2003 Dodge Dakota Regular Cab Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Dodge Dakota Regular Cab

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Dodge Dakota Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 5.9 L V 8-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 4-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 250 hp @ 4400 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 12/16 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2003 Dodge Dakota

  • If one word could best describe the 2003 Dodge Dakota, comfortable would be it. Whether carrying five adults, cruising the interstate, transporting cargo or tackling off-road terrain, the Dakota is at ease no matter where it is or what it's asked to do.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Plentiful V8 power, alert transmission, spot-on suspension both on- and off-road, easily accessible and accommodating cabin.

  • Cons

    As thirsty as a frat brother, a bit big for serious off-roading, can get pricey if too many options are chosen.

  • What's New for 2003

    Finally realizing that a 120-horsepower engine has no business being in a 3,500-pound (or more) pickup, Dodge drops the 2.5-liter inline four from the Dakota's powertrain roster. An optional five-speed automatic transmission for the 4.7-liter V8 debuts, as does a Stampede package that provides the show but not the go of the R/T model. Speaking of the R/T, that model receives four-wheel disc brakes this year.

Gas Mileage


  • 12
  • cty
  • 16
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Dakota sxt v6 regular cab

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Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

Best and most reliable truck ever owned. When I first got it, needed a computer and some maintenance after that it runs like a champ and it does what I ask it to do and never lets me down. The 3.9 v6 magnum starts right up in sub zero temps in the middle of brutal Maine winters and runs strong. The truck gets up and goes with the 3.92 rear , while its missing top end power. The 4wd in the truck is awesome with good clearance and it out classes any fords, chevys, and toyotas offroad. Take this truck to rugged Maine north country offroad through mud holes , rivers and mountains every summer to go camping and its never giving me a problem. Very good looking truck and fun to drive.

I love my dodge

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Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

I've had my truck since it had 27 miles on it and it currently sits at a hair below 130k. Besides the water pump going bad and it still running fine for 3 years until it finally exploded, I've had not a lick of problems. Other then the standard oil changes around 5k miles and only 2 tuneups, I haven't touched a single thing otherwise. This truck has been through hell and back and still starts at the turn of a key. 2500 lbs of block in the bed couldn't hurt this truck. Beaten and abused is the best way to put it and its still my daily driver. IF it ever dies, i will indeed be looking for my next dakota. Excellent truck. By far the best vehicle I've owned.

Horrendous update

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Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

This is an update. Bought for 9k with 27k on it, Dec."07". 51k motor goes PING, bearings and crank need replaced. Despite meticulous attention and mobi1 1. One k over 50k warranty and dealer laughs at me. I replace crank and bearings myself, lasts another 8k and motor goes again. Replace with 30k junkyard motor and two weeks later tranny goes! In 30k miles, I've also replaced, AC Compressor, full exhaust, front hubs, power steering hoses, starter (twice!), brakes, rotors and needed to replace with over sized brake pins as the originals were worn and too loose! 4 Oxygen sensors... Oh,lets not forget the fan control module under glove box which caught fire. AHHHH

Horrible mileage then blown engine!

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Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

I bought this vehicle at a Dodge Dealership used for $9k with 27k on it. Changed my oil to Mobil 1 upon purchase, and regularly at 3k intervals. Worst truck I have ever owned. The 3.9L engine knocks/taps when put under load. At 32k engine light came on, code said that 2 of 4 oxy-sensors needed replaced, $96 each, did myself, 3k later the other 2 go out. Put 10k on a year, only light hauling, never towed a trailer. At 51k motor blows, with "extended" 50k warranty . Dealer gave me nothing, they wanted $3,200 for new motor (replace crap with crap!). Rebuilt myself, case full of sludge,lower bearings trashed. No space to recline seats. Can't wait to dump this 10 to 12 MPG nightmare.

Great buy

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Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

We bought this used from a private owner to replace our 1988 Dakota last November. The '88 got to where it would just die on the road. We've been very pleased with it and it hasn't given us any trouble at all, and it never gave the previous owner any trouble. It rides smooth as silk, seat is very comfortable, drives well, great truck. Plenty of space, though back seat is terrible to ride in. All in all, great buy.

Excellent truck

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Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

I just don't like the 15mpg gas mileage. I have only had the truck for 3 weeks and have put over 1000 miles on it. It is so fun to drive. I love it.


Full 2003 Dodge Dakota Review

What's New for 2003

Finally realizing that a 120-horsepower engine has no business being in a 3,500-pound (or more) pickup, Dodge drops the 2.5-liter inline four from the Dakota's powertrain roster. An optional five-speed automatic transmission for the 4.7-liter V8 debuts, as does a Stampede package that provides the show but not the go of the R/T model. Speaking of the R/T, that model receives four-wheel disc brakes this year.


Debuting back in 1987, the Dakota filled the sizable gap between compact and full-size pickups. Although referred to as a compact, the Dakota can be thought of more as a midsize truck. But it wasn't until 1997, when the Dakota was redesigned and adopted the handsome look of its bigger brother, the Dodge Ram, that people took notice. The following years saw the introduction of the potent R/T muscle truck (packing a 250-horsepower V8 along with a monochrome paint scheme and big wheels) and the Quad cab, a true crew-cab style truck with full-size doors and plenty of room for those in back.

This year, Dodge dropped the 2.5-liter four cylinder engine and added a number of upgrades, including the options of a five-speed automatic transmission and a six-disc CD changer. As before, three cab configurations and a multitude of trim levels are available including everything from a basic, standard cab workhorse to a leather-lined 4WD Quad Cab that can serve as a family vehicle. Our chief complaint with the 2003 Dodge Dakota is that the V8 models tend to be very thirsty; it's a struggle to average more than 13 or 14 mpg with those trucks.

The Dakota offers more room, more power and more capability than the other trucks it ostensibly competes against, such as the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger. Everything from its towing capacity and stance to its available V8 power and roomy interior are a cut above the smaller rigs. If you're in the market for a sensibly sized yet accommodating compact pickup, a test drive of the 2003 Dodge Dakota is certainly in order.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2003 Dodge Dakota is available in three body styles: regular cab, extended ("Club") cab and crew ("Quad") cab. Both two- and four-wheel-drive versions are available. No less than seven trim levels are offered; base, value-oriented SXT, flashy Sport and Sport Plus, luxury SLT and SLT Plus and the stormin' R/T. We think eliminating the base and Plus models (by incorporating the "Plus" upgrades -- power windows and locks, alloy wheels, keyless entry, wheel flares and handling package -- into the SLT and Sport) would simplify things for potential buyers as well as Dodge's assembly lines. Notable options include leather seating, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, four-wheel ABS (rear-wheel ABS is standard on all models), and full-time four-wheel drive.

Powertrains and Performance

Standard on all Dakotas is a 3.9-liter V6 (175 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque). Next up the power ladder is the optional (on Sport and SLT models) 4.7-liter V8 (235-horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist). Then there's the 5.9-liter V8 that comes on the R/T (where it's rated 250 horsepower and 345 lb-ft) and is optional on Quad Cab models (245 horses and 335 lb-ft). A five-speed manual transmission comes with the 3.9 V6 and 4.7 V8 engines. A four-speed automatic is optional on the V6, standard on the 5.9 V8. New this year is the option of a five-speed automatic for the 4.7 V8. Even the heaviest Dakota, a 4WD Quad Cab, performs well with the smaller V8. We've recorded a 0-to-60-mph time of 8.8 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 16.8 ticks. Class-leading work ability is here as well; maximum payload is rated at 2,160 pounds while max towing capacity is 6,600 pounds.


The Dakota fares well in most crash tests. Frontal impact testing garnered four out of five stars. Side-impact tests rated a full five stars; especially impressive considering the lack a side airbag option. Frontal offset crash testing, however, was another story; the 2003 Dodge Dakota was rated as "Poor," the lowest of the four ratings in that test.

Interior Design and Special Features

A 40/20/40-split front bench seat is standard on all but the SXT and R/T models, which come with high-back buckets. The buckets are optional on the other trims. In Quad Cabs, there is a 60/40-split folding rear bench seat. Large gauges and simple controls highlight the cabin, and build quality is surprisingly good, with high-quality materials and a lack of rough edges or uneven seams.

Driving Impressions

Willing power plants, automatic transmissions that are rarely caught off guard and well-sorted suspensions make these trucks easy to live with, no matter what they're asked to do. On-road, the supple suspension swallows up bumps, yet doesn't have the truck wallowing through the turns. And off-road, the 2003 Dodge Dakota easily handles everything, even severely rutted and rock-strewn trails. Only the Dakota's broad girth (compared to that of the truly "compact" pickups it competes with) makes for some anxious moments when negotiating narrower trails. In virtually any other environment, the Dakota performs with a "no sweat" attitude.


Talk About The 2003 Dakota

2003 Dodge Dakota Discussions See all Started By

My AC/heater fan has just stopped working on any speed but full. Is the speed control in the switch or are multiple wires sent to the motor?...

So I have wanted a dakota quad cab since the day I saw it, now they I also have a child to haul around I want one even more. But I am not rich and i am trying to find one I can afford. I work for UPS,...

any one have problems with the rear-end of their 2003 dakota. i have had the rear end replace twice in 14 months and now the service dept says the noise isnt the rear end its wind noise. exactly wha...

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