Striding in like a group of brash outlaws in an old Western, the Dodge range arrived in Australia in 2006 ready to cause a ruckus. The outlaws were a bit rough around the edges but they were boldly styled and aggressively priced. But the Aussie townsfolk found these miscreants too uncouth and drummed them out of town, except for the sharpest gunslinger of the bunch, the Journey. After the Nitro, Caliber and Avenger left, this mid-size crossover was left to fly the Dodge flag solo and with little in the way of marketing support. Now, Fiat Chrysler Australia has introduced a rebadged version, the Fiat Freemont, which sells alongside the aging Journey. Against all odds, though, the Journey has remained a strong seller in a highly competitive segment and has helped keep the Dodge brand alive in Australia.
One reason for the Journey’s success, undoubtedly, is its practicality. Both the second and third row seats easily fold flat, creating a spacious load bay. The cabin also has various little nooks and crannies, such as a storage compartment in the front passenger seat cushion and a natty storage bin in the second row, equipped with a drain, which is an ideal spot for a bag of party ice. The third row can seat two adults in a pinch, but is best occupied by children. With the seats up, cargo space is only adequate but the boot does feature under-floor storage and a removable flashlight.
The base SXT comes well-equipped with tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, reversing camera and an 8.4-inch uConnect infotainment system. Stepping up to the R/T nets you leather seats (heated in the first row) and satellite navigation. There are some curious omissions on both trim levels, like rain-sensing wipers. Automatic headlights are also absent despite their availability overseas. The R/T’s attractive 19-inch alloy wheels help enhance the Journey’s exterior, which is clean and inoffensive if unexciting.
Interior quality is a huge improvement over the first Australian Dodges, and cabin presentation is generally good although the black-on-black colour scheme is a bit sombre. Fit and finish is solid, and this Journey is holding up particularly well against three young children. The uConnect interface is one of the better infotainment systems, being easily navigable and boasting a large screen and simple presentation. Bluetooth is standard, and can be used to stream audio from your smart phone; the process is simple and straightforward. The only chink in the uConnect system’s armour is the low resolution of its reversing camera.
Being a family crossover, the front-wheel-drive Journey isn’t built for the Nürburgring, but it comports itself nicely. It stays flat in corners and body roll is well-controlled. The ride is nicely damped, but the steering is overly light and lacks feel. Its six-speed automatic is a smooth-shifting unit and can be manually shifted, should you desire. Unusually, manual shifting is accomplished by moving the shifter left and right rather than the more traditional up and down.
The Pentastar 3.6 V6 is a grunty unit, with 206kw and 342nm, and is powerful enough to squeal the tires with ease. It does, however, have a surprisingly gruff engine note. Despite its power, in mostly urban driving the Journey is averaging 12.7l/100km. Official fuel economy figures are 7.8l/100km highway, 14.8 city (10.4 combined). This is on par with the V6 Kluger and Pathfinder.
This three-year-old Journey has been mostly trouble-free, the only fault being the premature death of the Bluetooth system which the dealer fixed under warranty. Dodge doesn’t currently have a capped-price servicing program in place, but where the Journey gains ground against its rivals is in price. The SXT is priced at $33,500 and the R/T at $37,500. In contrast, the cheapest Ford Territory is $37,490 and both the Pathfinder and Kluger ranges open at the $40k mark.
The Journey represents a tremendous value in the mid-size crossover segment, with few flaws and a low price, a powerful V6, a comfortable and versatile interior, and plenty of kit. You can buy a Fiat Freemont for even cheaper, but until recently you were stuck with a lethargic four-cylinder or an unpopular diesel/manual powertrain. But with FCA launching a range-topping Freemont with the previously Journey-exclusive Pentastar V6, maybe buyers will make like cowboys in an old Western and start gettin’ the hell outta Dodge. Maybe then, Dodge will be gettin’ the hell outta Australia.