Dodge Journey 2009 Review
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It's even better for a family van, since every family is some sort of journey and every family trip becomes a journey.
So Chrysler did the name game exactly right with its latest people mover, and there is a lot of other stuff to like about the American seven-seater.
For a start, the styling is a cross between an SUV and a people mover, with a chunky nose that is typical of Dodge and a pumped-up body that looks a little like an over-inflated Holden Zafira. So it's not a giant spaceship and it doesn't promise off-road ability it can never deliver.
Dodge describes the Journey as a two-box design and it is built up with a stretch of the mechanical package from its mid-sized Sebring sedan. That means it is also comfortable with a 2.7-litre V6 petrol engine or a 2-litre turbodiesel.
There is good space and a lost of smart thinking from slide-fold-tilt seats that maximise the cabin space and make access easy to little touches on the comfort, fun and storage fronts.
The pricing is reasonable, too, and from $36,990 it even undercuts the class leading Kia Carnival as well as benchmarks like the Toyota Avensis and Tarago. Chrysler Group prefers to have it considered against the Toyota Kluger, Holden Captiva and Ford Territory, which shows the range of contenders for today's big mixed families.
"This is a unique vehicle that will appeal to a crowd of consumers who want a reasonably priced, fuel efficient vehicle with seven seats today - not tomorrow," says Chrysler chief, Gerry Jenkins.
He has solid sales hopes for the Journey, nothing outrageous, although its a vehicle which could easily become a cult hit in the same way as the PT Cruiser. It's not retro in the styling like the PT, but different enough to have cut-through on the school run and in touch with the needs of families in 2009.
That is reflected in the list of optional equipment as much as the basic design of the Journey. The car comes with all sorts of storage nooks and cupholders and safety gear and the rest, but the options list runs to a master-blaster MyGIG sound system with huge built-in storage for $3250, a rear video screen - with headsets - for $1500 and rear parking camera at $400.
Those are the sort of things that every Journey on a journey really needs.
The diesel is a good idea, too, for long-distance travel with fuel economy in the 7 litres/100km range, although lots of people will prefer the 136 kiloWatts that comes with the V6.
Either way, its a vehicle which provides a different set of solutions to the same family transport questions which are common in Australia - and around the world.
On paper, and sitting in the driveway, the Journey looks like a smart choice.
It ticks the boxes for space, value, safety and equipment and it looks tougher than any traditional people mover. So that should be the bottom line …
But, before I get too carried away, it has some flaws.
The quality is not up to Japanese scratch, even though it has improved from earlier Chrysler work, the tail is a bit pinched for people and luggage space, but - most important - it falls down on the driving front.
When I first sat in the Journey I expected Forrest Gump to drop down beside me.
It has nothing to do with the Dodge's home country, or a Tom Hanks obsession, but the size and shape of the seats. They feel more like a park bench.
The best thing I can say about the seats is that they do not get any worse on a long trip. But they don't get any better.
The Journey tester also came with the turbodiesel engine package and, despite excellent fuel economy, it never seemed completely happy. It's noisy at idle, takes a long time to run freely in the morning, and has an unhappy link between the engine and gearbox.
It often takes too long for the engine to hit its sweet sport and the transmission, although a smart design which can be controlled manually, can struggle to find the right gear.
But there is good stuff. And lots of it.
The body has plenty of space and lots and lots of flexibility, there is huge storage, the optional MyGIG and rear video screen are excellent, and so is the rear-view camera. They should be on the shopping list for anyone considering a Journey.
It's also great to watch the onboard trip computer logging fuel use at less than 10 litres/100km around town, with much better on the highway.
But you still have to put the Journey up against its rivals, and then the choices get much tougher.
It does not drive as well as a Ford Territory or a Toyota Kluger, although the value is great and so is the space. Although it's much trendier than a Kia Carnival, it's not as big and not as cheap. And compared with a Holden Captiva diesel it's not as good to drive.
But, despite the questions created by its rivals, the Journey answers the needs of family motoring and has the advantage of a diesel. As well as a chunky look that does not shout people mover at the shops.
PRICE: $52,140 (Dodge Journey R/T CRD as tested, MyGIG, video, rear camera)
ENGINE: 2-litre turbodiesel
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Range and Specs
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