much apart from rowing the gears on the 6MT, but it still had longish and rubbery throws. I don't see the point of a 1.4L turbocharged engine in a car that weighs north of 3200 lbs personally.

Can't really comment on infotainment of the dart, it was set it and forget it on the test track. It was a distracting touch screen on the higher level cars though.

Overall I'd rank the Dart as being slightly ahead of the Cruze and miles behind the Focus, but that's why I own the Focus.
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Old 08-29-2012, 06:05 PM   #3
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The 1.4 is there to get better fuel economy. Also I'm sure Fiat would like to reduce the cos of building its popular multiair turbo by having it in more models.
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Old 08-29-2012, 09:09 PM   #4
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My only commnet is I despise red instrument lighting. It is just hard to use and annoying. I am amazed any company used red.
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Old 08-29-2012, 09:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elizabeth View Post
My only commnet is I despise red instrument lighting. It is just hard to use and annoying. I am amazed any company used red.
That's one of the reasons I went for a Focus over a Fiesta.
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Old 08-30-2012, 02:03 AM   #6
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I despise steering wheel bumps. Used to have them on a Subaru and the big ones on some Pontiacs were especially offensive. It's the one thing that might keep me from buying a Focus.

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