I've heard tons of horror stories about lemon Dakotas, but mine really hasn't been bad at all. I've had no major problems with anything. No breakdowns, no leaks, no squeaks or rattles - this is a solid truck. Considering that I drive it HARD (frequent "exercise"), it's holding up very well, although I do maintain it obsessively.
The only thing I don't like is that it's a regular cab, and the interior is kind of small for me (6'2", 240lbs). I can't really find a comfortable seat position. It's also uncomfortable for long drives - anything more than 2 hours is definitely not enjoyable. Plus, it loves gas. With a light foot, and keeping rpm's way down, I never do better than 16 city/20 highway (the way I usually drive, I get about 13 city/17 highway, same as the V8). For anyone considering a Dakota, I highly suggest the V8 - you get more power, and the fuel economy is essentially the same as the V6.
This handles pretty well for a truck. I've driven Rangers & S10's, and this handles much better. The ride is also not nearly as rough as you might expect, but with the short wheelbase, it can get bouncy. The steering is the most responsive I've experienced in a pickup. It doesn't lean much in turns, but the tires give up early. I'm sure wider tires would help out that out, though. One thing... like any other 2-wheel drive pickup, when it's wet or snowy outside, it really likes to oversteer (that's why I keep 300lbs of tube sand in the bed during the winter).
I wasn't happy with the stock braking performance - too much fade in hard stops, and stopping distance weren't the best (these trucks are heavier than they look). If you're considering a Dakota, I definitely suggest spending the time and money to upgrade your brakes. In my case, at least, it was worth it: nice, firm pedal with great stopping power, and no fade.
I'd have to say the same thing about the acceleration. Stock, the 3.9L has plenty of torque, and it's happy to lug around in any gear from 1000rpm on up. But, it really runs out of breath past 4000rpm. I made some changes (without getting into detail), and again, I find it's been worth the work. My truck may not run with a Dakota R/T, but it now spins happily to 5000rpm. I've taken it past 110mph with little effort, and off the line, it definitely knocks you back in the seat.
I have no complaints about the styling (I care more about "go" than "show" anyway), but I'd really like to replace the dinky 15" rims... wheels that small really look wrong on a truck.