The time has come to say goodbye to the 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye we've had as a long-term test car for over a year. While we've had both positive and negative experiences with the Dart, nearly everyone is sad to see it go -- especially because it's the only stick shift car in our long-term fleet. 

Gas Mileage Woes 

Much of our time with the Dart has been spent trying to improve its gas mileage. For our Dart's 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel economy of around 30 miles per gallon city. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do better than 23 or 24 mpg. We tried to lay off the throttle, coast more and shift at lower rpms -- all recommended by the dealer -- but nothing seemed to solve the problem. The Dart performed well on the highway, though, consistently returning 35 or 36 mpg, even with the air conditioning blasting. 

Infotainment Praise 

One thing everyone loved about the Dart was its infotainment system. That makes sense, as the Dart is one of the least expensive cars to use the system, and several models that cost more than $40,000 employ the technology. We enjoyed how intuitive it was, its ease of use and simple touches, such as adding a "favorite" song or artist to the radio and "seeing" a photo of the road to help with navigation.

Sporty Styling, Inside and Out

Nearly everyone who rode in the Dart also appreciated its sporty look, both inside and out. We liked the black grille, the sporty alloy wheels and the racetrack taillight across the trunk. Inside, we appreciated the thick bolstering on the seats and the neat-looking red trim throughout the cabin. Admittedly, the Dart could've used a little more sport here and there. The steering wheel was a weak point, for example. But overall, we came away impressed, and that's not something you can say about every economy car. 

Driving Enjoyment 

You also can't say that every economy car is fun to drive, but our Dart certainly was. It was no sports car, as its primary purpose is to transport passengers safely and reliably. But we still enjoyed the clutch, the shift action and the handling. Acceleration could've been better, but the newly available 2.4-liter engine will solve that problem. 

An Enjoyable Year 

True, economy cars aren't sexy or desirable. However, as economy cars go, the Dodge Dart is good one. We're hard-pressed to find a better interior, the exterior looks great, the ride is quiet and handling is fun, if not sporty. Plus, in a year's time, we racked up about 25,000 miles; in that time, our Dodge Dart never had one mechanical issue. But we're truly sad to see our 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye leave our office. No, the fuel economy didn't quite live up to our expectations. And yes, the Dart could be a little sluggish from a dead stop. But the little sedan certainly won us over, and we remain impressed with just how much it offers for less than $25,000.

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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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