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by Steve Siler

Dodge Dakota
2003 Dodge Dakota

If you find the compact trucks on these pages just a bit too small (or wimpy-looking) for your tastes, but are equally turned off at the thought of piloting a ponderous full-sizer around, the not-too-big, not-too-small (and not-at-all-wimpy-looking) Dodge Dakota might be just your ticket. Its generous interior dimensions and large bed make easy work of carrying people, things or both. Its sexy, too, in a Peterbilt sort of way.

As is the case with most pickups, the Dakota is pretty starkly equipped when it comes to base-level equipment. So stepping up to higher trim levels may be well worth your while. Doing so will also will also afford you the option of upgrading from the standard 175-hp V-6 engine to the 235-hp V-8, which, interestingly, doesn't exact much of a penalty in terms of fuel economy (and costs only $590 extra).

Inside, you'll really appreciate the extra space. And depending on how many boxes you check on the options page, you'll appreciate the bounty of comfort and convenience features. In terms of price, this truck, fittingly, is right between the compacts and the full-sizers, underscoring once again its intent to woo the masses looking for just the right balance of reasonable size and true-truck capability.