Dodge’s European assault continues then?
Sure does, after the introduction of the Caliber last year Dodge is now offering us its new Avenger. It’s the Caliber’s big brother, competing in the D-sector, or to those who don’t understand marketing speak - the Mondeo-sized class. It shares its bold style with the Caliber, the huge front grille and confident jutting spoiler certainly mark it out as something a bit different in this rather conservative class.
So it’s a Mondeo rival?
Err, not quite. Dodge are pretty realistic, the Avenger’s not going to be stealing sales from cars like the new Mondeo. Instead the American firm sees some of the more fringe players as fair game. They’re talking Mazda 6, Toyota Avensis and the Skoda Superb as potential rivals for their new saloon.
Fringe players, but still some fairly established rivals…
Indeed, the Avenger really has a tough job to convince us it’ll be able to entice people out of Mazda, Toyota and even those Skoda dealerships. Dodge reckons that buyers will be won over by the Avenger’s style and individuality, as well as its generous American spec, but the reality is that otherwise it’s outclassed by its rivals.
Outclassed, but it’s a new car?
It might be new, but get in the Avenger and there’s no escaping the poor quality materials. The plastics feel and look cheap, and the driving experience isn’t brilliant either. It’ll be offered with three engines: a 2.0-litre petrol, a 2.0-litre VW-sourced diesel and a 2.4-litre petrol with a four-speed automatic. We drove the 2.0-litre diesel.
Surely that VW lump gives it some heart?
We’ve not driven the petrol engines, but it’s fairly safe to say that if you’re after an Avenger you’ll want the diesel. It’s not the fastest, nor most refined engine around, but the economy is impressive, with 45.6mpg possible on the official combined cycle.
But nobody achieves those figures in real-world driving…
Not normally no, but the Avenger’s not really a car you’ll want to hustle so you’re likely to come close. The body control is poor, the Avenger heaving over bumps in the road and the steering is very vague. Add a six-speeder that doesn’t like to be hurried and you’ll give up trying to drive the Avenger quickly and instead play about with its numerous toys.
Toys? That sounds more like it
The driving experience might not be brilliant and the interior below Korean standards, but Dodge at least compensates by offering some neat kit. You can option a heated and chilled cup holder or a 20GB hard drive equipped entertainment and nav system with USB connection. However, go wild with the options list and the Avenger looks like a less desirable value proposition – and that, after all, is its selling point…
Aside from its individual looks there’s little reason why you’d have an Avenger over its rivals. The value arguments simply don’t add up, and throwing optional kit at it doesn’t make it any better. Buy any of the others mentioned earlier and shove an iPod in the glovebox and stick aftermarket sat-nav system on the screen. That way you can have all the extra kit that you can option with the Avenger, but in a car that’s better to drive and a nicer place to be.