Used 1997 Dodge Dakota Regular Cab

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1997 Dodge Dakota
List price range
1997 Dodge Dakota

Pros

  • Dual airbags, tight turning circle, Ram styling, roomy cab, simplified model lineup, optional V-8 engine, optional ABS

Cons

  • No third door option, cannot use rear facing child safety seat in front seat because passenger airbag cannot be switched off

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

Frankly, the Dakota was getting about as stale as Halloween candy on April Fool's Day. The exterior was still ruggedly handsome, but the interior was an ergonomic throwback to 1980. SLT models had horrific fake wood that looked like it had been ripped from a '70s tract home basement. Seat comfort was marginal. The best thing the Dakota had going for it was an optional 5.2-liter V8 engine and class-leading bed size.

Now that Chrysler in flush with cash, the Dakota has received a complete makeover for 1997. The most obvious difference is the styling of the new truck. Call it mini-Ram, inside and out. The exterior isn't as attractive as the Ram, mostly because the front end doesn't gel right thanks to a multitude of cutlines around the grille and headlight assemblies. From certain angles, the ellipsoidal grille looks tacked on rather than integrated with the lights and front bumper, giving the truck an oddly proportioned appearance.

Inside, user-friendly controls and displays pass the same work-glove ease-of-operation test that the Ram does. Seats are king-of-the-road high, and infinitely more comfortable. Club Cab models will carry up to six people. Dual airbags are standard, but it is important to note that the passenger airbag cannot be switched off. This means that rear-facing child safety seats can never be used in the front seat of a 1997 Dakota. Babies and young children will need to ride on the rear bench of the Club Cab model. Can't afford a Club Cab? Shop for a Ford Ranger or a Mazda B-Series. They've had passenger airbags since 1995, and they offer a switch to turn off the airbag. Kinda makes you wonder what Chrysler was thinking.

Here's another mystery. The Club Cab offers no third door option. Seems odd from the company that pioneered the fourth sliding door on minivans and is planning a four-door full-size Ram Club Cab for 1998. To get this convenience, you've got to buy a Chevy S-10 or GMC Sonoma. Press materials indicate that the new Dakota is equipped with side door guard beams, but makes no mention that these beams pass 1999 side-impact standards for trucks. Why didn't engineers just but the stronger beams in from the get-go, rather than wait a couple of years? Dodge had a chance to build the perfect compact pickup, and blew it.

Still, it's a nice piece of work. Base, Sport and SLT models are available. Regular cab 2WD models feature a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that provides 120 horsepower. Club Cab and 4WD models get a 3.9-liter V6 good for 175 horsepower and 225 foot-pounds of torque. Optional on all models is a 5.2-liter V8 engine that makes 230 horsepower and 300 ft-lbs. of torque at 3,200 rpm. Crammed into a regular cab shortbed with 2WD, the V8 transforms the Dakota into a storming sport truck.

Overall, the new Dakota is quite satisfying. However, we can't help but think some short-sighted thinking and cost-cutting went into the design because of the lack of several major safety and convenience features. Makes us wonder about the integrity of the stuff that isn't quite so obvious.

1997 Highlights

Powertrains are carried over, but everything else on the 1997 Dodge Dakota is new. Distinctions? Tightest turning circle in class, roomiest cabs and dual airbags are standard. Faux pas? No third door option, and the passenger airbag cannot be deactivated, so a rear-facing child seat is out of the question unless you cram it into the rear of the Club Cab.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Dodge Dakota.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

Just bought a '97 in 2013
sstevek,07/29/2013
My model is actually a Sport 2WD 3.9 5 speed manual that I bought with about 102,500 miles. I get plenty of snow in my area, but the truck is for occasional use. I wanted a truck with a V6 and a manual transmission, something not easy to find. I think the V6 with the manual is a great combination - and a rare find. The regular cab is a little tight for me - but that's ok. I do enjoy driving the truck. It rides well, and the interior is solid. With the windows up it's quiet - there's not one rattle in the truck. My first fuel calculation, highway and around town was 18.8 mpg. Very satisfied with that. I feel good about this truck. I was asked to update my review. I no longer have the Dakota, mainly because my son was living in an off campus area where the roads were steep. He had a AWD car, but it was getting up there in miles and if he needed repairs I wanted him to borrow something suited for snow, so I bought a 4WD truck with an automatic transmission. I will say, the interior of the Dakota was solid, not one rattle. I can't say the same about the 2001 GM truck that replaced it. I'd still recommend a used Dodge Dakota. I know someone who had about 230k miles on the 3.9V6 and it was still running fine. I was again asked to update my review. All I can add is the friend's Dakota mentioned above with 230k miles was sold with 320k. Last he heard it was running with 329k.
My truck
Jo_jo69699,07/15/2008
I liked this truck before I even bought it. I would borrow it from my aunt all the time, it is spacious, very dependable, has a lot of power, fast, and has a lot of torque. I have taken this truck off road without any problems. Even the gas mileage is good, I average about 20-25 mpg, it has a v6 magnum in it, so I thought it was gonna be a gas hog. The only problem, I have had with the truck is the ac system, I can get it recharged and three days later it would need recharged again. This truck has never let me down and I have had it for 4 years.
Handy to have around
Phil Briddell,01/12/2008
I bought this for my daughter who always wanted a pickup. It has a teal color. It worked very well for her. She has moved to the city and a pickup is unnecessary, so I inherited it. I'm having trouble giving it up as it is handy to have around. Drives like a truck and gets the same kind of low mileage but that is what it is.
I LOVE THIS TRUCK
JOSH CORBIT,04/24/2002
I LOVE THIS TRUCK
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Features & Specs

MPG
15 city / 20 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
175 hp @ 4800 rpm
MPG
15 city / 20 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
175 hp @ 4800 rpm
MPG
18 city / 23 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
120 hp @ 5200 rpm
MPG
14 city / 17 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
175 hp @ 4800 rpm
See all Used 1997 Dodge Dakota Regular Cab features & specs

Safety

IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Poor

More about the 1997 Dodge Dakota
Used 1997 Dodge Dakota Regular Cab Overview

The Used 1997 Dodge Dakota Regular Cab is offered in the following styles: SLT 2dr Regular Cab SB, SLT 2dr Regular Cab LB, 2dr Regular Cab SB, Sport 2dr Regular Cab 4WD SB, Sport 2dr Regular Cab LB, 2dr Regular Cab LB, 2dr Regular Cab 4WD SB, Sport 2dr Regular Cab SB, and SLT 2dr Regular Cab 4WD SB.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Dodge Dakota Regular Cab?

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Which used 1997 Dodge Dakota Regular Cabs are available in my area?

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Find a used Dodge Dakota for sale - 7 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $13,280.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Dodge Dakota?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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Check out Dodge Dakota lease specials