No one really knows how the dinosaurs died. The most interesting theory I’ve heard is that a massive asteroid, the size of Mt. Everest, came screaming through the atmosphere to impact with such fury that a cloud of molten stone was ejected out beyond the stratosphere. Forming cinders in the void, it fell again to earth all around the globe, and the resultant energy transfer superheated the atmosphere to a temperature that instantly annihilated anything above the ground.

Terrifying and fascinating. Although there’s something to be said for that Far Side cartoon that suggested it was because they all took up smoking cigarettes. Anyway, point is, the mighty fell and something new came to take their place. So too in the automotive world, where  minivan, family sedan, and full-size SUV sales all continue to shrink, as crossovers repopulate the earth. Currently the Dodge Caravan is still incredibly dominant among the minivans sold in this country. Here’s the new life-form that Chrysler hopes will take its place.

You see the Journey everywhere and for good reason. Like the Caravan, it offers a low entry price and seemingly good value. Perhaps not this particular tester though, which knocks on the door of $40K before freight. You oughta be able to park two very basic Caravans in your driveway for that price – but then again this is a fully loaded version with all-wheel-drive and all kinds of other goodies.

My kid took quite the shining to the lil’ red express trucklet. It’s a chunky-looking thing, reminiscent of a shrunk-down Durango, with big flares and 19-inch blacked-out wheels. The huge cross-hair grille makes an entrance, and the dual-exhaust-equipped rear makes an exit. It has presence.

On the inside, things are mostly good, but there’s still an element of cheapness here that’s going to make survival of the fittest tricky for the Dodge. Perhaps in bargain-basement models some of the lower-quality plastics would be more acceptable, but here I really can’t help comparing things like the shifter and some of the plastics to the interior of something like the Nissan Rogue – and finding the Dodge falling short.

However, it is pretty comfortable (the front chairs more-so than the rears), and there are a number of very clever touches. The Caravan was pretty good at this stuff, with its stow-and-go seating, and the Journey has a couple tricks up its sleeve: the pop-up booster seats in the rear are great, and so is the emergency storage bin underneath the passenger seat. Actually, there’s plenty of storage up front for mom and dad – somebody in the design department at Dodge has kids. The back has a pop-out flashlight like the Honda Odyssey, and the rear-seat HVAC controls are also usefully mounted high enough to prevent little hands from fiddling with them. As ever, I’d skip the rear entertainment option: not only would buying a couple of iPads (or similar) be cheaper than optioning the drop-down screen, if your kids aren’t old enough to read Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling, then they shouldn’t be looking at screens anyway.

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