Youíve seen the commercials on television. Youíve heard the hype.

After spending a week behind the wheel of the all-new Dodge Dart, I have to say it exceeded my expectations.

For starters, it is quintessentially American insomuch as it represents the melting pot that defines this nationís greatness.

In addition to its iconic name, the new Dart incorporates several retro styling cues of the classic model from the Ď60s that many of us old schoolers still know and love.

But it also leverages Chrylserís Fiat ownership by using its Alfa Romeo architecture, which provides outstanding handling capabilities.

Whatís really interesting is as I was driving to work this morning, I couldnít help but notice something familiar about the car. I couldnít quite put my finger on it, but I thought to myself this car felt like it was made at Chryslerís Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly Plant, a place I had spent a lot of time covering when I worked in the Midwest.

As soon as I got to the office, I looked it up and sure enough, the new Dodge Dart is produced in Belvidere, made by my old friends who take a lot of pride in what they do.

With a base price starting below $16,000, the five-passenger, front-wheel drive Dart compact sedan is available in five trim levels ó SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T.

The Alfa Romeo architecture provides for an abundance of interior room and I had difficulty believing this car isnít classified as a mid-size sedan ó itís that spacious.

Consumers also have their choice of three powerful, yet fuel-efficient engines.

The base engine is Chryslerís 2.0-liter Tigershark I-4 that produces 160 horsepower and 148 lbs.-ft. torque. Mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission and using regular unleaded gasoline, it has an EPA fuel economy of 24 mpg city, 34 highway when equipped with automatic transmission (25/36 mpg respectively when equipped with manual).

A 1.4-liter turbocharged I-4 (available on SXT, Rallye and Limited) produces 160 horsepower and 184 lbs.-ft. torque. Mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual dry clutch† (DDC) transmission, it has an EPA fuel economy of 27 mpg city, 37 mpg highway when equipped with DDC (27/39 mpg respectively when equipped with manual). A special Aero version is also available that achieves an EPA of 28 mpg city, 41 mpg highway).

Consumers also have the option of a 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 producing 184 horsepower.

In addition to exceptional ride and handling, the Dart is loaded with safety technology features. I love the customizable displays and the touchscreen media center. Thereís lots of auxiliary jacks to plug in all of your devices ó even the glove box is designed to hold your tablet.

And when it comes to safety, the list of standard features is very, very long.

For those in the market for a compact sedan, the Dart Dart is an absolute must for the test drive list.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

The Nuts and Bolts

MODEL:

2013 Dodge Dart

5-seat compact sedan †

Front-wheel drive

Trim packages:

SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited, R/T

PRICE RANGE:

$16,000-$25,000

ENGINE:

2.0L I4 (160 hp/148 T)

1.4L Turbo I4 (160 hp/184 torque)

2.4L I4 (184 hp/174 T)

TRANSMISSION:

6-speed manual

6-speed auto

6-speed dual dry clutch

EPA: 24 mpg city, 34 mpg highway (2.0/AT)

FUEL: Regular unleaded

STABILITY CONTROL:

Electronic stability control with traction control

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 183.9 inches

WHEELBASE: 106.4 in.

WIDTH: 72 inches

HEIGHT: 57.7 inches

WEIGHT: 3186-3348 lbs.

TRACK: 61.7/61.6

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 15.8 gallons

TIRES: 16-, 17-, or 18-inch

CARGO: 13.1 cubic feet.