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2018 Dodge Journey: New Car Review

The 2018 Dodge Journey is an exponential improvement over the crossover of the same name that debuted a decade ago. A thorough overhaul undertaken 8 years ago resulted in a substantial interior improvement, better driving manners and a competitive V6 engine. Its available 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen was and continues to be one of the easiest to use in the business.

That’s all well and good, but it’s very old news. Note that we wrote “8 years ago.” There are crossovers that have been completely redesigned twice in that time period, and it’s unfair to expect any vehicle to remain competitive after that much time sitting on the shelf. Indeed, the Journey without question suffers from its age. Of primary concern are its uncompetitive powertrains and multitude of missing common features. Sure, its third row and low price may be appealing, but we think there are competing models that should offer similar space and cater to a similar budget.

What’s New for 2018?

Three-row seating is standard on every 2018 model. The popular Blacktop package is now available on all but the Crossroad trim, which already comes with blacked-out trim and wheels. The Crossroad Plus trim level has been discontinued for 2018, but all of its extra equipment has been absorbed into the regular Crossroad trim.

What We Like

Affordable 3-row seating; clever underfloor and in-seat storage; user-friendly optional 8.4-in touchscreen

What We Don’t

Inadequate base powertrain; awful standard 4-speed automatic; comparatively snug cabin; poor fuel economy; lacks latest safety features

How Much?

$22,800-$34,900

Fuel Economy

Standard on all but the GT is a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder rated at 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with standard front-wheel drive and an uncompetitive 4-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy estimates are 19 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg in combined driving, which is poor given its meager output and mileage from competing power plants.

Standard on the GT and optional on all other trims is a 3.6-liter V6 good for 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It has a 6-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is optional on the GT but standard on all other trims equipped with the V6. The V6’s fuel economy lowers even further to 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined with all-wheel drive; front-wheel drive is essentially the same.

Standard Features & Options

The Journey is offered in four trim levels: the SE, SXT, Crossroad and GT. All come standard with 3-row seating.

The base-level SE ($22,800) includes 17-in steel wheels, roof rails, keyless start, dual-zone manual climate control, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a sliding and reclining second-row seat, a 4.3-in touchscreen interface, a USB port and a 6-speaker stereo.

The SXT ($25,700) adds alloy wheels, the third-row seat, tri-zone climate control and LED taillights.

The Crossroad ($27,900) adds 19-in alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, enhanced exterior trim, a cargo net, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, satellite radio, a CD/DVD player and the 8.4-in Uconnect touchscreen.

Topping the line is the GT ($32,300), which adds the V6 as standard equipment. It also includes remote ignition, automatic headlights, a sport-tuned suspension and steering, dual exhausts, upgraded leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and an improved audio system.

Options mainly include the features that come standard on higher trim levels, though the Journey also offers a sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, a backup camera, parking sensors, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD player and a Blacktop package with blacked-out trim and wheels.

Safety

The 2018 Dodge Journey comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes and seven airbags (front, front-side, driver’s-knee and full-length side-curtain). A backup camera is not only optional, but is restricted to the top two trim levels. The Journey also doesn’t offer any other modern safety equipment like forward-collision warning, a blind spot monitoring system or lane-departure warning.

In crash testing conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 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 nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Journey its highest rating of Good in every category except the challenging small-overlap front crash test, where it earned a troubling Poor rating.

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. This car-based crossover has no trouble navigating rutted roads and tight streets. Big enough to be useful yet not too big to be manageable, the Journey should strike many families as perfectly sized.

The standard 4.3-in touchscreen is unusual in a vehicle that starts in the low-$20,000 range — it’s too small and is far from the cutting edge of user friendliness. Thankfully, the Journey is available with Dodge’s Uconnect 8.4-in touchscreen, which brings iPad-like crispness and ease of use to the driving experience. It’s easy to use, but the version in other Chrysler group vehicles brings more features with it, including Apple CarPlay.

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. There’s still plenty of adult-friendly space in the Journey’s second row, but the available third-row seat is smaller than most others on the market. Only kids will be able to comfortably sit back there.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Kia Sorento — The Sorento offers the same sort of in-betweener size as the Journey (including a third row), but is a substantially more modern and refined effort. It also comes with a 10-year warranty.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander — True, the Outlander isn’t exactly a bastion of automotive excellence, either. But, it’s a more modern choice than the Journey, with superior crash scores and safety equipment. It too has three seating rows and more budget-friendly pricing.

2018 Nissan Rogue — The Rogue is one of the rare compact SUVs that features a third-row seat, and if that’s something you’re prioritizing, this Nissan is worth a look.

Used Dodge Durango — The Durango touts a more spacious 3-row cabin, more distinctive styling, greater overall refinement and better resale value. Prices are higher, though, so you may have to consider a used model.

Autotrader’s Advice

The sweet spot for the 2018 Journey is the Crossroad model, which offers the best value in the lineup. We highly recommend opting for the V6, as the 4-cylinder engine offers poor acceleration, fuel economy and transmission performance.

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