Of minivans aren't your thing and sedans lack sufficient cargo space, the Dodge Journey might be your way to travel. This mid-sized wagon has the interior space that many families require, but at a price that won't blow up their budgets.
The Journey has been around since the 2009 model year, but it underwent a significant leap forward two years later with an updated interior and a new V6 engine option.
The exterior also received a modest refresh (new hood grille, bumper and lights), but the stylists at Dodge still managed to make the already attractive Journey a bit more appealing. All this was accomplished without increasing the vehicle's list price to any great degree.
As with other car-based tall wagons (a.k.a. crossovers), the Journey is built on a sedan platform. In this case the previous Chrysler 200 (neé Sebring) and retired Dodge Avenger supplied the basic structure, but with an additional four inches added between the front and rear wheels.
The stretch means more rear-seat legroom and creates a cavernous stowage area, especially with the reclining second-row and optional third-row seats folded completely flat (unlike similar vehicles where the rear seat backs stick up a bit when folded). Ordering the optional fold-flat front passenger seat (with stowage space under the flip-up cushion) allows you to load extra-long items such as lumber and skis.
Beneath the floor just behind the front seats are two small removable bins that are useful for storing such personal items as electronics or spare shoes.
The rest of the cabin comes across as a place of high style, in particular the soft-touch (non-plasticky) dashboard with prominent touch-display controls, vehicle info screen between the round gauge pods and glove-friendly switches and dials.
Starting your Journey involves engaging one of two available powerplants. Base models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. That's not a lot for the 3,800-pound Journey, especially when overtaking slower traffic and when transporting a heavy load of passengers and/or gear. For those duties, the optional 3.6-liter V6 is a much better choice. It makes 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. As well, the 2.4's fuel rating of 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway fuel rating is only a touch better than the V6's 17/25 numbers.
A four-speed automatic transmission (they still make those?) handles the gear-shifting chores for the four-cylinder, while a six-speed automatic mates exclusively to the V6.
You'll definitely need to order the V6 when selecting the extra-cost all-wheel-drive. This on-demand system transfers torque to the rear wheels only when the fronts begin to slip, or when cornering at speeds above 25 mph. At speeds above 53 mph on straight, dry surfaces, the AWD remains essentially dormant in the interests of fuel economy.
Purchasing a Journey involves an outlay of meagre $21,300 (including destination charges) for the base AVP model. Understandably that won't get you everything your heart desires, but it does include dual-zone air conditioning, keyless pushbutton start and the usual power-controlled accessories.
The AVP is one of the Journey's six trim levels, which obviously allows for a great deal of content and budgetary choices. New for 2015, the mid-range Crossroad mimics much of the sporty R/T model's content with its blacked-out grille (but with unique platinum chrome front and side trim) and leather seat covers. However since the R/T's standard V6 is optional on the Crossroad and the sport suspension isn't offered, you get only the look of performance and not the substance, or the extra cost.
Along with the third-row seat, available extras include a power sunroof, backup camera, rear-seat video screen and navigation and premium sound systems.
Admittedly, Dodge's wagon is becoming a bit long in the tooth and a second-generation model can't be too far off. But as an attractive, serviceable and affordable vehicle, the Journey makes an ideal travel companion.
What you should know: 2015 Dodge Journey
Type: Four-door, front- /all-wheel-drive mid-size wagon
Engines (hp): 2.4-liter DOHC I4 (173); 3.6-liter DOHC V6 (283)
Transmissions: Four-speed automatic; six-speed automatic (std. with the V6)
Market position: Although a bit larger in overall size, the Journey slots in with the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4 and Chevrolet Equinox on price point. With six trims and an optional V6, the Journey cuts a wide swath.
Points: A clear alternative to buying a minivan; Base four-cylinder engine lags in performance and fuel economy; V6 performance is far more impressive and should be the only choice; Upgraded interior now one of the best in class; As with most smaller wagons that offer three rows of seats, the back is a tight squeeze; For 20 grand you really can't do much better.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver's knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 19/26 (2.4, FWD); Base price (incl. destination) $21,300
Base price: $23,900
Larger second-generation model now offers optional third-row seating.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Base price: $25,800
Choose from five-passenger Sport or extended seven-passenger version.
Base price: $23,000
Five-passenger-only model mirrors Journey in I4 and V6 engine options.