Found a gem on craigslist last March and bought a 99 Dakota sport extended cab with 17k original miles (hard to believe but true). All good so far - driven it 5K miles in 9 months and a few oil changes is all the maintenance/repairs thus far. Winter has hit here in WI and an extra 300-400 pounds in the back and traction in manageable around town. Gas mileage leaves something to be desired but I knew that buying a truck. Mine has topper and bedliner and is pretty basic (no power windows or locks - am/fm stereo). Great to haul the kids baseball gear around in the summer and help friends move stuff when they ask!
Rear seats that face forward as opposed to the inside on other extended cab trucks. Center console/armrest is a nice touch and interior seems to be holding up well.
Better gas mileage, factory stereo is plain but works. Going to add a Yakima bike/gear rack to the topper in the spring.
I bought my Dodge Dakota with 70,000 miles on it. I jumped into buying it. It has the 2.5 L 4 cylinder engine that is expected to carry over 3500 pounds. I have a difficult time getting up to speed and fill I am going to get run over. And with a 4 cylinder I only average 18 mpg that is unbelievably low. But besides having no power, the truck has needed both upper and lower ball joints, radiator at 80,000 miles, the crankshaft sensor at 85,000 miles, the front seal went out at 91,000 miles so I spent over 1,200 dollars in two years in repairs. But at the moment I have 107,000 miles on it and it is finally running good, but I am still not getting anywhere fast.
The truck has been solid if not spectacular during my ownership of about 85,000 miles. If it has received $1000 in repairs, that would be a lot. The cat was replaced early on (covered by warranty), and the alignment went awry early such that I only got 15,000 miles out of the two front stock tires (alignment fix was warranty). Other than that, no serious issues to report. Power with the V6 is good with some pep when you need it, and MPG has been right around 20 with a bias toward highway miles.
Styling. Was the best looking compact/midsize pickup at the time and still is.
Back seat for a midsize is pretty cramped, but many pickups have moved away from extended cabs in favor of 4 doors now with more room.
If you're in the market for a mid sized truck the Dodge Dakota is an excellent choice. I disagree the unhappy reviews. Most people don't write reviews if they are satisified. I've had my truck for over a year, and although I have replaced a few things, the truck's overall performance and features well make up for the repairs you may need to do. The truck's size is far less bulky than that of the full size p/u, and allows for easy parking in most situations. The truck's ride, power, and curb appeal are all excellent. Prevenitive maintence eliminates numerous problems listed in other reviews. The Dakota's interior build quality far exceeds that of many other manufacturers, I.E no rattles.
318 V-8 provieds excellent power and (with good driving habits)respectable fuel mileage. The NV231 transfer case, smooth engagement. Very comfortable interior. Interior build quality. Features of the interior. Very easy to work on when repairs are needed. Trucks curb appeal and oveall looks.
The 8.25" backlash seems to be set too loose from the factory. The stock heater core does not provide very good heat (the replacement part is 3times the size) The ball joints everyone complains about should be greasable, but most people would not grease them, which is why Dodge opted for sealed ones.