Perhaps the biggest star at the recent Detroit show was the Dodge Dart saloon. It was the first car to be unveiled on the first press day and was given the full force of American razzamatazz.  

As soon as the display Darts were on stage, they were surrounded by hundreds of hacks. Nearly everybody did the same thing: open the door, look at the interior and then run our fingers across the plastic surfaces. Then tap our finger nails on the mouldings.

Then tap the surfaces with a knuckle. After that bit of the ritual, you slam the door a couple of times to get an idea of the quality from the sound it makes on closing. This is such a part of the ‘quality assessment’ ritual that it is even parodied in VW’s current ‘like a Golf’ TV ad. 

The general agreement on the show stand was that some of the Dart’s interior was made of very hard, very cheap feeling plastics. ‘A bit bland looking’ said some of the America hacks. ‘A bit cheap in places’. It struck me that, considering the pricing kicks off at $16,000, and it has a base-model 140bhp engine and plenty of kit, the Dart was not a bad deal at all.