Midsize car; Built in USA, Mexico
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,800*


1991 Dodge Spirit ES


1992 Dodge Spirit R/T


1993 Dodge Spirit


1993 Dodge Spirit ES interior


1991 Dodge Spirit R/T engine

Pros:
  • Acceleration (V6, Turbo)
  • Antilock brakes (optional later models)
  • Passenger and cargo room
Cons:
  • Engine noise (4-cylinder)
  • Rear-seat comfort
  • Ride
  • Road noise
  • Wind noise

Solid, spacious, and competent, a Spirit might fail to stimulate anyone’s spirit–unless it happens to be the wheel-twisting R/T, that is. Even in tamer form, Dodge’s practical domestic sedan is worth a look.

Overview

Introduced in January 1989, Dodge’s compact Spirit front-drive 4-door sedan and the nearly identical Plymouth Acclaim were three inches longer in wheelbase than Aries/Reliant, which they replaced. Spirits came in base, LE, and sporty ES trim. Early models lacked a driver-side airbag, but that safety feature arrived as the regular 1990 model year began. All-disc brakes went into the ES at that time, too. Spirits had three engine choices: a standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, optional 3.0-liter V6, and a turbo that was standard in the ES. Base Spirits held front bucket seats and 14-inch tires, with a front bench and split-back rear seat optional.

Yearly Updates

1991 Spirit
Antilock braking became optional for ’91 on all models. ABS included the all-disc brake setup, which was otherwise standard only on top models. Dodge went all out for performance in 1991-92 with a limited-edition Spirit R/T, powered by a potent turbocharged engine. The R/T was produced only in limited numbers.
1992 Spirit
Gear ratios in the high-performance Spirit R/T were revised to produce even quicker acceleration. Suspension retuning also was intended to boost its handling response. For the first time, a 3-speed automatic transmission (instead of 4-speed) was available with the V6 engine.
1993 Spirit
No more turbocharged engines were available signalling the end of the Spirit R/T. Only two trim levels went on sale: Highline and ES. Both had a new color-keyed grille and revised taillamps, plus a stainless steel exhaust system and tinted glass.
1994 Spirit
A motorized front passenger seatbelt was installed to meet federal passive restraint requirements.
1995 Spirit
Final Spirits had few options, including the deletion of antilock brakes. Only a 3-speed automatic transmission remained available.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Initially offered only in ES Spirits, the V6 engine option could be installed in any Spirit later in the season. The Mitsubishi-built V6 mated only with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Base and LE models had a standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, but the ES had a turbo. Four-cylinder models had 5-speed manual shift or a 3-speed automatic transmission. With dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, the 2.2-liter turbocharged four, installed in the Spirit R/T of 1991-92, developed 224 horsepower. Only manual shift was available, and no other Chrysler product got that engine at the time. Later models with the V6 engine might have either a 3- or 4-speed automatic transmission.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 100-101
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 135-140
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
24/29
22/28
21.2
22.3
ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/181
Engine HP 141-142
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 171
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
21/26
19/24
Turbocharged ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 150-152
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 210
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

19/27

Turbocharged ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.2/135
Engine HP 224
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 217
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
24/34
23/27

Road Test

Acceleration with the base four is barely adequate and particularly meager when passing/merging. But gas mileage is impressive–a 4-cylinder Spirit averaged 22.3 mpg in mixed expressway/highway driving. The V6 is smooth and responsive, but its 4-speed automatic transmission shifts too quickly into higher gears, and also holds back on downshifts when trying to pass. A 3-speed automatic is less frugal, but operates more dependably. Some turbos suffer lag that detracts from initial acceleration, but they’re strong and swift after that opening period. Revisions for 1991 improved low-speed response, but the engine is noisy and coarse. Takeoffs are smooth and vigorous with the Spirit R/T, which suffers minimal turbo lag and offers balanced performance.

Firmer shock absorbers than those used on base and midlevel Acclaims yield a tauter ride and sharper steering/handling. The suspension does a good job of controlling bouncing on wavy roads, but bangs and clunks on rough surfaces. Road and wind noise intrude at highway speeds, too.

Roomy interiors for a car this size offer top-notch visibility. Getting in and out is a snap, and the big trunk with a flat floor is easy to load. Gauges are readable on a dashboard that’s nicely laid out. Front seats feel fine, and rear head/knee room is adequate; but rear cushions are too low and short for comfort.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 Dodge Spirit 4-cylinder

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 4
40%
Fuel Economy - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 4
40%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
40%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 46

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.3 181.2 68.1 53.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.4 16.0 6
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.4 37.9 41.9 38.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1995 Spirit 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 3
60%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 84
Injury 110
Theft 123

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: If the air conditioner gradually stops cooling and/or the airflow from the vents decreases, the computer (PCM) may not be sending a signal to the compressor clutch relay to cycle off, which causes the AC evaporator to freeze up. (1991-95)
Alternator belt
Description: Deep snow could knock the serpentine belt off the pulleys of the 3.0-liter engine. Installing a shield will solve the problem. (1991-95)
Automatic transmission
Description: 41TE or 42LE automatic transaxles could take several seconds to engage at startup because of a problem with the valve body. (1993-95)
Automatic transmission
Description: Transmission shudder under light to moderate acceleration could be caused by a leaking front trans pump due to a worn bushing. (1990-95)
Automatic transmission
Description: Bad seals in the transmission lead to premature friction component wear. (1993-95)
Cold-starting problems
Description: 2.2- or 2.5-liter engines may idle rough or stumble unless a revised intake manifold (with an “X” cast into the number 1 runner) was installed (1992), or a revised computer (PCM) was installed (1992-93), or the computer was reprogrammed. (1994)
Engine noise
Description: The motor mount on the left side of the engine tends to break. (1992-93)
Oil consumption and exhaust smoke
Description: Oil consumption and smoke from the exhaust at idle and deceleration on 3.0-liter engines is caused by exhaust valve guides that slide out of the heads. (1990-93)

Recall History

1990
Description: The engine valve cover gasket may become dislocated and allow an engine oil leak.
1991
Description: Front disc brake caliper guide pin bolts may not be adequately tightened and could loosen.
1991
Description: Both airbag system front impact sensors may not be secured to mounting brackets, so airbag would not deploy.
1992
Description: Zinc plating of some upper steering column shaft coupling bolts caused hydrogen embrittlement and breakage of the bolt.
1994
Description: Seatbelt assembly on small number of cars may fail in accident, increasing risk of injury.

Equipment Lists

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Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.