• Dart Aero priced from $20,090.
  • The sedan achieves 41 mpg highway.
  • It includes special aerodynamic add-ons.

The highly efficient 2013 Dodge Dart Aero will start at $20,090 including destination when it goes on sale later this year. That's the latest from Chrysler, Dodge's parent company, who says the most frugal version of its new compact sedan will make use of various aerodynamic add-ons to receive fuel economy ratings of up to 41 mpg.

According to Chrysler, the Dart Aero's impressive fuel economy figure of 41 mpg comes with the sedan's standard 6-speed manual transmission. Although it's not available yet, an upcoming dual-clutch automatic lowers that figure slightly, returning an EPA-rated 40 mpg in highway driving. The EPA rates both transmissions at 28 mpg in the city and 32 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

Based on the mid-level Dart R/T, the Aero features a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. But while the Dart R/T is capable of 27 mpg city/39 mpg hwy, the Aero adds a long list of fuel-saving features designed to squeeze every last mile out of each drop of gas.

Chief among those efficiency-minded extras are active grille shutters, which close the front grille when possible to improve airflow. The Dart Aero also includes lightweight aluminum suspension components, an underbody aerodynamics package, low rolling resistance tires and a lower overall stance designed to further streamline the car's design.

With its 41-mpg EPA rating and $20,090 base price, the Dart Aero provides stiff competition for several other gas-saving compacts that top today's fuel economy charts. The stick shift Chevrolet Cruze ECO, for example, returns 42 mpg in highway driving and starts at $20,120 including destination. Honda's eco-friendly Civic HF starts at $20,395 with shipping and gets 41 mpg on the highway, while the Ford Focus SFE, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3 Skyactiv each offer slightly lower base prices than the Dart Aero and up to 40 mpg in highway driving.

While Chrysler hasn't announced when the Dodge Dart Aero goes on sale, our best bet would be in the next few months. In the meantime, shoppers interested in a Dart can try out an SE, SXT or Rallye trim level, each of which return up to 36 mpg on the highway in manual guise or 39 mpg with an available 6-speed automatic.

What it means to you: The 2013 Dodge Dart Aero gives established rivals some tough competition thanks to its strong fuel economy rating and reasonable pricing.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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