Are you looking for a seven seat family car? Just asking that question is like having a discussion on which shade of beige would best suit your toilet walls. The burgeoning 7 seater SUV/People mover market has seen it hotly contested from the Honda Odyssey to behemoths like the Audi Q7. In this mix is the Dodge Journey.
When people think of 7 seat family cars the Dodge Journey may not be high on their shopping list but it is certainly one to be considered. This 2012 version is the base model SXT, with an R/T model available with more fruit such as satellite navigation, 18 inch alloys and leather interior. This MY12 model is powered by the well regarded Pentastar 3.6L V6 which pumps out a sizeable 206kW at 6350rpm and a good 342Nm of torque at 4350rpm. It does rev freely but needs the power to move the hefty 1942kg car around. Using a 6 speed automatic, the official combined fuel figures are 10.4L per 100km but in real world driving it is 12-14L per 100km.
Inside you will find supportive seats which suit bigger folk well, although allowing for a bit too much rolling around. The instrument cluster houses a small screen to show vehicle information including fuel economy and trip meters. The infotainment system and climate controls are managed by a touchscreen with a fairly simple layout. There is no reverse camera or sensors which are available on the R/T model. The infotainment system will keep the kids happy with Bluetooth phone and music streaming, CD with MP3, AUX 3.5mm stereo input and USB/iPod connectivity housed in the centre console. The designers have done well with including constantly powered 12V in the centre console, one for the second row of passengers and another 12V socket in the rear cargo area; enough to keep all the tablets and phones charging for the rear passengers.
There are many compartments, most notable being 2 large areas under the floor of the second row with removable buckets. With the third row of seats up, the rear passengers are squeezed however the second row can be slid forward to give more leg room in the rear. The second row seats are a bit fidgety to move around but the options are there to recline, split/fold and slide back and forth. Getting in and out of the third row is aided by the doors that open up to 90 degrees. Handy features for those with little ones are the two built in booster seats which pop up in the second row. The Journey also has ventilation controls in the second row housed in the roof, which keep it away from smaller hands.
A full size spare is included but housed under the rear of the vehicle which makes it difficult to get to. There are 8 front and rear airbags for all passengers and it has been given a 5 star Euro NCAP safety rating. Service intervals are every 12,000km with a 3 year/100,000km warranty. Due to its size, power, and heft the Journey is particularly harsh on tyres and brakes.
Be wary of the 2011 model being the changeover year of these cars, from the MY10 to the MY12. The MY10 is a god awful car, devoid of character thanks to its utilitarian grey plastic interior from the 90's and just as thirsty but harrowingly underpowered 2.7L V6. Drive them back to back and you would not believe they are the same car; the interior and drivetrain changes being significant. While the Pentastar engine and transmission are good the automatic has a tendency to shift early for economy and does clunk a bit during some changes. The front wheel drive layout means that sometimes there is too much power going through the front wheels. While the Journey is available in other markets with all wheel drive there is no option in Australia. The reasoning for this is to not eat into sales of its sister brand, Jeep, but this seems like a missed opportunity.
The Dodge brand is to be phased out in Australia, with parent company Fiat rebranding it the Fiat Freemont from 2013 onwards. It is now also available with a more economical 2.4L 4 cylinder, but those wanting something more can consider the V6 alternative. 2011 onward examples can be had from $17,000.00 to $25,000.00 making the big American, it's actually made in Mexico, something to consider.
It is something a little different in the 7 seat category.