Not a bad European family saloon for US brand Dodge, but not a good one either.

What is it?

Right now, the Chrysler Group doesn't offer a family car in Europe's traditional Mondeo-dominated D-segment – by this time in 2008, it will have two of them - and the Dodge Avenger is the first.

This new Avenger is part of Dodge's 21st-century product offensive, and as far as its looks go, offensive is the right word. Its cross-hair grille, jutting front bumper, pumped-up shoulders and large bootlid spoiler combine to create an aggressive impression when you first see this thing. You certainly wouldn't confuse it for a Kia Magentis.

And that's exactly the point. Dodge is now DaimlerChrysler's value brand, and its new Avenger isn't going after the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra. Instead, it's aiming for the Skoda Superbs, Toyota Avensises and Hyundai Sonatas of this world. Dodge insists that, when you adjust for specification, the Avenger is up to 14 per cent cheaper than those rivals. This one, the entry-level oil-burner, costs less than a Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Sport.

What’s it like?

You're certainly getting plenty of car for your money. There's enough room here for four six-feet-tall adults in comfort, and it's got a proper 438-litre boot that you can expand by folding the rear seats, and quite neatly, the front passenger seat, totally flat.

Under the bonnet of this particular Avenger is Volkswagen's 2.0-litre common rail diesel, which produces a useful 138bhp and 229lb ft of torque, and drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. At each corner you'll find a disc brake and an independently-suspended wheel (struts up front, a multi-link arrangement out back). It all sounds promisingly European.

It drives acceptably, too. Engine refinement is decent, performance is okay, and while the chassis is a little over-sprung and under-damped, everything else – barring some appallingly thin and flimsy dash plastics – isn't too bad.

Should I buy one?

The problem for Dodge is that this class is long-established and, even at the cheap end, packed with good cars. The Avenger's different, sure, but a Skoda Superb is more spacious, a Toyota Avensis is better built, and a Mazda 6 is a better drive.

Not bad ain't really good enough for the Avenger. It’s not the worst new family saloon you could buy; it's just not quite far enough from it to be worth serious consideration.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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