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Dodge Journey 2.0 CRD SXT

Click to view picture gallery“Finding a car that suits ‘the family
  can be a tricky business. Not only
  is it necessary to accommodate a mix
  of bodies but it also has to look good
  and cost substantially less than your
  mortgage. Dodge
s new Journey,
  which doesn
t shout family bus,
  could be one for your short-list

THE ALL-NEW DODGE JOURNEY is portrayed as a vehicle having the seven-seat capability of an MPV but with the looks of large high-off-the-ground estate car or soft off-roader even though it is only two-wheel drive. Priced from 16,995, the muscularly styled Journey is aimed at younger families for whom interior space plays a lesser role than image, specification and price.

One of the more distinctive family transport model ranges now arriving in the showrooms, the Dodge Journey is true to its all-American roots. Like all Dodge models, it features hard-line angular styling, muscular wheelarches and a distinctive upright front grille, all of which give it a brash, in-your-face appearance. Size-wise, its 4,888mm length is similar to that of a Ford Mondeo estate.

Well timed for the '58' plate September new registration month, the Journey with five-plus-two seating combinations in three rows is available now, with the choice of three trim and equipment levels (SE, SXT and R/T) and two engine options.

A 168bhp 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, variable valve timing petrol engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission is the most powerful offering, even though Dodge says it will attract only two per cent of customers. Likely to appeal to low mileage owners attracted by the lower purchase price and lower cost of petrol over diesel fuel, it could increase Dodge's sales forecast for this model. For the record, the combined fuel cycle economy is 32.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 209g/km giving it an annual road tax bill of 210.

The second engine in the line-up — which Dodge expect will account for 98 per cent of sales — is a Volkswagen-sourced 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit with power and torque outputs of, respectively, 138bhp and 229lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm.

This engine is available with the option of a six-speed manual or six-speed, twin-clutch automatic transmission. Around two thirds of customers are expected to opt for the manual 'box and these models are quoted as achieving 43.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 171g/km (170 Band E annual road tax).

Value for money, a high level of specification and versatile seating combinations are all important reasons to consider the Journey as funky 'n' fun family transport. As with all Dodge models, specification is high — all versions have three-zone air conditioning, a six-speaker sound system, electric windows, ABS, electronic stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front, front seat and side curtain airbags, child seat fittings and remote central locking with a security alarm.

SE models have steel wheels; all other models have 17 or 19-inch alloys. SXT and R/T variants see the specification levels boosted still further: some of the added goodies include a power-operated driver's seat, a more comprehensive instrument display plus on-board information computer, fog-lights and stain and odour repellent seat fabric.

Extra cost options include an excellent MyGig multimedia infotainment system with 3D satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and rear view camera. This costs an extra 1,500 or 2,000 with the added rear seat video entertainment unit.

The three rows of seats with their slide-and-fold combinations are very clever and, in the main, easy to use. The added under-floor (or under-seat squab) lined storage boxes are well thought-out and the cooler section in the glovebox for drinks is also very handy.

With the middle and rear rows of seats folded down, there is a long flat load floor that can be extended further by folding the front passenger seat back down. In many ways the versatile seating is a prime reason for buying the Journey: that, and its non-conventional MPV styling. A word of warning: the middle row of seats is not really wide enough for three adults. And with all three rows of seats in use, the luggage space is, at 302-litres, pretty limited although the under-floor/seat storage bins do help. With the middle and rear rows of seats folded down, the load area is a huge 1,914 litres but the hard plastic-covered rear wheel arches intrude significantly into the load space.

The quality of materials, the design of the dashboard and the build quality is probably the best we have seen from Dodge so far, but the feel of the materials and the overall look isn't, as yet, up to the standards set by European, Japanese or indeed the Korean brands.

What about performance and driveability? Again, the Journey is outclassed by many of its competitors but by a lesser amount than other models in the Dodge range. The engine we know well from VW: it's noisy at times, but it's strong, responsive and relatively fuel-efficient given the size of vehicle it is powering.

My 2.0-litre CRD SXT turbodiesel test car with a six-speed manual transmission returned 33.2mpg during the first UK test drive on all types of roads and in all kinds of traffic conditions. Unfortunately there were no 2.4-litre petrol or twin-clutch automatic models available for testing at the media launch.

When it comes to handling and ride comfort, the handling is definitely 'old-school' — lots of rock-and-roll, not very precise steering (which lacked any feedback) and not as good to drive as most others in this sector. The suspension generally coped pretty well with our poor UK road surfaces, but was on the soft side causing the car to wallow and roll on undulating and twisty roads.

Overall an interesting model range; one to be considered and with looks that are definitely not copies of other family-capable people movers. The mainstream Journey models do not have a significant pricing edge over the competition despite what Dodge showed us for their top-of-the-range model. My 2.0 CRD SXT manual test car weighed-in at 19,995 plus 2,000 for extras and for that money you are into Ford S-Max and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso territory. Other MPV rivals for sales are the VW Sharan, Vauxhall Zafira, Renault Grand Scenic and the Peugeot 807.

For your money you do get distinctive non-'family bus' styling, a high specification and easy to use, versatile seating. You also get prices that are not as competitive as other Dodge models. Still, you cannot put a value on being different and one has to admit that the Dodge Journey is certainly that. — David Miles

Dodge Journey 2.0 CRD SXT
| 19,995
Maximum speed: 116mph | 0-62mph: 11.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 33.2mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 229lb ft
CO2 171g/km | VED Band E 170 | Insurance group 11E