Transporting families is big business in the UK, with most car makers packing at least one MPV in their line-ups.

And now it’s the turn of American giant Dodge to offer a practical MPV. Stuart Milne put it through its paces on the roads around Oslo, Norway.

Effectively replacing the now-discontinued Chrysler Voyager from its sister company, the Dodge Journey is a mid-sized MPV boasting 5+2 seating.

In practise that means although it does have seven seats, the rearmost are for occasional use, suitable for children or adults travelling short distances.

The Dodge Journey has the bold, butch looks its creators are famous for, but here they have been softened for family appeal.

It features Dodge’s trademark chrome ‘crosshair’ grille and Ram logo in the centre, while the back is far more conservative. It looks how you’d expect an American ‘minivan’ to, but never dull.

Although definitely an MPV, there’s a air of SUV about the Dodge Journey – there’s even a four-wheel drive version in its native America, although there are no plans to bring it to the UK.

That SUV feel is carried into the cabin, where the driver can enjoy a lofty driving position, with good visibility of the road ahead.

Dodge has spent a great deal of time developing the interior, which shuns acres of hard plastics for a soft-touch covering on the door tops and over most of the dash. However, it’s not entirely without scratchy plastics and the R/T range-topper has rather too much faux chrome.

Spacious

There is plenty of luggage space in the Dodge Journey’s cabin, while the boot grows from 127 litres with all seven seats in place to 2,117 litres with all seats, bar the driver’s, folded. There’s a useful 33-litre storage space under the boot floor too.

Unfortunately the boot base is high – a necessity to allow the seats to fold flat into the floor.

Additionally Dodge’s Flip N Go system means the front passenger seat base hinges forward to reveal a 27×22cm bin. Two more underfloor spaces behind the front seats can hold up to 12 drinks cans each, while a chilled upper glovebox in the front can hold another two.

View pictures of the Dodge Journey

The second row of seats split 40/20/40, with the centre seat able to drop to form an armrest with additional cupholders. The two remaining seats can slide and the seat backs recline. Dodge says sliding the seat forward aids parents attending children, something which is made easier by the rear doors opening to an impressive 90 degrees.

To access the rear seats, the second row slides forward and the seat cushion tilts in one movement. The manoeuvre can be carried out one-handed and offers enough access for smaller occupants, although adult passengers could struggle.

Once in the third row, space is limited. However children should be comfortable, although adults are likely to complain during longer journeys.

The Dodge Journey features stadium seating which sees each row higher than the one in front for improved passenger visibility.

Smooth ride

Out on the road the Dodge Journey has a good level of ride comfort, soaking up the bumps on our Norwegian test track. Sadly this is at the expense of handling, with the softly-sprung car wallowing – rather than cutting – its way through bends.

Dodge will offer two engines from launch: a 2.4-litre petrol unit developing 170bhp and a VW-sourced 2-litre turbodiesel producing 140bhp. It is expected the latter will make up the vast majority of sales.

The diesel packs a decent punch, although we found it harsh and thrashy, particularly under acceleration. It does offer good fuel economy though – 43.5mpg on average.

The Journey is offered with a choice of a slick six-speed manual and an all-new dual clutch automatic. We found the manual the better configuration, due to the auto’s slow shift speed, even when using the semi automatic mode.

Impressive equipment

The Dodge Journey scores well over its rivals in the equipment stakes. All models come with all-round electric windows, bright halogen headlamps, electrically folding and heated wing mirrors, four power sockets, tyre pressure monitors, a convex mirror to keep an eye on rear seat passengers and an MP3-compatible 6 CD player

The mid-range SXT receives 17-inch alloys wheels, electric driver’s seat, easy clean upholstery, fog lamps, trip computer and an integrated rechargeable torch; and is tipped to be the best seller.

The range-topping R/T adds 19-inch alloys, heated leather seats and chromed trims.

Safety-wise the Dodge Journey delivers electronic stability programme (ESP), electronic roll mitigation, driver, passenger and three row curtain airbags and ABS.

In fact the standard equipment list is so comprehensive, only two optional extras are available; Dodge’s MyGig 20GB music server with rear park camera and a rear-mounted TV screen.

Dodge says the Journey is 4.5 per cent cheaper than the Ford S-Max Edge, but a massive 8.7 per cent less when the prices are adjusted to factor in equipment levels. But enthusiastic drivers might want to consider the dearer S-Max, as it is an excellent driver’s car.

The Dodge Journey will cost from £16,995 when it goes on sale in August and further pricing will be announced nearer the time.

Key facts

Model tested: Dodge Journey 2.0 CRD R/T Manual, Dodge Journey 2.0 CRD R/T Automatic
Date tested: May 2008
Road tester: Stuart Milne