2003 Dodge Dakota Review

Pros & Cons

  • Plentiful V8 power, alert transmission, spot-on suspension both on- and off-road, easily accessible and accommodating cabin.
  • As thirsty as a frat brother, a bit big for serious off-roading, can get pricey if too many options are chosen.
List Price Estimate
$1,495 - $2,933

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Edmunds' Expert Review

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.

Vehicle overview

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.

2003 Dodge Dakota models

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.

2003 Highlights

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.

Performance & mpg

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.

Safety

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.

Driving

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.

Interior

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.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2003 Dodge Dakota.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

03 Dakota SLT 4x4
Tyler D,07/16/2010
I have an 03 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab (full 4 doors) with the 4.7 and 5 speed auto. Man what an awesome truck, for the money there is nothing close to it. Car will giddy up and go whenever called upon. Tows my boat with no issues and will beat anything else on the road. The only vehicle out there with a REAL v8 in a midsized truck, if it's got a 4 cylinder its not a truck! Toyota can't touch it and the ranger is too small, and in my opinion the sport trac is ugly, if you're looking for a good reliable truck get the Dakota. I average 17 mpg in mine with me stomping on it quite a bit, not bad.
2nd Dakota
sixatbat1,11/04/2013
This is my second Dakota and I love it just as much as my first one which was an 04. This on is the quad cab 4x4 slt with the 4.7 automatic. Runs great with 122k. It does everything I need it to do, whether it be hauling wood, going on a long trip, or pulling Jeeps out of the mud. Speaking of mud, it's difficult to get this truck stuck in the mud or snow. It was out in Nemo, the huge snow storm on LI in early 2013. I got through the terrible road/weather conditions with no problem whatsoever. It's a comfortable ride, and is very roomy on the inside which is great on those long trips. If you need a smaller truck that can do a full size truck's job, buy a Dakota.
2003 awd 4x4 slt, 4.7 V8 quad cab
slufscb,04/17/2013
This is my Second Dakota. It is a good all around truck. I have over 200,000 miles on mine. I noticed my gas mileage has gone down since i have had the ball joints replaced. I get 14 mpg in the city and about 19 mpg on the hwy. Outside of normal wear of parts this truck has served me well. For an AWD truck it handles good in snow, rain and mud. I have only had to put into 4 wheel drive when I get stuck in mud. The size of the truck works well for our family, we are all 5'8" or less and the truck seems roomy to us.
Wishing we could keep it!
brett,10/07/2002
This vehicle has been such a joy. With the available 5.9L we had it matches even with the 1500 series with torque and BHP and it cost on average $8,000 less. I'm 6'4" and I feel comfortable in the rear seats. The back doors have a full 90 degree opening which make getting in and out a breeze. The ride and comfort is so car like it's unreal. The only down fall that you must live with is the fuel economy or there lack of. But with all that engine it something I can live with.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2003 Dodge Dakota 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 2003 Dodge Dakota

Used 2003 Dodge Dakota Overview

The Used 2003 Dodge Dakota is offered in the following submodels: Dakota Club Cab, Dakota Regular Cab, Dakota Quad Cab. Available styles include 4dr Quad Cab SLT Rwd SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 4dr Quad Cab SLT 4WD SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Club Cab SLT Rwd SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Club Cab SLT 4WD SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 4dr Quad Cab Sport 4WD SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 4dr Quad Cab Sport Rwd SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Club Cab 4WD SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Club Cab Sport Rwd SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Club Cab Sport 4WD SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Regular Cab 4WD SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Regular Cab SLT 4WD SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Regular Cab R/T Rwd SB (5.9L 8cyl 4A), 2dr Club Cab Rwd SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Club Cab R/T Rwd SB (5.9L 8cyl 4A), 2dr Regular Cab Rwd SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Regular Cab Sport Rwd SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Regular Cab SLT Rwd SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M), and 2dr Regular Cab Sport 4WD SB (3.9L 6cyl 5M).

What's a good price on a Used 2003 Dodge Dakota?

Price comparisons for Used 2003 Dodge Dakota trim styles:

  • The Used 2003 Dodge Dakota SLT is priced between $6,499 and$7,700 with odometer readings between 84000 and154713 miles.
  • The Used 2003 Dodge Dakota Sport is priced between $6,981 and$6,981 with odometer readings between 151009 and151009 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2003 Dodge Dakotas are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2003 Dodge Dakota for sale near. There are currently 3 used and CPO 2003 Dakotas listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $6,499 and mileage as low as 84000 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2003 Dodge Dakota.

Can't find a used 2003 Dodge Dakotas you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Dodge Dakota for sale - 1 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $13,662.

Find a used Dodge for sale - 12 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $20,818.

Find a used certified pre-owned Dodge Dakota for sale - 11 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $13,990.

Find a used certified pre-owned Dodge for sale - 2 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $18,333.

Should I lease or buy a 2003 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.

Check out Dodge lease specials
Check out Dodge Dakota lease specials