When the Dodge Journey launched in 2008, it was a compelling offering due to its tidy size and clever interior, which had innovative under-floor storage and 7-passenger seating. Sadly, its plastic-dominated interior and unremarkable performance prevented the boxy crossover from rising anywhere near the top in the eyes of consumers.

The 2015 Dodge Journey has grown into the vehicle it was meant to be all along thanks to the complete interior overhaul given to the Journey back in 2011 -- an update that also brought a massive suspension upgrade and a silky optional V6. While its crossover styling looks conservative on the outside, the interior design and materials remain top-notch, and the available 8.4-inch touchscreen is arguably one of the best in the business. Clever touches abound, and the price is supremely competitive.

Demerits? Just two, really, though we admit that they're pretty significant. First, the base powertrain is a 2.4-liter inline-4 that generates unpleasant noises and lackluster acceleration, especially as it is paired with an unrefined, efficiency-sapping 4-speed automatic transmission. Second, the Journey is a tad small compared to most crossovers, and let's face it: Space is important when it comes to family cars.

Still, we have a lot of love for Journey models powered by the excellent optional V6. In general, Dodge has turned the Journey into a wonderfully well-rounded vehicle. Especially considering the bargain price, the Journey can be considered one of our favorite family haulers.

What's New for 2015?

The Journey is largely unchanged for the 2015 model year with the exception of 3-row seating that's now standard -- rather than optional -- in most models.

What We Like

Affordable 3-row seating; clever under-floor/in-seat storage; stellar optional 8.4-in touchscreen; quality interior; strong optional V6; available all-wheel drive

What We Don't

Inadequate base powertrain; awful standard 4-speed automatic; comparatively snug cabin; so-so fuel economy

How Much?

$20,500-$31,500

Fuel Economy

Base-level Journey models are powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 rated at 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque, which is paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Opt for a mid- or high-level Journey model, and you'll get a 283-hp 3.6-liter V6 with a 6-speed automatic and 260 lb-ft of torque.

Front-wheel drive (FWD) is mandatory with the 4-cylinder engine, but the V6 can be paired with either front- or all-wheel drive (AWD). The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 4-cylinder Journey at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, while the FWD V6 is nearly as good at 17 mpg city/25 mpg hwy. The AWD V6 drops a tick to 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The Journey is offered in five distinct trim levels. From the most basic to the most upscale, the trims are AVP (for American Value Package), SE, SXT, Limited and the sporty R/T. Unlike last year, most Journey models now come standard with 3-row seating.

The base-level AVP ($20,500) includes only the basics: 17-in steel wheels with hubcaps, single-zone manual air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control and manually adjustable front seats. Audiophiles will appreciate the standard auxiliary jack and USB port on an entry-level model. The 4-cylinder engine is the only powertrain offered on the AVP model.

Next up is the Journey SE ($22,000), which adds LED taillights, tinted windows and roof rails.

The SXT ($24,200) opens things up further with alloy wheels, satellite radio, fog lights and a cover for the crossover's cargo area. The SXT also includes 3-row seating. Drivers who choose a Journey SXT with all-wheel drive ($27,500) also get the model's 3.6-liter V6.

The luxury-oriented Limited ($29,400) may be a huge price jump from the SXT, but it includes a long list of features with its boosted cost. A big one is under the hood: The Limited ditches the standard 4-cylinder for the muscular V6. It also adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, a heated steering wheel and an 8.4-in center-mounted touchscreen.

At the top of the Journey lineup is the sporty R/T ($30,000), which adds performance-oriented features such as sport suspension and perforated leather with red stitching.

Options on most Journey models include a power sunroof, rear parking sensors, a rear DVD player, tri-zone automatic climate control (with the third-row seat) and a reversing camera. A navigation system is also available with the 8.4-in touchscreen. Also, a Crossroad trim package -- added in the middle of the 2014 model year -- equips the Journey with a unique off-road look.

Safety

The 2015 Dodge Journey comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and seven airbags (front, front-side, driver-knee and full-length side-curtain). Optional on SXT, Limited and R/T models is a backup camera and parking sensors.

In government crash testing, the Journey received an overall rating of four stars out of five, including four stars for frontal impacts, five stars for side impacts and four stars in the rollover test. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Journey its highest rating of Good in every category.

Behind the Wheel

The Journey's high driving position and angled steering column may bring school buses to mind. Fortunately, the Journey's dynamics are much better, as this car-based crossover has no trouble navigating rutted roads and tight streets. Underneath, the Journey is related to the Dodge Avenger sedan, and it shares that car's soft, quiet ride on the highway. Big enough to be useful yet not too big to be unmanageable, the Journey should strike many families as perfectly sized. If you want to spruce up the Journey's performance, the R/T model's more responsive suspension and powerful standard V6 make shuttling the kids to school quite enjoyable.

The standard 4.3-in touchscreen is unusual in a sub-$20,000 automobile, reminding us of Volkswagen's standard touchscreen stereos -- a premium touch. But the big technology news in the Journey is the 8.4-in touchscreen (optional on the SXT model and standard on the Limited and R/T models), which brings iPad-like crispness and ease of use into your driving experience. It's one of the best infotainment interfaces on the market, and it even includes an SD-card interface to give you more options in portable media. We highly recommend it. Limited and R/T models can be ordered with integrated navigation functions, as well.

The Journey's front seats offer mediocre support, but they do sit you up nice and high, affording an expansive view of the road ahead. The steering column telescopes on all models, although those with long legs might still find the wheel too far away. The materials are upscale in look and feel, and the dashboard manages to look sleek and dressy without compromising the Journey's gauge legibility or ergonomics.

There's still plenty of adult-friendly space in the Journey's second row, but the available third-row seat is better suited to kids, although that's true of any 3-row vehicle at this price other than a minivan. Cargo capacity behind the third row is just 10.7 cu ft., i.e., a few grocery bags' worth, but there are 39.6 cu ft. behind the second row and 67.6 cu ft. behind the first row. Those are competitive numbers for this type of vehicle.

Other Cars to Consider

Kia Sorento -- The Sorento also offers a third seating row, and its mid-level engine offering (a direct-injected inline-4) serves up an appealing mix of fuel economy and power.

Toyota RAV4 -- The newly redesigned RAV4 is a segment leader thanks to its versatile cabin and vastly upgraded interior and exterior design. Powered only by an inline 4-cylinder engine, the RAV4 offers no available V6 as an upgrade and thus may turn off go-fast drivers, but fuel economy is strong with 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy for 2-wheel-drive models.

Dodge Grand Caravan -- Want way more interior space than the Journey offers? The Grand Caravan is available in the same price range, offering a huge cabin and a standard V6.

AutoTrader's Advice

The sweet spot for the 2015 Journey, in our opinion, is the SXT model with two key options: the 8.4-in touchscreen and V6 engine. You get cutting-edge technology, strong power and room for seven, all at a killer price.

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