Used 1997 Dodge Stratus Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Subtle styling revisions are the most obvious change to the Stratus for 1997. Sound systems have been improved, rear seat heat ducts benefit from improved flow, and the optional 2.4-liter engine runs quieter. New colors and a revised console round out changes.

Vehicle overview

If the string of recent hits from Chrysler hasn't convinced you that a revolution has occurred within the company's ranks, then the Stratus will. Stylistically, aesthetically, and technologically, this car is a triumph in the compact class.

Actually, the Stratus isn't compact inside. Classified by the EPA as a midsized sedan, it boasts more interior volume than Ford Contour, Mercury Mystique and Nissan Altima. Ergonomics are first rate, with dials and switches that look and feel more substantial than the price tag would indicate. Patterns and textures within are satisfying, and the seat fabric is grippy, holding passengers in place during spirited driving. Rear seat room is a marvel of packaging, though the low cushion could be raised somewhat for better support.

Externally, the Stratus is more mainstream than its corporate cousin, Chrysler Cirrus. We prefer the Stratus though, because the body color grille reduces the visual largess of the car's protruding snout. The sheetmetal is very attractive, with soft bulges and extremely-cab-forward design lending the Stratus an air of character often lacking in sedans. Styling changes for 1997 are minimal, amounting to the deletion of the lower trunk lid molding at the rear, new wheelcovers on base models, and body-color fascias forward and aft.

Dodge revises the engine intake manifold and oil pan on the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine this year, resulting in quieter operation. Inside, audio systems are improved, and an in-dash CD changer is optional. Rear seat heat ducts benefit from increased air flow, and the front center console is restyled to include a covered storage bin and armrest. Orchid and Light Gold paint colors are replaced by Dark Chestnut Pearl and Deep Amethyst Pearl.

The recipe for fun resides in the Stratus ES equipped with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed gear shifter, or a 164-horsepower V6 hooked to Chrysler's new AutoStick automanual transmission. Base models can be had with a 2.0- or 2.4-liter inline four, but the smaller engine is the only one that comes with a manual transmission.

Pop the trunk and you'll find 15.7 cubic feet of storage. It's easy to load that space up with stuff too, because the lid opens up high and wide. No banged heads on protruding trunk latches here! Up front and underhood, the vital fluids are well-marked. Large block letters and yellow trim highlight the oil dipstick, coolant reservoir and windshield wiper fluid, among others.

This car is about ease of use and operation. Perhaps it isn't as soul stirring as a Ford Contour V6, or as perfectly engineered as the Honda Accord; it is a fantastic value, and we recommend that you consider the Stratus if a family sedan fits the bill.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.