Motoring: More metal for your money

ROAD TEST Chrysler Voyager

Chrysler asserts that its Voyager ranks alongside the Model T Ford, VW Beetle and Mini in the mould-breakers' hall of fame. It has a point. Sceptics predicted a short life for the Voyager when it was launched as a one-box car, as opposed to a van with windows, in 1983 - a year before the Renault Espace. Some 14 years and 6 million Voyagers later, the precursor of what's known Stateside as a minivan (here it's an MPV, or people carrier), is going stronger than ever. A global best-seller - the Voyager is market leader in Germany, Holland, Austria, Norway and Sweden, as well as the US - Chrysler's pioneering MPV is now on sale in Britain at on-the-road prices ranging from pounds 18,395 to more than pounds 25,000.

Chrysler's Jeep Cherokee off-roader owes much of its success to being American: as marketing tools go, "Made in the US" is one of the best, it seems. The third-generation Voyager may reflect American roots - it is, for instance, bigger and heavier than most rivals, but it is assembled in Graz, Austria. What's more, it is decidedly European in character and style.

There are basically four models. The 2.0LE and 2.0SE are five-speed manuals. Both the 3.3 V6s - one with the 2.0's wheelbase, the Grand Voyager's stretched to give more room - are four-speed automatics.

The first thing I did with the 3.3LE on test was to remove one of the two central seats so that our Labrador had room to stretch on the open- plan floor. Because the seat is very heavy, the job was not as easy as anticipated. Snag number two, which would rule out the Voyager chez Bell, was a flawed ventilation system that left spouse and me in conflict. Why no volume controls on the fascia vents? Or opening windows on the two rear sliding doors?

Apart from these and other minor niggles, the Voyager acquitted itself well. Old and low-tech though it is, the generous V6 engine is smooth, quiet and sufficiently muscular to give reasonably lively acceleration and, aided by long-legged gearing, relaxed motorway cruising. There are, however, quicker, more nimble rivals, and certainly more economical ones. If you want frugality, wait for the coming turbo-diesel. Or, in the interim, opt instead for the 131bhp 2.0, claimed by Chrysler to be as fast as the gas-guzzling V6.

There are more versatile automatics than the Voyager's four-speeder, but few that shift so seamlessly. Tucked away to the right of the steering column, the chunky selector works well. Although the Voyager handles and steers more like a car than a van, it doesn't rate highly as a driving experience. It's not that sort of car.

In comfort, space, refinement and equipment, the V6 is a match for any rival. Apart from rough-road thunking, which betrays crude rear suspension, the ride is smooth, the front seats very comfortable and the lofty driving position commanding (though the rear headrests obscure the mirror view aft). Central passengers are as comfortably ensconced as those up front, in individual armchairs. Only those in the back travel second class, on a removable bench that folds forward to increase boot space. Despite this feature, the Voyager's seating is less versatile than, say, the Renault Espace's. You do, though, get lots of car for your money. Plenty of equipment, too: included in the price are anti-lock brakes, cruise control and air- conditioning. Leather costs pounds 900 extra.

CHRYSLER VOYAGER 3.3 LE

Specifications

Engine: 3301cc, V6, 12 valves, 156bhp at 4700rpm; four-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive

Performance: Top speed 109mph, 0-60mph 11.8secs, overall fuel consumption 23 CA (combined average)

Price: pounds 23,695

Rivals

Citroen Synergie 2.0 SX, pounds 19,780

Van-like styling lacks flair, but cabin roomy and versatile. Cloned with Fiat Ulysse and Peugeot 806. No V6 option, but 2.0 manual as lively as Voyager V6 auto. Keenly priced, though 1.9 turbo-diesel VSX seven-seater costs over pounds 24,000.

Ford Galaxy 2.8 Ghia, pounds 23,435 Britain's most popular MPV. Made alongside VW Sharan and Seat Alhambra in joint-venture Portuguese plant. Faster, more entertaining to drive than Voyager, but not as big or roomy. Still the best, most car-like MPV on the market.

Renault Espace 3.0 RXE, pounds 27,335

High price of classy V6 Espace reflects new up-market status. Slower, gruffer, more economical 2.2 turbo-diesel from pounds 20,635. Benchmark packaging leaves no nook or cranny wasted. The most versatile MPV.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk