Despite looking like a macho SUV, perhaps even a full-on 4WD, the Dodge Journey is actually a sensible people mover with three rows of seats and the ability to carry seven adults. Four adults and three children is a more realistic load.
Note that it’s a 2WD, front wheels only, so shouldn’t be taken off the beaten track. Dirt roads and forest trails are fine if you know what you’re doing, beaches are a definite no-no.
The Americans love their minivans and Dodge Journey has been a big success on the other side of the Pacific, but sales here have been only moderate since it first arrived downunder in August 2008.
Journey’s interior is very versatile; the second row seats three and can slide back and forward to let you juggle legroom with those in the rearmost seats. Entry and egress to the third-row seats isn’t too bad, but as is usually the case those seats are better suited to the kids as suppleness is required. Also check the foot-room in rear if larger littlies are going to be back there.
The second and third row seats each sit slightly higher than the ones in front to improve forward visibility.
There are plenty of stowage areas for various items, including two bins under the rear floor. The backrest of the front passenger seat folds down leaving a work area for the driver.
Though it’s relatively large, the Dodge Journey is quite easy to drive as it’s more than the typical American minivan. However, forward-side visibility is hampered by large windscreen pillars that sit a long way forward of the driver’s seat. A turning circle of almost 12 metres doesn’t assist manoeuvring in carparks.
Handling of the Journey is competent enough – for a people mover, that is – and unless you do something really silly you aren’t likely to get into trouble. Electronic Stability Program, to assist in crash avoidance, is standard in all Journeys.
Power is by either a V6 petrol or four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The petrol unit in the original 2008 model had a capacity of 2.7 litres and had barely enough performance. Try for yourself on hilly roads with a bunch of passengers on board if you’re likely to be travelling with that sort of load in those conditions. From March 2012 a far more suitable V6 petrol, now of 3.6 litres, improved things considerably.
Dodge Journey’s 2.0-litre diesel can be slow off the mark, but once it’s up and running it has good torque for overtaking and hillclimbing.
At the same time as the 2012 introduction of the bigger petrol engine the Journey received a facelift and tail tuck as well as some interior updates, the latter including a new dash design.
The Journey has good under bonnet space and home mechanics can do a fair bit of their own work. Don’t touch the safety items, though.
Spare parts prices are about average. We have heard complaints about bits not being available and about long waits for parts coming from the USA. It might be an idea to contact your local Dodge / Chrysler dealer to have a talk about this before committing to purchase. These days Fiat and Chrysler operate together globally so Fiat dealers may be able to assist.
Insurance companies seem to look at the Journey as an SUV and charge accordingly. Having said that, costs are about average for that class.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Dodge Journey is built in Mexico to a reasonably high standard. It has a good paint finish and panel fit, but the interior and trim aren’t always as neat and accurate as in Japanese and Korean cars.
Look for damage to the carpets, seats and door trim for signs of either poor build or damage caused by unhappy children.
The petrol engines should start almost straight away. If not there could be problems.
Diesel engines can take a few seconds to get up and running, especially when cold. A warning light lets you know when the engine has gone through its pre-heat stage.
Automatic transmissions should work smoothly and easily, but that in the diesel might be a bit recalcitrant at times at very slow speeds. Get a professional to check it if you have any doubt.
Brakes should pull you up in a straight line without wavering.
Uneven tyre wear me be caused by bad driving or a suspension problem. In either case it’s a good sign to keep clear of the car.
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