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By Steve Walker
It's safe to assume that very few used car buyers beginning their search for a seven seater MPV will install the Dodge Journey at the top of their list. If they know such a car exists, which is by no means a given, they probably won't want to spend time trying to find one among the deluge of models of similar age and capabilities that are far more plentiful. The Journey is a bit of a rarity, but if one does pop up, is it an option that family buyers should take seriously?
(5tr 2.4 Benzin, 2.0 Diesel [SE, SXT, R/T])
Dodge was best known for its Viper supercar and RAM pickup truck when it was officially launched in the UK in 2006, but fuel-hungry, muscle-bound models like these would never garner the mainstream acceptance that the brand longed. Dodge set out to release a range of more sensible vehicles, most of which were also available with Chrysler or Jeep badging. The plan was to expand the brand's appeal beyond people with their own Stetsons and black belts in line dancing, without losing the all-American image that could set them apart from the competition.
The Dodge Journey shared its basic makeup with the Chrysler Grand Voyager, and upon arrival in 2008 it immediately looked like the most compelling Dodge yet. It's a large and roomy seven-seat MPV, but it's priced well below other models of the same capacity. With a user-friendly design, plenty of space and plenty of road presence stemming from its 4x4-like styling, the Journey looked bright for the future.
At launch, a 2.4-litre petrol engine started the range, but it was really only there to facilitate the low entry-level prices that Dodge built its offering around. Far superior to the thirsty and sluggish petrol engine was the 2.0-litre CRD diesel engine that Dodge had winked out of Volkswagen. The trim levels opened up with the SE then transitioned to R/T via SXT, with the top-of-the-line variant being particularly well-equipped with extras.
For the 2010 model year, the Journey has been upgraded with improved equipment levels across the line and a fuel economy boost for the 2.0 CRD diesel engine.
what you get
It's the interior that Dodge Journey buyers will be most interested in. There are seven seats and all offer a decent amount of space, unless you plan on cramming a pair of adults in the third row for any length of time. The all-important middle row is particularly spacious. It can be split 60/40, with each section sliding back and forth individually.
Access to the rearmost seats is also very good, as a pull on the lever on the outer middle row seats causes them to fold down and slide forward, leaving plenty of room for graceful entry. Of course, luggage space is available with all three rows in place at just 303 liters. Of course, if luggage is your priority, all of the seats fold flat to provide an ample 1,914-litre load floor. This includes the front passenger seat, which can be folded down to further increase the available volume or give parents an unobstructed view of the little monsters in the back.
The cabin has an unusually large number of very useful storage spaces. For example, you can store 12 soda cans in two underfloor bins behind the front row seats, and this car's storage bins even have removable, washable liners. There is a climate-controlled 'Chill Zone' storage bin in the glove box for two more beverage cans, and the passenger seat can 'fold', revealing storage space under the cushion and forming a table top when folded. If you fold down the backrests of the "tilt 'n slide" seats in the middle row, two drink holders and a storage recess become visible for the occupants of the third row.
Dodge has always tried to emphasize the fact that the Journey looks a little more butchy than the typical seven-seat MPV, and it had a point. The imposing grille and oversized wheel arches give it a certain character that sets it apart from many alternatives.
What you pay
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where to look
You have to make sure all those seats slide and fold like they should, which can mean several hours of work in the forecourt while the clerk tugs at his immaculate hairdo. Listen out for the usual parking lot noises around the Journey's voluminous body, and make sure the previous owner's kids didn't keep any of the interior trim as a souvenir. The Journey is basically a no-nonsense car and the mechanical side of things shouldn't matter too much.
(Based on a 2008 2.0-litre CRD SE - approx. excluding VAT) A replacement clutch assembly costs around £400. A new starter costs around £350, a radiator around £500 and a replacement headlight costs around £200.
The Journey is powered by one of two engines, a petrol or a diesel. The 2.4-litre petrol option is nothing special and was mainly included to offer an attractive entry-level price and to satisfy those with an irrational fear of diesel. It boasts a respectable 168hp, but with 220Nm of peak torque at 4,500rpm it's well below the low-end muscle of the diesel, which produces 310Nm at 2,500rpm. Fuel economy is similarly problematic, with the petrol model averaging just over 30mpg compared to the 40mpg plus you can expect from the oil burner.
This CRD diesel is a Volkswagen-sourced 2.0-litre, direct-injection, 138bhp that copes reasonably well with this Dodge's 1,895kg mass. From a drivability point of view, it's the smoother engine than its petrol counterpart, although it's a bit noisier. Finally, in the CRD trim, you can accelerate the Journey to a claimed speed of 116 mph before the airflow defeats it
You would have to say that the Dodge Journey drives like the big American MPV-come-SUV that it is, so it's not the kind of car you'd toss about the lanes. To be fair, it doesn't lean through corners as much as you'd expect thanks to stiff anti-roll bars. That roll stiffness makes the steering fairly precise, and the Journey can be pushed through turns with more force than you think. It's certainly comfortable on the straights and as long as you take it easy it will be more than adequate for family use.
The diesel engine was available with the Volkswagen-developed semi-automatic dual-clutch transmission, but for most buyers the standard six-speed manual is probably a better choice. The entry-level petrol model gets a five-speed manual gearbox.
There are many ways to transport seven people these days, and the Dodge Journey is one of those options that not too many people will come up with. It's a left-field choice, that's for sure, but it shares its seating system and mechanical layout with the more popular Chrysler Grand Voyager of the same age, and the bold styling will help owners stand out at the school gates.
It drives well enough, the diesel engine is a bit noisy but has good pulling power, and while the cab isn't the last word in terms of quality, there are plenty of accessories. With used prices looking more attractive by the day, there's no reason to give up the journey, assuming you can find one at all.