Is Dodge taking a risk in going modestly retro with the styling of their new small car? While the company has found great success with their ’70s-aping Challenger and Charger, and though having culled its name from that same era, the new Alfa-based 2013 Dart’s styling cues reach back only as far as the last decade, appearing magically Neon-liciouos.
Enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting Alfa Romeo’s return to these shores, preferably in a more affordable form than the lovely but dear 8C Competizione. Who would have guessed that, after – what has it been, eight years? Ten? – of promised American-legal Alfas, the first one we get has had its iconic shield-shaped grille replaced with a stylized bullseye. That’s not the only Americanization of the Giulietta that has come with its green card. Gone is the coupe-like 5-door body, the Italianate shape and detail, and the glass roof. In their place is, well, a body that looks like a second-generation Neon. But is that such a bad thing?
The Neon, as you may recall, was Chrysler’s attempt to build a desirable and profitable small car in the US. This was at a time when the Japanese owned the small car market, and upstarts from Korea were starting fill in any cracks they had left. The Neon, in both Dodge and Plymouth flavors, brought a level of whimsy and 140-horse 2-litreness to the party, and it gained notoriety. Some of that fame was good, some bad – the SRT edition being a bonkers torque steer 101 learning experience, while the plain jane editions proved that harshness and price-point build quality were skills not yet lost to the annals of history. In the end, the competition simply passed the Neon by, and its replacement, the Caliber, proved that perhaps Chrysler had simply given up trying in the category.
But here’s this new car, and Chrysler is apparently so confident of its merit as to anoint it with one of their most hallowed nameplates. And that’s why I am wondering if making it look like a Neon was such a good idea. What do you think, will the Dart’s physical appearance bring back too many bad memories? Is reaching back to just a decade past for retro-based inspiration an ill-founded idea? Or, will its Neon-evoking looks ensure a bright future for the bullseye grille’d Dart?
Image source: [Chrysler Media]