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Take a Journey in a Dodge Journey

Rick Newman is the Chief Business Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a longtime car buff. He reviews automobiles here on a regular basis, as well as writing about all things vehicular. Below is his "micro-review" of the 2011 Dodge Journey.

What it is : Dodge's much-improved entry in the highly competitive market for mid-sized family SUVs.

Price : Starts at $22,245/ 17 MPG city / 25 MPG highway (most models)

What's worth knowing : As parent company Chrysler skidded toward its 2009 bankruptcy filing, it skimped on interior materials, engineering innovations and lots of other things. Dodge may have suffered the most, since its lineup was ho-hum to start with. But the redesigned Journey is a sign that the new Chrysler is doing a 180. Styling is muscular, the quality of the interior is vastly improved, and a strong set of standard features makes the Journey a contender for families that need a versatile, reasonably priced vehicle.

Who it's for : Mid-sized families who refuse to consider a minivan, plus anybody who needs decent hauling capability for road trips, hunting expeditions or beach outings.

What's good : The Journey's interior is like a minivan-lite, with reclining second-row seats, lots of storage nooks and other convenience features. The third row, available on every trim line at no extra charge, is tiny, but it still expands capacity to seven with a fairly compact footprint. For parents who occasionally cart a few extra kids around, that can be a godsend.

What's bad: Mileage isn't great, and the more-efficient four-cylinder engine is only available on the entry-level model. The back seat is tight for some adults. Dodge's overall reliability still needs improvement. And some reviewers have dinged the Journey's bulky styling.

How it stacks up : The Journey is much better than it used to be, but there's a huge variety of high-quality offerings in this category. One of the Journey's main attributes is a starting price that's a bit lower than some competitors. But if you want a lavish set of features, that price advantage will most likely disappear.

What to do if you want one : Compare the Journey to other SUVs and crossovers that are a bit smaller—such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V—and a bit larger, such as the Chevrolet Traverse and the Ford Explorer.

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