Do you hate to stand out in a crowd? Do you feel more comfortable blending in? Do you really love getting everyone's approval? We don't, and that's exactly why we decided to add a 2013 Dodge Dart to our long-term fleet of cars. Our initial interest in the new Dart is based on the car's tough, distinctly American look and the fact that it appears to be a promising compact sedan from an American brand.

Tough Competition

But our interest in the Dart goes beyond looking cool or being different; we're curious how Dodge's new compact sedan fares when compared to other, more popular choices like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Let's face it, if you want a simple, reliable and affordable compact sedan, you'll probably just get a Civic like almost everyone else.

However, if you want what you drive to stand out or if you actually like to drive, chances are you've been checking out a new crop of compacts like the updated Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra. We're looking forward to the redesigned 2014 Kia Forte, too.

Lots of Options

And that's where the 2013 Dodge Dart comes in. It's a compact sedan that checks all the must-have boxes. Its affordable base price is about $16,000. It's also economical; one version gets up to 41 miles per gallon on the highway. There's the expected tech as well -- in fact we ordered our Dart with navigation, Bluetooth and Satellite radio. And because we actually love to drive, we ordered our Dart with the 1.4-liter, MultiAir turbocharged engine and paired it with a 6-speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission is optional.

We started with the "Rallye" version of the Dart. The Dart comes in base SE trim; one step up is the SXT, then the Rallye, then Aero and finally the Limited. There are also plans for a more powerful R/T version down the road, but it isn't for sale yet. The Rallye is right in the middle with a base price of $18,995. Standard equipment includes 17-in alloy wheels, split folding rear seat, 6-speaker stereo, fog lights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

Of course we added a few options like the turbocharged engine ($1,300). The 1.4 liter turbo engine is good for 160 horsepower. MotorWeek says the Dart gets from 0-60 miles per hour in 8.2 seconds, and that makes it one of the quickest cars in its class. Bottom line: the turbo engine is worth extra money. We also opted for the Premium Audio Group ($595), which includes a USB port and SD card slot, 8.4-in touchscreen, rear parking camera, single CD player and an upgraded instrument panel. Other options include: satellite radio ($195) that includes a one-year subscription, Uconnect with navigation ($495), Uconnect with voice control and Bluetooth ($295), cool looking LED "Racetrack" taillights ($225), sunroof ($895) and the Popular Equipment Group ($295) which includes features like lighted cupholders, seatback storage pockets, automatic headlights, cruise control and a trip computer. Add it all up including the $795 destination fee, and the price is $24,085. It is possible to spend more, but we feel this level of equipment combined with the sub $25,000 price represents a decent value.

We're expecting a lot from our Dart, and we're going to use it the way you would: hauling friends and family, commuting to and from the office and the occasional road trip. We're also hoping for a little track time to see if the car's performance can back up the aggressive look.

Check back frequently during the next several months for regular updates, photos and video on our long-term Dodge Dart.

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Brian Moody heads up the AutoTrader.com editorial team. An automotive writer and presenter for more than 12 years, he's contributed to such media outlets as CNBC, Edmunds.com, Fox Business, Speed TV and The Today Show.

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