Dodge Journey 2.0 CRD (2008) review

Published:08 May 2008

Dodge Journey 2.0 CRD (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

The Dodge Journey has a tough job on its hands. The MPV sector has been going through a bit of a shake-up recently. People don't want to drive around in minibuses any more, yet still want space for seven.

Whatever happened to 2.4 children? Current king of this new motoring genre is the flexible Ford S-Max: handles like a decent saloon, seats the extended family, transforms into a van in a moment.

But what if you want something a little different? Dodge reckons it's got the answer in the distinctive shape of the Journey, a new estate-car-cum-MPV crossover.

Whoa, the Dodge Journey is kind of funny looking...

Dodge would prefer striking, thanks. Looking individual is all part of the brand proposition – you're buying into a slice of Americana. Usually that would come combined with shoddy interior panel finish, dodgy plastics, and substantially limited dynamic abilities. But the big news with this car is that, like the Chrysler 300C, the Journey promises a much more Europeanised experience.

We've heard this before, of course. A lot. But while it's tempting to write off such assertions - in the same way you do every time Alfa Romeo claims dealer service has improved - a quick glance round the cabin reveals two things.

First, that the overall dashboard design appears to have escaped from the 1970s (what is with that instrument cowl?), and second that someone appears to have been paying attention in class. The Journey is clearly much better built than any other Dodge.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Dodge Journey first drive

Can the Dodge Journey really hope to compete with the S-Max?

Well, compete is a little strong. Dodge is only really looking to present a 'credible alternative' – by way of that individual exterior, a versatile interior, and decent value. The last is difficult to judge at this stage, since the company has only finalised pricing for the entry-level SE petrol (£16,995, undercutting almost every competitor bar the smaller Mazda 5). But whether you pick SE, SXT or range-topping RT, they all come with stacks of equipment. In fact the only options are ICE related.

As for the interior, it is pretty clever. The 5+2 seating on all versions will accommodate seven adults for short journeys, thanks to a middle row that slides fore and aft, and generous final row space. The flip side is a comically small boot, but both rear rows fold flat with ease, and top-spec versions get a folding front passenger seat. Storage solutions include deep bins beneath the middle-row floor and a flip-up front passenger seat squab.

Ok, not bad. But how does the driving experience hold up?

All launch cars had a 2.0-litre diesel engine – expected to take at least 90 percent of sales (a 2.4 petrol being the only alternative). This is the old 138bhp 'Pumpe Düse' Volkswagen unit, so it isn't especially refined. But it does provide a useful 229lb ft slug of torque from 1750rpm. And for the first time Dodge is offering a six-speed dual-clutch auto – yes, basically VW's DSG – alongside the standard six-speed manual gearbox.

Stick with the manual. This keeps the car within environmental touching distance of the S-Max, and the dual-clutch is slow-witted here. The steering weighting is actually pretty good (genuine feel is obviously asking too much). It rides comfortably enough, and for something this size, the Journey exhibits reasonable body control in everyday driving.

It's not quick (we reckon about 13 seconds to 62mph for the manual; Dodge isn't yet divulging figures...), but you wouldn't want it to be. Attempt anything ambitious and you'll be thankful for the standard-fit ESP. Roll-oversteer was just one of the livelier traits displayed by the Journey's back end.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Dodge Journey first drive

Verdict

Fully Europeanised? Not quite. A damn sight better than every other Dodge? Absolutely. With lots of space, a proven diesel engine, surprisingly good quality, and some smart design, the Journey is so so close to providing that credible alternative the firm is desperately after.

In fact, if you fancy the way it looks and aren't a demanding driver, it's likely to represent tempting value. Everyone else? Head for that Ford dealership.

Specs

Price when new: £18,000
On sale in the UK: Autumn 2008
Engine: 1968cc 16v 4-cyl turbo diesel, 138bhp @ 4000rpm, 229lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 43.5mpg, 170g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1685kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4888/1834/1672

Rivals

Photo Gallery

  • Dodge Journey first drive review: side photo
  • Dodge Journey first drive review: rear three-quarter photo
  • Dodge Journey first drive review: interior photo
  • Dodge Journey first drive review: interior photo
  • Dodge Journey first drive review: interior photo
  • Dodge Journey first drive review: engine photo
  • Dodge Journey first drive review: interior photo
  • Dodge Journey first drive review: badge photo
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