Compact car; Built in USA
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door hatchback
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,800*


1994 Dodge Shadow ES 2-door coupe


1991 Dodge Shadow ES 2-door convertible


1991 Dodge Shadow ES 2-door convertible


1991 Dodge Spirit ES interior


1990 Dodge Spirit ES

Pros:
  • Acceleration (V6, Turbo)
  • Antilock brakes
  • Cargo room
  • Ride/handling
Cons:
  • Engine noise (4-cylinder)
  • Rear-seat room

Assembly quality doesn’t match that of Japanese competitors, and Shadows aren’t the most refined small cars around. Some might call even them mechanically crude. Still, Dodge’s subcompact is a solid vehicle that looks good, performs well, and costs considerably less.

Overview

Introduced for 1987 along with the nearly identical Plymouth Sundance, this front-drive subcompact first came in 4-door hatchback form, aimed at affluent young buyers. A 2-door hatchback soon followed. Dodge’s version was considered the sportier of the pair. Basic engines came in two sizes, 2.2- and 2.5-liter, along with a turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard across the board; 3-speed automatic optional. A driver-side airbag became standard for 1990. A new turbocharged engine also became available–a 2.2-liter VNT Turbo IV version of the standard 4-cylinder engine. Manual shift only, it was available on the Shadow ES, or on cars with a special competition package.

Yearly Updates

1991 Shadow
Something surprising arrived for 1991: a Shadow convertible. Entry-level “America” editions also joined the lineup. By now, Shadow and Sundance were Chrysler Corporation’s least expensive domestic cars, thus adopting the stripped-down America designation. Shadow Americas came in both 2- and 4-door hatchback body styles, but only with the 2.2-liter engine. Standard models, now called Highline, came with either normally aspirated engine. The Shadow ES, now listed as a separate model, had a sport suspension and could also get turbo power instead of the standard 2.5-liter four. Converted by American Sunroof Company, convertibles came in both Highline and ES trim, with a manual folding top and plastic rear window.
1992 Shadow
During 1992, a Mitsubishi-built V6 engine replaced the turbo four as an option. Otherwise, changes were mainly in appearance.
1993 Shadow
Antilock brakes joined the option list for all models, as Shadows got a modified lineup. This year’s lowest-priced model was simply called the base Shadow. As before, ES was the upscale edition, with a standard 2.5-liter engine rather than the base 2.2-liter. Base models might have the 2.5-liter as an option.
1994 Shadow
To meet federal requirements for passive restraints, Shadows got motorized shoulder belts for front occupants. Air conditioners adopted CFC-free refrigerant.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

No fewer than four engines were available in 1990 Shadows, from a 93-horsepower base engine to a hot 174-horsepower VNT Turbo, with a 2.5-liter and Turbo I in between. Shadows with the most potent turbo were manual-shift only, but others could have the 3-speed automatic transmission instead. The VNT Turbo was gone after ’90, and the other turbo departed in 1992, replaced by a 3.0-liter V6 engine option, which developed 141 horsepower. A 4-speed automatic went with V6 engines, while 4-cylinder Shadows stuck with the 3-speed. Convertibles and the Shadow ES had a standard 2.5-liter engine, while base and America Shadows kept the smaller (2.2-liter) four as standard equipment.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 100
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 135
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
24/29
22/27
ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/181
Engine HP 141
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 171
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
19/28
19/24
21.7
Turbocharged ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 150-152
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 180
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
20/26
19/23
Turbocharged ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.2/135
Engine HP 174
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 210
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

20/28

19.8

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.2/135
Engine HP 93
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 122
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
26/33
23/30
25.2

Road Test

Performance is listless with the basic 2.2-liter engine, which is on the noisy side. Action is somewhat better–and smoother–with the 2.5-liter four, which doesn’t consume much more fuel, either. It’s a better choice with automatic, in particular, but by no means devoid of noise. Either turbo engine delivers swift acceleration, but it’s accompanied by plenty of raucous behavior beneath the hood. The V6 engine is smooth and flexible, making a Shadow downright frisky when coupled to manual shift. Lacking an overdrive gear, the 3-speed automatic isn’t the best choice for highway gas mileage and quiet cruising.

The standard suspension is firm for a domestic car. Handling beats most small cars, even in base form, and Shadows produce a stable highway ride. An ES version is tauter, but not harsh over most pavement surfaces. Quick-ratio power steering has good feel and centers well.

Interiors are nicely packaged, with reclining front bucket seats, tachometer, and gauges. Rear-seat room could be better but folding the seatbacks creates a generous cargo hold. Convertibles displayed some cowl shake and body flex even when new, but not to a troubling degree.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1991 Dodge Shadow ES 2.2-liter 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 - 4
40%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 3
30%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
40%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 43

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.0 171.7 67.3 52.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.2 14.0 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.3 37.4 42.0 33.7
2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.2 171.9 67.3 52.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
33.3 14.0 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.3 37.4 42.0 33.7
4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.2 171.9 67.3 52.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
33.3 14.0 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.3 37.4 42.0 33.7
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1993 Shadow 4-door hatchback

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

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 102
Injury 147
Theft 93

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 A/C evaporator to freeze up. (1991-94)
Alternator belt
Description: Deep snow could knock the serpentine belt off the pulleys of a 3.0-liter engine. Installing a shield will solve the problem. (1991-94)
Automatic transmission
Description: Transmission shudder under light to moderate acceleration could be caused by a leaking front trans pump due to a worn bushing. (1990-94)
Automatic transmission
Description: 41TE or 42LE automatic transaxles could take several seconds to engage at startup because of a problem with the valve body. (1993-94)
Automatic transmission
Description: Bad seals in the transmission lead to premature friction component wear. (1993-94)
Cold-starting problems
Description: 2.2- or 2.5-liter engines may idle rough or stumble when first started 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
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. (1992-93)

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, which could cause reduced braking effectiveness that might result in an accident.
1991
Description: Both airbag system front impact sensors may not be secured to mounting brackets, so airbag would not deploy.
1991-92
Description: Steering wheel mounting armature can develop cracks and separate from the center hub attachment to the steering column; can result in loss of vehicle control.
1991-92
Description: Lower driver’s seatback attaching bolt can fail and separate.
1991-94 2-door
Description: Bolt that attaches recliner mechanism to driver’s seatback on certain cars could break; may result in seatback suddenly reclining.
1992
Description: Zinc plating of some upper steering column shaft coupling bolts caused hydrogen embrittlement and breakage of the bolt.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

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.