By Steve Walker
It's safe to assume that very few used car buyers beginning their search for a seven-seat MPV will install the Dodge Journey at the top of their list. If they're aware that such a car exists, which is by no means a given, they're unlikely to want to spend time trying to find one amongst the glut of models of similar age and capabilities that are in far more plentiful supply. The Journey is a bit of a rarity but if one turns up, is it an option that family buyers should take seriously?
Dodge was best known for its Viper supercar and RAM pick-up truck when it officially launched in the UK during 2006 but fuel-hungry muscle-bound models like these were never going to secure the mainstream acceptance that the brand craved. Dodge set about launching a series of more sensible vehicles, most of which were also available with Chrysler or Jeep badging. The plan was to extend the brand's appeal beyond people with their own Stetsons and black belts in line-dancing without losing the all-American image that could mark it out from rivals.
The Dodge Journey shared its basic make-up with the Chrysler Grand Voyager and on arrival in 2008, it instantly looked like the most convincing Dodge to date. It's a large and spacious seven-seater MPV but it significantly undercut other models with the same kind of capacity on price. With a user-friendly design, lots of space and no shortage of road presence derived from its 4x4-esque styling, the Journey looked to have a rosy future.
At launch, a 2.4-litre petrol engine kicked off the range but it was really only there to facilitate the low entry-level prices that Dodge was building its offering around. Far superior to the thirsty and sluggish petrol was the 2.0-litre CRD diesel engine that Dodge had managed to winkle out of Volkswagen. Trim levels opened with the SE then proceeded through SXT to R/T, the range-topping variant being particularly well endowed with extras.
For the 2010 model year, the Journey was enhanced with increased equipment levels across the range 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 present a decent amount of space, so long as you're not intending to keep a pair of adults cooped up 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 able to slide individually back and forth.
Access to the rearmost seats is also very good with a tug on the lever on the outside seats of the middle row prompting them to fold and slide right forward, leaving plenty of room to enter with dignity. Of course, with all three rows in place, baggage room is at a premium, with only 303 litres available. If luggage is your priority, all of the seats can of course be folded flat to present an extensive load floor with 1,914 litres of space. This includes the passenger seat which can be dropped down to further boost the available volume or give parents an unrestricted view to the little monsters in the back.
The cabin features an unusually large number of very useful storage spaces. You can, for example, store 12 drinks cans in two under-floor bins behind the front-row seats and this car's storage bins even have removable, washable liners. There's a "Chill Zone" air-conditioned storage bin in the glovebox for two more drinks cans, and the front passenger seat can "Flip 'n Stow", revealing a storage area under the cushion and forming a table-top when folded. If you fold down the backs of the "Tilt 'n Slide" centre-row seats, a pair of cup-holders and a storage recess are revealed for third-row inhabitants.
Dodge was always at pains to push the fact that the Journey looks a little more butch than the typical seven-seat MPV and it had a point. The imposing grille and oversize wheelarches give it a bit of character that sets it apart from many of the alternatives.
What to Look For
You've got to make sure that all those seats slide and fold as they should, which could mean a few hours work on the forecourt while the salesman tears at his immaculate hairdo. Check out for the usual parking knocks around the Journey's extensive bodywork and make sure that the previous owner's children haven't kept any of the interior trim as souvenirs. The Journey is an uncomplicated car at heart and the mechanical side of things should not be too much of a concern.
(Based on a 2008 2.0-litre CRD SE - approx excl VAT) A replacement clutch assembly will be about £400. A new starter motor is close to £350, a radiator is around £500 and a replacement headlamp will cost you around £200.
On the Road
The Journey is propelled by one of two engines, a petrol or a diesel. The 2.4-litre petrol option is nothing to get over-excited about and was included largely to deliver an attractive entry-level price and to sate those with an irrational fear of diesel. It has a respectable 168bhp at its disposal but with 220Nm maximum torque at 4,500rpm, it's well down on 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.
That CRD diesel is a Volkswagen-sourced 2.0-litre direct injection unit with 138bhp which copes reasonably well with this Dodge's 1,895kg bulk. It's the pleasanter engine from a driving perspective than its petrol counterpart, though is a little noisier. In CRD trim, you can eventually wind the Journey up to a claimed 116mph before airflow defeats it
You'd 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 chuck about the lanes. To be fair, it doesn't lean as much as you'd expect through the bends, thanks to stiff anti-roll bars. This roll stiffness makes the steering quite precise, and the Journey can be hustled through twists with more vigour than you'd think. It's certainly comfortable on the straights and so long as you take things easy, will be more than adequate for family use.
The diesel engine was available with the twin-clutch semi-automatic gearbox pioneered by Volkswagen but for most buyers, the six-speed manual that came as standard is probably a better bet. The entry-level petrol model gets a five-speed manual 'box.
There are a lot of ways to transport seven people these days and the Dodge Journey is one of the options that won't occur to too many people. It is a leftfield choice, that's for certain, 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, with the diesel engine being slightly raucous though with good pulling power, and although the cabin isn't the last word in quality, there's plenty of kit thrown in. With used prices looking more attractive by the day, there's no reason why the Journey should be passed up on, assuming you can find one in the first place.