COAL: 2013 Dodge Dart: “Bitchin’ Betty”

2013 Dodge Dart 1.4L Fiat MultiAir Turbo. I really wanted to love this car. All the right pieces were there, but there was always something missing.


It is important that we take a quick stop and understand the history of how my next car came into my possession. In the fall of 2012, my dad picked up a 1998 Dodge Intrepid ES for less than$500 from his good friend Tony. The car ran great and had 285,000 miles on it. Tony purchased it from the original owner, who was a traveling salesman. However, after a couple of months, he sold it to my dad, as the car had a tendency to overheat, which he could not figure out.  My dad took a gamble and put it into daily service. The 3.5L engine ran great and proved to be good on fuel. It soon racked up lots of miles, as he traveled all over Eastern Iowa and Wisconsin for work. It became a goal to get the Intrepid to 300K.


The overheating problem was never really addressed. If the car did not idle for more than a minute, it would not overheat. However, leading up to Christmas 2012, there were multiple incidents where the Intrepid puked all of its coolant in not-ideal spots. If I recall, my mother had to come to the rescue in all of these incidents. This was not the highlight of her day. Over Christmas break 2012, my Fiero was ready for me to drive, but for whatever reason, I drove the Intrepid to pick up my youngest sister from an early dismissal from school for abnormally cold weather. As I sat in the pickup lane at her school, I was watching the coolant gauge to make sure I did not overheat the car. Well, I did not watch it close enough, because the Intrepid puked all of its coolant before it was my turn to get my sister. I ditched the car, grabbed my sister and we walked to the public library, where we had to wait for a couple of hours for my mom to come to get us. That night, my mom told my dad to get rid of the Intrepid and get something more reliable.

The next day was Saturday, and my dad and I went into town and retrieved the Intrepid. We had errands to run in Iowa City, so as we drove, we discussed what we could replace the Intrepid with.  We were very close to the local Dodge dealership. My dad pulled in and asked what I thought about the very-new Dodge Dart. They had only been out for a couple of months, but initial reviews were positive. He and I both liked the styling and the fact they came with a 6-speed manual and were advertised to get 40 mpg! What could be wrong with an Italian post-bankrupt Dodge? The dealership happened to have a white SXT model with the Fiat 1.4L Turbo and 6-speed manual. After a test drive, my dad asked what they would give him for trade on the Intrepid. The dealer went out to look at the car. He came in and said he could not believe the thing had 295k! He offered my dad $300 for the car. A deal was struck and we went home to show mom the latest purchase.

My mom was surprised when we got home, but this was not the first (or last) time something like this happened with my dad. My dad told her that she said to get something more reliable. My mom did not think he would purchase a new car, but nevertheless, she agreed having a newer vehicle around would be nice. The Dart then joined the fleet and became my dad’s traveling car. It served him for three years, and he racked up many miles driving all over the midwest. My dad liked the Dart for its ride and handling, and most importantly, the 40+ mpg he was able to get in it.

The Dart had white fabric seats. Who puts white fabric seats in a car??? White fabric = always looks dirty. One time a chocolate M&M got sat on. Looked like someone forgot to wipe before getting in the car.


In the fall of 2015, I am completing my last semester at college. I have accepted a job as a manufacturing engineer in Holland, MI, for an automotive lighting supplier. I have no connection to Holland, MI, thus I would be moving to a foreign land all on my own. A reliable car was going to be my first big purchase post-school.  At this point, the Dart had close to 40k on it. My dad does not keep a vehicle for much more than a couple of years and is getting the itch to get something different. He offered the Dart to me for a great deal, and over Thanksgiving break 2012, I went down to my local credit union and signed my first car loan.

I had three criteria for my next vehicle; working cruise control, AC, and a trunk that could fit a laundry basket. All things I did not have with the vehicles I had been driving for the last couple of years of school. During the three years my parents owned the Dart, I got a fair amount of seat time in it when I would come home from breaks. When they first got it, I really liked the car. I liked the styling (still do), the features, the throaty sound of the Fiat engine, and how it drove. However, after spending more and more time with the car, it always felt like there was something missing.  The Dart was not tossable or eager to be revved like the Saturn. It did not have the no-frills charm of the Trooper. It was not a bad car, it just seemed like the Chrysler team had all the right pieces to make a great compact car, but each team forgot to talk to each other, and as a result, the final product left you wanting more.

The Dart took me to my first “home” out on my own. Six years late, this single-stall garage is much more filled.


However, the deal was too good to pass up, so off I went to Michigan to start my real job. The Dart served me well in the two years I owned it. Moving to west Michigan, I was a little fearful about this thing called “lake effect snow.” As a result, I bought a set of Michelin Blizzak WS-80 tires. Oh my goodness, they were wonderful! Much breath and print has been wasted on the benefits of snow tires, which I will not do here, other than state, if you have never driven in bad snowy weather on snow tires, they can quickly transform any car, as well as convert even the most obstinate person towards seeing the benefit of snow tires. This was the case with the Blizzak’s, as they made the thing unstoppable in the snow.  These made me a convert, and I have been running snow tires on my primary cars since then.

Over the model years, Dodge kept changing the model trims and option packages to attract more sales. As a result, each year saw different trim levels and equipment. My Dart was an early build, so it had some odd trim packaging. Mine was a mid-level SXT trim. It came with all the power features (windows, locks, mirrors, etc), no fancy “Race Track tail lights,” alloy wheels, cruise control (which was an option in 2013), the Bluetooth package (U-Connect), and the mentioned Fiat 1.4L Multi-Air turbo motor with the Fiat-sourced 6-speed manual.

For a compact, the Dart was pretty well optioned.


The engine was the biggest source of joy and complaint in the car. If you started the car in a garage, you would quickly hear the throaty noise of the Multi-Air motor as it came to life. “Woah,” you would think. “This thing sounds great, I bet it’s a blast to drive!” You see, even though this was the same setup as the Fiat 500 Abarth, the setup in the Dart was tuned for the ever-important 40 mpg, and as a result, it could make the Dart frustrating to live in the day-to-day world.

Around town, the 6-speed manual was notchy and sometimes did not like to shift into second gear. The motor was very laggy and often felt gutless unless it was spooled up past 3,0000 rpm. The entire drive train could be very frustrating. Driving it around town ruined this car for me. However, once you had the Dart out on the highway, it truly shined. The Alfa-borrowed chassis was a delight for highway driving. The car drove like a “big” car; a compliment, as it felt composed over road imperfections. The turbo engine shined here, as when needing more power for passing, it would deliver and never make you feel like the car was underpowered. All in all, the entire power train was frustrating, as there were times when the car could be an absolute delight, and then most other times when it would leave you frustrated.

I really liked this interior. It had lots of storage, was well laid out, and had good materials. I still think Chrysler uses the best “leather” on steering wheels. I am also a fan of the radio controls on the backside of the wheel. Feels more natural to use.


When my dad purchased the car, it was the first vehicle for my parents that was equipped with hands-free Bluetooth for your phone. Remember, this was the early days of Bluetooth in vehicles. As a result, most systems sucked. At the time, I had read that Chrysler’s U-Connect was pretty easy to use. One day my dad came home from work frustrated. We asked him why and his response was “I cannot figure out how to use Bitchin’ Betty in the Dart.” The name Bitchin’ Betty, or just Betty, stuck as the nickname for the car.

I had the Dart for two years. In my time I put just a hair over 35,000 miles on it. The car was advertised to get over 40 mpg on the highway. This was a rare case where it was easy to get better than the advertised fuel economy. This was the Dart’s biggest strength. My dad and I were always surprised at how the Dart liked to sip fuel. Going 550+ miles on a single tank was never a challenge for the Dart. However, the Multi-Air only could and would drink premium fuel, which was a real minus in my books.

My fuel record. The Dart had a 14-gallon tank. You do the math.


Chrysler has had a poor reputation for build quality and durability over the long run. My parents are Ford people, but over the years they did have a string of Chrysler products. They had two Town & Country’s (2001 and 2005). The 2001 was a great van, so much, my parents went out and purchased a new 2005 with the nifty Stow’N’Go seating system. The 2005 had this weird issue where below freezing temperatures, the power locks would not work. No one could figure out why that was.

Well, the Dart had a similar issue. During my ownership, below freezing temperatures, the entire instrument cluster would randomly not work. Power cycling the car would sometimes and sometimes not do the trick. Sometimes when you turned left, “Bitchin’ Betty” would chime on and say “U-Connect ready.” During my two years, all four coil packs managed to fail prematurely. Something not mentioned in the service section of the manual to watch out for.

The small turbo motor took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to heat up. Not a problem with the car per se, but just an annoyance. My biggest issue with the car had to do with (again) the drive train. Only on really hot and humid days would this issue happen, but one that aggravated me. In all three times, I was sitting at a stop light trying to make a left turn.  I was stopped, had the AC on, and was trying to shoot through busy traffic. I saw a gap in traffic, and I quickly put my foot to the accelerator. Problem was, even though my foot was pushing the accelerator down, the car would go into a “limp-like” mode and would only want to creep. All three times, I was convinced I was going to get T-boned but managed to escape near death. It was such an odd experience and one that made me question the car. It never happened to my dad or could be replicated when brought into the dealer.

My relationship with the Italian heart was…complicated. I loved the noises she made and always having endurance on the long stretches, but the day-to-day proved she was often lethargic and not eager for quick sprints.


In the fall of 2017, I was starting to get a bad taste of Chrysler in my mouth. I really wanted to like the Dart, but as I mentioned above, it just felt like all the right pieces were there, but there was just something missing. My dad had changed jobs and no longer needed a traveling car for work. He had replaced the Dart with something that was more sophisticated, reliable, and better built.  He always like the Dart, so we decided to do a trade, plus cash for his car. He took the Dart back and only had it for a couple of months before he decided to part ways with it.

The Dart was a big flop for Chrysler, which is a true shame. I really wanted them to succeed with this car, but they could never figure out the powertrains in these cars. If they managed to do that, maybe the Dart would have been a success for them. Side note, writing this article made me realize that this car was purchased almost a decade ago! I remember it like yesterday when it was bought. The saying is very true; the days are long, but the years are short!