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Overall, the interior isn't fussy or busy, which is nice.  It took awhile to get comfortable with the driver's 6-way power seating, but I found the front row rather roomy. You won't feel like you are sitting in a compact truck, and that's a bonus for compact truck enthusiasts.

But forget about seating anyone comfortably in the Extended Cab jump seats. You'll be lucky if the dog doesn't complain about feeling cramped. But Extended Cab is as Extended Cab does, and it has its highlights - one of them being the 170-degree swing on the rear access doors. Fold up the jump seats for 30 cubic feet of storage space with a total of six storage hooks on the rear interior panel.

The Extended Cab I had came with the available 40/40 rear-folding seats, while Crew Cab models have a standard 60/40 split-folding rear seat. The Extended Cab has earned five-star safety ratings in both front and side impact testing by the federal government (NHTSA).

I had to image what the Crew Cab with the four full-size doors might feel like with leg space of 37.1 cubic feet, the roomiest in its class. I also had to image what the new Crate 'N Go system was like. This collapsible and removable cargo management system allows gear to be packed and lifted out of the back.

As far as other general storage options for all models, there is a storage bin is located above the glove box and the new center console has a pull-out bin specifically designed to hold electronics such as an MP3 player, cell phone or Personal Digital Assistant.

The bed has two built-in utility rails on the sides. Sure, they are infinitely adjustable as advertised, but the four plastic cleats for tying down cargo were minuscule in both size and quality. The Frontier offers four large stainless-steel cleats for their system, plus there are two more rails located on the floor. A third side rail located directly behind the Dakota cab would have been useful for securing gear better.

The Dakota doesn't have a spray-on bedliner. The test truck had a drop-in plastic box protector. Its two-position tailgate can be secured half or all the way down.

For extras, it did have a very nice MOPAR chrome tubular side step at $525. Additional MOPAR accessories include fiberglass tonneau cover, 18-inch aluminum wheels, hood scoop, bed extender, chrome front air deflector, and fuel filler door. My model also came with the Trailer Tow Group for $345, including fold away mirrors, a hitch, and a wiring harness.

Facelifts are a common procedure celebrities undertake to remain young and fresh in a competitive field. With sales down for nearly all small pickup manufacturers, Dodge needed to rework the interior, exterior, and powertrain components in hopes to stand out as the most attractive and capable, yet still most efficient choice for compact truck drivers. Not an easy roll to fill.

A vehicle like the Dodge Dakota and Nissan Frontier stand together but separate on the big car lot stage, waiting to be picked for the part of your active lifestyle. A V8 or V6? A spacious Frontier Crew Cab with a bed space of 6.1 feet, or Dodge's 6.6 feet but under an Extended Cab?

Although the Dakota has an obvious edge with the V8 offering, fingers point to the Nissan Frontier for all-around small truck satisfaction in this comparison.

If the Dakota I had driven came with more upgrades, maybe my opinion would change, but the point being made is when compared to a similar vehicle with the same price and attributes, the Dakota lacks that certain star quality.

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