The "Spirit" model name was previously used by American Motors — which Chrysler bought in 1987 — for a subcompact car called the AMC Spirit from 1979 to 1983. The Dodge Spirit sold 60,000 cars in its first year, strong enough that Aries production was stopped mid-season. Production ended on December 9, 1994 when the Spirit was replaced by the "cab-forward" Stratus.
The Spirit could seat six with an optional front split-bench seat. It had a relatively large trunk, a simple solid-beam rear axle, and a MacPherson strut front suspension. The Spirit differed from the other A-bodies primarily in the grille and rear lamp styling, and in the exclusive availability of a sportier, higher-performing version — the R/T.
While the Spirit could be compared in size to the Ford Tempo, the platform was also compared with the Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry by Consumer Reports which found the similar but upscale Chrysler LeBaron to be "adequate", but not up to the other three cars. Nevertheless, they sold relatively well, but mainly on the basis of price and value. Though maligned in their later years by critics, the Spirit did outsell the critically acclaimed later Stratus.