November 24, 2014

2012 Dodge Avenger SXT Plus: Good choice in the mid-size market

2012 Dodge Avenger.

2012 Dodge Avenger.2012 Dodge Avenger.Looking for a midsize, medium-priced four-door sedan? Chances are, you’ll consider the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima or Ford Fusion. If you’re in the market for something different, you might give the Suzuki Kizashi a look. 

It may not even occur to you to check out the Dodge Avenger, whose name and reputation seem to suggest something sporty and impractical.

Instead, our 2012 Avenger SXT Plus proved to be a good mainstream car at a good price — $25,440, thousands below the sticker price of comparable Nissan and Toyota products we’ve driven recently. (The last Kizashi we drove was priced about $1,000 more than the Avenger, but featured all-wheel drive.)

The Dodge is more softly sprung than its Japanese competitors, yet handles competently. Its ride is quiet and composed. The mid-level SXT Plus is exceptionally well equipped, with satellite radio, automatic temperature control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, 6.5-inch touch-screen media display, premium cloth upholstery, and eight-way power driver’s seat, among other features. For $695, Dodge adds a navigation system, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, remote USB port and Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth.

Also standard is a trunk-mounted rear spoiler, a feature we could have done without because it interferes with visibility.

The standard engine in this trim level is a 283-horsepower V-6; the base Avenger SE, staring at about $19,000, comes with a 173-horsepower inline Four.

The Avenger SXT Plus’ fuel-economy rating is 19 mpg city, 29 highway, just 1 mpg shy of the base engine’s performance.

With the Avenger, we continued our largely positive experience with Chrysler vehicles since the 2009 bailout and the sale of the company to the Italian automotive giant Fiat. Chrysler has rolled out a number of new or redesigned models, including the Fiat 500, a minicar, and the Alfa Romeo-based compact Dodge Dart. Most have exceeded our expectations.

A number of Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep models have accumulated average to above-average reliability records in Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys. (In fact, the Avenger’s first cousin, the Chrysler 200, is the most dependable model in the Chrysler stable.) In the past, such rankings were rare in Chrysler vehicles, even in the good years.

The Avenger SXT Plus has a long list of safety features, including front seat active head restraints, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control and speed control. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Avenger a Top Safety Pick after conducting crash tests.

The Avenger is not faultless. Rear head room is tight for tall passengers, the trunk is relatively small (13.5 cubic feet, about the same as the Kizashi), and all-wheel drive is unavailable. Also, there is no hybrid version, so 29 to 30 mpg is the best the Avenger can deliver.

But overall, the Avenger is easy to like and easy to live with, and at a very competitive price.

Steven Macoy (smacoy3070@cs.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

Price: $25,440

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 283 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Weight: 3,603 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 18×7-inch aluminum chrome clad

Tires: P225/50R18 all-season 

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 13.5 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 16.9 gallons

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular/flex fuel