£26,345 - £40,150 Price range
29 - 53 MPG
You can forget just about everything about previous Jeep Cherokee models as, name aside, the 2014 car shares just about none of its ancestors’ strengths or failings. This is a good thing because, for European tastes at least, it always had more failings than strengths, primarily in the interior quality and on-road driving experience.
With Chrysler – and thus Jeep – now under the control of Italian giant Fiat, things have changed dramatically. It still doesn’t net overwhelmingly positive reviews, but nor is it still at the bottom of a very long list of alternatives you’d have to reject before you considered it.
Cheapest to buy: 2.0-litre 2WD Longitude diesel
Cheapest to run: 2.0-litre 2WD Longitude diesel
Fastest model: 3.2-litre Trailhawk petrol
Most popular: 2.0-litre 2WD Limited diesel
Jeeps of old were a mishmash of substandard quality plastics and wood veneers thrown together seemingly at random. You’ll still find things to gripe about – particularly the left-hand-drive bias to centre-console controls and the lack of footrest space on manual models – but it’s a better place to be in by orders of magnitude. Materials, fit and finish aren’t necessarily up with the German prestige rivals but they’re competitive with the rest of the field.
It’s also spacious. There’s room for five full sized humans and 591 litres of luggage. You can slide the rear bench forwards if you’re carrying slightly smaller humans, for a 714 litre load space, so this is a pretty useful family car too. The panoramic sunroof option eats into rear headroom a little – as is usually the way – so a set of six footers on the back bench might gripe on longer journeys.
Jeeps have always been good off road – very good. While you would probably think twice before pointing the front-wheel-drive versions down a rutted muddy crevice, the four-wheel-drive versions will keep up with anything short of a full blown Range Rover – and most of the time they’ll match that too.
But softly-sprung Jeeps of the past, set up for rock-crawling and dead-straight American highways, have been a little underwhelming on our roads. Those days haven’t quite come to an end, but the Cherokee is considerably more cultured than before. If you want a sporting ride and push it to the limits, it won’t thank you, but in terms of the day-to-day driving we normally do it’ll cope admirably. There’s some tyre roar and engine noise at high speeds though and it’s not the easiest thing to thread through town either.
The Cherokee is only available at present with a version of Fiat’s 2.0-litre MultiJet II diesel engine, offered in 138hp and 168hp forms. A 3.2-litre V6 petrol is mooted to appear later, but most buyers will swerve this more powerful (and much thirstier) unit.
In either flavour the diesel copes well with the massive kerb weight of the Cherokee and indeed the more powerful version will allow you to tow up to 2,470kg of additional stuff.
Fuel economy is 53mpg for the front-wheel drive 138hp car, 50mpg for the four-wheel drive 138hp car and 49mpg for the four-wheel drive 168hp car – which can only be paired with the nine-speed automatic gearbox. These ratings plonk the Cherokee in VED (road tax) bands E, F, and G respectively, while the four-wheel-drive 138hp model is the slowest to knock off the 60mph sprint, in 12s, compared to just over 10 seconds for the alternatives.
Again, it used to be the case that when an American-made car was subjected to Euro NCAP’s tests there would be noises about just how badly it performed, but this isn’t the case with the new Cherokee. 92% for adult occupant safety is an excellent score and it won Best in Class for small off-road 4x4s in 2013.
The Cherokee sports seven airbags as standard. Stability control is also standard, as are seatbelt reminders for all five seats – and all three rears come with Isofix mounts – and a driver-set speed warning system. Some additional safety kit is optional-only though, so check your specification closely.
It’s a reasonably well-equipped car from the off, with a five-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth compatibility and parking sensors on the base Longitude trim, but the real toys don’t appear until you start upgrading. This is a little disappointing as the entry level car is £25,495 and you’re looking at the mother of all Nissan Qashqais or Mazda CX-5s at that price. Higher specification models are encroaching on prestige German money and that’s a tough sell.
There’s also no model that offers really good fuel economy returns. 53mpg is a good effort and it’s the most economical Jeep ever sold, but rivals all have a super-low carbon equivalent that’s also, in most cases, much quicker. It’s also several insurance groups higher – perhaps reflecting the nature of its far flung origins and costs of repair – so it’s not going to be a cheap car to run.
Jeep Cherokee Overland
A new Overland trim is available for the Cherokee, and comes as standard with a metal-effect grille, body-coloured door trims, 18-inch alloy wheels and xenon headlights. An Alpine sound system and 8.4-inch infotainment display are also fitted.
The Cherokee used to be the off-roader you bought if you went off-roading and couldn’t afford a Range Rover. Thirsty, heavy and square-jawed ugly, it propped up JD Power surveys.
The move to Fiat’s custody has transformed it into a genuine ownership prospect. Sure, it finds itself priced to mix with a pretty heady group of very capable crossovers and SUVs, but it doesn’t embarrass itself any more. It even – whisper it quietly – does some things better than its more lauded Eastern rivals. It’s a little pricey to buy and run, but you certainly won’t lose it in the car park.