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2013 Dodge Dart.

Chrysler

Chrysler Canada is using the Toronto auto show to create some buzz about pricing for the 2013 Dodge Dart, the first real compact sedan Dodge has had since the Neon 20 years ago – and that was such an awful car, no one at Chrysler even wants to mention it. The starting price for the 2013 Dart: $15,995.

So the pricing war in compact cars is now fully on. Plenty of observers thought the Dart might start around $17,000, though I was not one of them. Dodge simply could not come to market this spring with a Dart that doesn't hit the pricing bull's eye.

Consider the competition. The Chevy Cruze starts at $15,655, though it is being discounted at the present, so the real price is lower. The Ford Focus sedan starts at $15,999; the Volkswagen Jetta at $15,875; the Hyundai Elantra at $15,849; and the Honda Civic sedan at $14,990. Obviously, the Dart had to come in less than $16,000.

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But as you can see, the competition is ferocious and that means the pricing war in compact cars is afoot. Honda's Civic is already less than $15,000 and, with additional discounting, sells for even less in the real world. Same for the Cruze. Ford has some incentives on the Focus, though not as much as you might think. Ditto VW and Hyundai.

None of the car makers want to get into a race to the bottom on pricing, but Canadians aren't stupid, either. We all want a good deal.

The thing is, all these compacts are relatively new to dealer showrooms and there isn't a dog among them. The new Dodge entry will try to create buzz by focusing on car's roots in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and the fact there will be a Dart with 184 horsepower.

Here's the pitch from Chrysler Canada's CEO, Reid Bigland: "This vehicle offers features and content that have never before existed in a compact car. With the 2013 Dodge Dart, consumers no longer have to compromise safety, technology, customization or comfort when purchasing a compact vehicle."

Some 340,000 compact cars were sold in Canada last year. The segment is huge, accounting for 21 per cent of all new vehicles sales. There is, then, a fight brewing for hundreds of thousands of buyers. Dodge is coming with guns blazing.

"When the new Dodge Dart hits the streets, we anticipate being a formidable competitor again in Canada's largest vehicle segment," said Bigland at the show.

Bigland's rivals are waiting with their own plans to trade punches or worse in the compact car wars.

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