Compact car; Built in USA, Mexico
  • 2-door hatchback
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,600*

1990 Plymouth Sundance RS 2-door hatchback

1990 Plymouth Sundance RS 2-door hatchback

1993 Plymouth Sundance Duster 2-door hatchback

1990 Plymouth Sundance RS 2-door hatchback

1991 Plymouth Sundance RS interior

  • Acceleration (turbo, V6)
  • Antilock brakes (optional)
  • Engine noise
  • Rear-seat room

While not overly refined, Sundance is a low-cost vehicle that doesn’t shout “economy car” when you open the door. It simply doesn’t feel as puny and lightweight as other entry-level offerings, and has the added safety of an airbag.


Built on the same subcompact platform as its twin, the Dodge Shadow, this front drive first arrived in 1987 as a sporty 4-door hatchback, followed shortly by a 2-door hatchback. The base engine for the Sundance was a 93-horsepower, 2.2-liter 4 cylinder. By 1988, a new 100-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine became optional. Also optional was a 150-horsepower, turbocharged version of the larger 4-cylinder. Standard transmission on all three was a 5-speed manual. Optional for the three engines was a 3-speed automatic. New for 1990 was a standard driver-side airbag.

Yearly Updates

1991 Sundance
For 1991, Plymouth joins Dodge in offering an entry-level model wearing the “America” label. The America tag was first used on low-priced Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon models when they were being phased out to make room for the new Shadow/Sundance models. The new arrival produces three Sundance models; the America, Highline, and RS. The Sundance America comes only with the 93-horsepower base engine and has an uncarpeted trunk. Only the RS model can be equipped with the optional turbocharged engine, modified for 1991 to produce 210 pound-feet of torque, 30 more than last year.
1992 Sundance
The high-end RS model is dropped and the price-leader Sundance America returns virtually unchanged for its sophomore season. Also, the Sundance Highline model gets new body colored bumpers and matching front and rear fascias.
1993 Sundance
The big news is the arrival of antilock brakes as a new option for all versions of this front-drive subcompact. In place of the America model is a better-equipped base model and a new sporty version called the Duster. Under its hood is a 141-horsepower 3.0-liter V6.
1994 Sundance
Sundance models are gradually phased out during 1994, with the January arrival of the new Neon model. A new feature added for the final year of production is a motorized passenger shoulder belt.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

The base engine for the Sundance is a 93-horsepower, 2.2-liter 4-cylinder. It provides 121 pound-feet of torque at 3200 rpm. A new 2.5-liter engine became optional in 1988, providing 100 horsepower at 4800 rpm and 135 pound-feet at 2800 rpm. Through 1992, another optional engine was a turbocharged version of the larger 4-cylinder. It delivered 150 horsepower at 4800 rpm and 185 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm, until an upgrade for 1991 provided 152 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque at 2400 rpm. Standard transmission for all three engines is a 5-speed manual. Optional for the three engines is a 3-speed automatic. For 1993, a 3.0-liter V6 joins the powertrain lineup to power the new Duster sporty model. It provides 141 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 171 pound-feet at 2400 rpm.

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
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
Turbocharged ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 150-152
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 180-210
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
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

Road Test

Base models with the 2.2-liter engine are faster than most economy cars–though the engine tends to be on the noisy and rough side. The 2.5-liter version is smoother and more responsive, though it isn’t quite as fuel efficient and not much quieter. Most raucous of the engine trio, as expected, is the turbo four.

Dusters with V6 power have lively acceleration and, with wider tires and firmer suspension, make for a competent sporty package. Even the moderately firm base suspension delivers good cornering and grip, though it feels a bit harsh on bumpy roads.

Tall people won’t complain about room in the front seats, but 6-footers are advised to avoid the rear seats, where both leg and head room are skimpy. Luggage space is adequate with the rear seatback up and generous when folded forward.


Model Tested: 1992 Plymouth Sundance 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.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 4
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 6

Total: 43


2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.2 171.9 67.3 53.1
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 41.5 34.0
4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.2 171.9 67.3 53.1
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 41.5 34.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1993 Sundance 4-door hatchback


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

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


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

Collision 108
Injury 141
Theft 82

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: If the air conditioner gradually stops cooling and/or the air flow 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 should prevent the problem. (1991-94)
Automatic transmission
Description: If the transmission shudders under light to moderate acceleration, the transmission front pump could be leaking due to a worn bushing. (1990-94)
Automatic transmission
Description: Bad seals in the transmission lead to premature friction-component wear, which causes shudder when starting from a stop, a bump when coasting to a stop, and slipping between gears. (1993-94)
Engine mounts
Description: The motor mount on the left side of the engine tends to break. (1992-93)
Oil consumption and exhaust smoke
Description: High 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)
Rough idle
Description: 2.2- or 2.5-liter engines may idle rough or stumble when first started below freezing temperatures unless a revised intake manifold (with an “X” cast into the No. 1 runner) was installed (1992) or a revised computer (PCM) was installed (1992-93) or the computer was reprogrammed (1994).
Transaxle leak
Description: 41TE or 42LE automatic transaxles could take several seconds to engage at startup because of a problem with the valve body. (1993-94)

Recall History

Description: Engine valve-cover gasket may dislocate and allow oil to leak.
Description: Front disc-brake-caliper guide-pin bolts may not be adequately tightened and could loosen.
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.
Description: Lower seatback bolt on driver’s seat can fail and separate.
Description: Zinc plating of some upper steering-column shaft-coupling bolts caused hydrogen embrittlement and breakage of the bolt.
1993-94 2-door
Description: Bolt that attaches recliner mechanism to driver’s seatback on certain cars could break; may result in seatback suddenly reclining.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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.

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