With only a month remaining before it pulls the covers off what may be its most important car in decades, Chrysler has released details of its upcoming 2013 Dodge Dart.

That's the model name it's chosen, pulled out of the archives for the new compact sedan that will replace the uncompetitive Dodge Caliber. The public will see the complete vehicle on January 9.

Three engine options

The new compact will offer three different engines and three transmissions. One engine is the same 1.4-liter MultiAir four that's used in the 2012 Fiat 500, built in a Michigan assembly plant, but with a turbocharger added to boost its performance in the larger, heavier Dart.

The other two engines are 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter carryover engines, updated from the ones used in the 2011 Caliber and renamed "TigerShark." The larger of the two, the 2.4-liter, has been fitted with Fiat's MultiAir valve technology, but the 2.0-liter has not.

2013 Dodge Dart Compact Sedan

2013 Dodge Dart Compact Sedan

Chrysler mentions three transmission choices, but doesn't specify what they are. One could be the five-speed manual used in the Fiat 500, and there will obviously be at least one automatic option as well.

UPDATE: Other sources indicate that a six-speed automatic manual, or dual-clutch transmission, will be offered on launch, with a nine-speed automatic arriving later on.

Subcompact or compact?

The 2013 Dodge Dart falls somewhere between a subcompact and a compact; it is 6 to 10 inches shorter than its competition in the compact sedan class, which was the Caliber's niche--although that car was a five-door hatchback, which historically has not been as popular a body style.

Likely competitors for the Dart include the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, and Chevrolet Cruze in the compact class--all larger than the Dart--or the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Chevy Sonic, and Ford Fiesta in the subcompact category.

"Alfa Romeo DNA"

The styling includes the Dodge split-crosshair grille, full-width LED taillights and dual exhausts, both "inspired by the Dodge Charger," according to the company.

Nonetheless--and unusually for a car under the Dodge brand--Chrysler plans to market the car as one with "Alfa-Romeo DNA."

This tactic banks on the performance heritage of a brand most Americans may now know only as the convertible sports car driven in the 40-year-old movie The Graduate.

In fact, Dodge says up front that the 2013 Dart is "the first Chrysler Group vehicle based upon a Fiat architecture – adapted from the award-winning Alfa Romeo Giulietta."

Similar to the Sixties?

Chrysler also says, however, that, "similar to the Dodge Dart of the late 1960s, the 2013 Dart offers a special blend of style, performance and innovation."

The company released no details on different trim levels or pricing, though it noted that 18-inch wheels will be available.

The 2013 Dodge Dart will be built in Chrysler's Belvidere, Illinois, assembly plant. All of its engines are also domestically assembled, including the Fiat 1.4-liter which is built in Michigan.


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