The Jeep Cherokee is as good off-road as Jeeps have always been, and better on-road than Jeeps used to be, but some versions look very expensive
The Jeep Cherokee is the company’s second largest SUV – larger than the Compass, but (as the name implies) smaller than the Grand Cherokee. It’s an alternative – albeit an expensive one – to the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
Compared to those alternatives, the Jeep looks distinctive, to say the least, and it’s certainly proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone will like the way it looks, although the chrome trim and alloy wheels mean it does look pretty smart.
Inside, too, it’s not all good news: the controls on the centre console seem to be set up for a left-hand drive car and models with a manual gearbox don’t have space for a footrest.
However, it’s far better than Jeeps used to be in the past and bears comparison with what you’ll find in the most obvious alternatives, although the fit and finish still aren’t necessarily up with more prestigious German cars. Likewise, the infotainment system isn’t all that easy to use.
Rather more impressive is how much space there is inside. On the one hand, there’s room for five adults and 591 litres of luggage. Alternatively, if you slide the rear bench forwards, reducing the space for passengers, you expand the boot space to 714 litres, making this a pretty useful family car. However, it’s worth noting that fitting the optional panoramic sunroof eats into rear headroom, which could be a problem if you need to carry a set of six-footers on the back bench.
The other area where Jeeps have traditionally been very impressive is off-road; and, while you would probably think twice before pointing the front-wheel-drive versions of the Cherokee down a rutted muddy crevice, the four-wheel-drive versions will keep up with anything short of a Range Rover – and most of the time they’ll match that, too.
Admittedly, the Jeep Cherokee isn’t quite so near the top of the class when you look at how well it copes on-road. But, if you remember Jeeps of old, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how reasonably it drives. In fact, in most everyday situations, it’ll cope just fine, although it won’t thank you if you want to go a little quicker and drive it quite hard. Then, the amount of body roll and the slow responses of the steering are only too obvious. The car is also quite noisy at high speeds and its sheer size means it’s not the easiest thing to thread through town, either.
Probably the best way to sum up the Cherokee is to call it a Jack of all trades, and a master of some. It’s one of the best off-roaders in the business and a reasonable family car, but not the best on-road
You can buy a version of the Jeep Cherokee with a 3.2-litre V6 engine, but that’s intended for off-road use. Instead, all the mainstream models come with a version of parent company Fiat’s 2.0-litre diesel engine, which is available with either 138hp or 200hp. Both cope well with the weight of the Cherokee and the more powerful version will allow you to tow up to 2,470kg of additional stuff.
This latest version of the Jeep Cherokee also marks a change in how safe Jeeps are. In the past, when American-made cars were subjected to Euro NCAP’s crash tests, there would be noises about just how badly they performed, but this isn’t the case with the Cherokee. It won Best in Class for small off-road 4x4s in 2013 and scored a full five stars.
The tests are stricter now, so there’s no guarantee the Cherokee would still earn as many stars, but it certainly has a decent amount of safety-related equipment. That includes seven airbags, as well as Stability control, seatbelt reminders for all five seats and a driver-set speed warning system.
Overall, in fact, it’s a reasonably well-equipped car, with a five-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth compatibility and parking sensors even on the most basic model. However, the real toys don’t appear until you start upgrading, which is a little disappointing, as higher-specification models cost almost as much as prestige German models.
Nevertheless, since Jeep came under Fiat’s wing, the company’s products have become worth considering. It’s true that the Cherokee’s price is on a par with a pretty heady group of very capable crossovers and SUVs, but it doesn’t embarrass itself – and this doesn’t include any discounts you might be able to get when you buy through carwow.