Dodge also tweaked the body and trim levels with this generation of Dakota. Gone is the short-cab, long-bed version. The base truck is the Club Cab, now with two demi doors behind the fronts, opening to a cargo area fitted with small jump seats. The Quad Cab features a larger cabin, and, starting in 2006, rear doors that open past 90 degrees for easier access. Because all Dakotas now ride on the same 131.3-inch wheelbase, the tradeoff for a larger cab is a smaller bed. The Club Cab gets a 6-foot-6-inch bed, while the Quad Cab makes do with a 5-foot-3-inch bed; at least it’s deeper than the previous generation’s.

The third-generation Dakota hasn’t been as popular as its predecessor. Nor has the latest Dakota been the most reliable; owners report a variety of electrical problems, short-lived catalytic converters, easily warped front brake rotors (despite Dodge going to larger brakes with twin-piston calipers), and soggy shocks. Ironically, the Dakota’s toughest competition came from within the family: The full-size Ram gets nearly the same fuel economy in a larger, more comfortable package. But for those lacking the garage space, the Dakota is a fine choice. Our advice: Go for the latest, highest-spec V-8.

2005-2009 Dodge Dakota
Body type Four-door pickup
Drivetrain Front engine, RWD/4WD
Airbags Dual front
Engines 3.7L/210-hp SOHC V-6; 4.7L/230-hp SOHC V-8 (2005-2007); 4.7L/260-hp SOHC V-8 (2005-2007 High Output); 4.7L/302-hp SOHC V-8 (2008-on)
Brakes, f/r Disc/drum, ABS (rear-only standard)
Price range, whilesale/retail (est) $3980/$7860 (2005 2WD Club Cab ST); $18,400/$24,840 (2009 4WD Crew Cab Laramie)
Recalls Too many to list; see www.intellichoice.com
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/pass Five stars/five stars