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Dodge Journey 2.0 CRD SXT Automatic

Click to view picture galleryLooking for a ‘family-bus that
 
won’t break the bank, thats big on
  equipment, easy to use, versatile
  and with seven seats? If so, you

 
may not have to Journey further
  than your local Dodge dealer
...

WHILST ITS PARENT COMPANY IN THE USA still waits to see if they are going to receive a 'Christmas present' in the form of a share of the US Government's $15 billion car industry bailout package, Chrysler Group UK plans to combat the downturn in new and used car sales by running a high-profile retail focus for all of their three brands: Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. Each of the three brands will have core sales models which, in the case of the Chrysler brand will be the 300C and Grand Voyager; for Jeep the Patriot, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee; and for Dodge the new Journey as reviewed here.

The Journey — a crossover between a seven-seat MPV with the looks of an estate or even an SUV sports Utility Vehicle — is the most recent addition to Chrysler Group's 'budget' brand Dodge range and the mode of transport for the annual end-of-year media 'Cruise-to-Bruges'.

Value for money, high specification and bold and distinctive in-your-face looks are the three core pillars of what the Dodge products stand for, and on the face of it the Journey offers all of these.

The Dodge Journey is portrayed as a vehicle for people who need an MPV but do not actually want to drive one. Priced from 16,639 to 22,511, the all-American muscular-styled Journey is all about family transport — families, that is, with 'attitude'. Not for them the rounded, blandly-styled eco-boxes but big and bold-is-better are the requirements. Size, however, might be an issue for parking — the Journey is 4,888mm long and fuel economy is not great.

The Journey with five-plus-two seating combinations in three rows is available with the choice of two engines and SE, SXT and R/T trim and equipment levels, with SXT being the most popular.

The petrol engine choice is a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, variable valve timing, 168bhp unit mated to a five-speed manual transmission that Dodge says will attract only a very small number of customers. However, low mileage owners could be attracted by the lower purchase price and the lower cost of petrol fuel over diesel. The combined fuel cycle economy for this engine is 32.1mpg. CO2 emissions of 209g/km give it an annual road tax bill of 210.

The second engine in the line-up — that Dodge says will account for 98% of sales — is a Volkswagen-sourced 2.0-litre turbodiesel 138bhp unit with 310NM of torque from 1,750rpm.

This engine is available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed, twin-clutch automatic transmission; around 60% of customers are expected to opt for the manual gearbox. The manual gearbox models are quoted as achieving 43.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 171g/km, which puts them in the 170 Band E for road tax. Automatic diesel models have a 186g/km rating, so it's Band F for road tax at 210.

Value for money, a high level of specification and versatile seating combinations are important reasons to consider the Journey as funky and fun family transport.

All versions have three-zone air conditioning, six-speaker sound system, electric windows, anti-lock braking, 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 increase still further and 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 1,468 or 1,957 with the added rear seat video entertainment unit.

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

With the middle and rear rows of seats folded down there is a long flat load floor and this can be extended further by folding the front passenger seatback 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. With all three rows of seats in use the luggage space is pretty limited at 302 litres but the under-floor/under-seat storage bins help rectify that. With the middle and rear rows of seats folded down, the load area is a huge 1,914 litres although 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.

As for 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 6-speed automatic transmission returned 27mpg during my Cruise to Bruges — around 6mpg less than the manual transmission model I tested during the product launch earlier this year.

When it comes to handling the Journey doesn't set any new standards — it is no more than capable and the steering responses are lazy. But it scores much better for ride comfort and generally coped well with motorways and the unforgiving cobbled streets of Bruges.

Overall the Journey is an interesting concept and good at what it is designed to do: carry people and lug loads. But in this competitive world there are more sophisticated vehicles of a similar people and load carrier type being discounted by European manufactures.

The mainstream Journey models do not have a significant pricing edge over the competition to make them attractive enough for cash-strapped customers to be bold enough, in these hard times, to buy a Dodge. Added to which, the published prices not as competitive as those of other Dodge models, driving and handling refinement is so-so and the automatic model is more expensive to tax. Reasons to buy include the distinctive non-family-bus styling, the high specification and the easy-to-use versatile seating.

On pricing, my '58' registration plate 'Bruges Cruiser' Journey 2.0 CRD SXT automatic weighed in at 20,749 but I have just seen advertised in my local paper by a Chrysler Group dealership the same model, same year, same specification and 3,000 miles on the clock for just 17,800. You see, there are bargains still out there! — David Miles

Dodge Journey 2.0 CRD SXT Automatic
| 20,749
Maximum speed: 113mph | 0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 27mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 229lb ft
CO2 186g/km | VED Band E 210 | Insurance group 11E