Jeep Cherokee review
The Jeep Cherokee rivals the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 on price, but can’t match either for upmarket appeal or driving dynamics
The Jeep Cherokee effectively sits in a class of its own. It’s built to rival models like the Nissan Qashqai and Volkswagen Tiguan, yet on price it actually competes with cars like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
While as a standalone product the Jeep is fine, it’s hard to recommend against such strong challengers.
A new 2.2-litre diesel engine was introduced in the summer of 2015, helping rectify negative feedback on the sluggish engines available from launch. It’s an eager performer and despite being more powerful, is actually more economical than before too.
Avoid the top-spec Limited models, and the basic 138bhp diesel, and you’ve got an accomplished – if a little ugly – mid-sized SUV.
The Jeep Cherokee is a mid-size SUV designed to rival cars like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Toyota RAV4. However, with prices topping out at more than £35,000, it actually levels with more accomplished models like the Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X3 and Audi Q5. The Cherokee has quite the fight on its hands, then.
The new model, which debuted in 2014 after a four-year UK sabbatical, does come loaded with kit – and following feedback from the original launch, is now available with a larger, faster 2.2-litre diesel engine with two power outputs. A 138bhp 2.0 is still available but is the only engine available on the basic Longitude spec. Elsewhere, there are Longitude Plus and Limited trims, while buyers can also opt for a 3.2-litre V6-powered Trailhawk version. For 2016 Jeep is offering a special edition 75th Anniversary model to celebrate 75 years of the Jeep brand, and a new range-topping model called Overland that's packed with luxuries, but Jeep hasn't confirmed spec or prices for either version as of yet.
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Basic cars come with a six-speed manual gearbox, while top-spec models feature a smooth-shifting nine-speed auto. There’s no option of steering wheel-mounted paddles though – even on the V6 petrol model.
Heritage is important for Jeep, and as a result, the new Cherokee proudly displays a ‘Since 1941’ motif on its steering wheel. There are various nods to Jeeps of old throughout the cabin, too, including a little silhouette of a pre-war Jeep at the base of the windscreen.
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All models get a solid and robust interior, with soft-touch materials adorning the top of the dash. Move your hands further down and quality disappoints, though it should stand up to the worst any family can throw at it.
The Cherokee is priced between £26,095 for the 138bhp diesel front-drive manual car, and £37,995 for the range-topping 197bhp automatic 4x4. Standard kit on all cars includes a five-inch touchscreen, six-speaker stereo and 17-inch alloy wheels. Automatic lights and wipers are also standard, as are a power tailgate and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Engines, performance and drive
It only takes a few minutes perched behind the wheel of the new Cherokee to realise this is a car aimed primarily at being as comfortable as possible.
Jeep has made big boasts about this car moving away from agricultural handling to more car-like road manners, but it has focused so heavily on a smooth ride that can handle the worst British tarmac that the drive is rather inert and disappointing. There’s lots of body roll and extremely light steering even at higher A-road speeds.
While the 2.0-litre diesel engine manages to cope well with the hefty 1,900kg kerbweight, the general inertia of the car robs the driver of any fun or interaction.
The newer 2.2-litre diesel improves on this – but with no changes to the suspension or chassis, it’s still rather wallowy in the corners. The steering doesn’t let you know what the front wheels are up to, though four-wheel drive models do get plenty of grip.
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The new Nissan Qashqai or Ford’s Kuga strikes a better balance between family-friendly ride quality and a modicum of composure in faster driving. If your budget allows, though, the BMW X3 is this segment’s class leader.
Special praise must go to the Cherokee’s nine-speed automatic gearbox, which is optional on the 138bhp model and standard with the higher power models. We’re often wary of gearboxes with eight or nine speeds as they can change gear too often in the name of meagre fuel consumption improvements.
But not only is the Jeep’s gearbox smoother than Land Rover's nine-speeder, it also contributes to a claimed 16% improvement in efficiency versus the old Cherokee.
It makes it a great motorway cruiser, and mated to the soft suspension ensures it is very easy to drive long distances. Refinement is pretty good, too, though the diesel engines are a little rattly at idle. It’s just a shame Jeep doesn’t offer any steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Engines range from a basic 138bhp diesel to a stonking 3.2-litre V6 petrol. There’s also a range of 2.2-litre diesels, which offer the best compromise of performance versus running costs.
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The entry-level 138bhp diesel is available with a choice of front or four-wheel drive, but feels a little sluggish compared to the higher capacity engines.
In 2015, the 168bhp 2.0 was replaced by a pair of faster 2.2-litre engines, with either 182bhp or 197bhp. We’ve only driven the latter so far, but it’s a big improvement on the outgoing model thanks to a load more torque and a significantly improved 0-62mph time. It’ll cover the benchmark sprint in just 8.5 seconds – just a tenth slower than the flagship V6 petrol.
The 2.2 doesn’t feel as smooth or quick as a BMW X3 xDrive 20d, and is significantly off the pace compared to higher-power (but similarly priced) rivals. It’s by far the pick of the range though, and the one we’d recommend if you’ve got your heart set on a Cherokee.
None of the diesels are particularly refined around town, but out on the open road they settle down into a quiet thrum. Plant the throttle though and the gruff clatter sparks back up – encouraging gentle progress on longer journeys.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Ignore the thirsty V6 petrol Cherokee (as 86 per cent of British customers are expected to) and the Cherokee’s 2.0-litre and 2.2-litre diesel engines make a case for erasing Jeep’s gas-guzzler reputation.
Claimed consumption of between 48.7mpg and 53.3mpg is around par for the class, though of course the lighter, less friction-prone front-wheel drive model is the one to go for if running costs are the main worry. That car also has the lowest CO2 emissions of any Cherokee, at 139g/km.
The 2.2-litre diesel is the one to go for though, as it’s no less economical but feels much faster on the road. Top-spec cars do 49.6mpg and 150g/km, which is almost identical to the Audi Q5 TDI 190. It’s not as good to drive, but remains the highlight of the range.
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The front-wheel drive 2.0-litre diesel is the best bet if low running costs are top of your agenda. The Longitude 140 FWD will return 53.3mpg and emit 139g/km of CO2 for £130 annual road tax. The 4x4 version sits one tax band higher for a £145 yearly charge.
A front-wheel drive Nissan Qashqai is admittedly less powerful, but some of those are actually exempt from road tax thanks to sub-100g/km CO2 emissions. Even a four-wheel drive Land Rover Discovery Sport will do upwards of 50mpg. The Jeep therefore, is some way off best in class.
If you really must have a petrol-powered Jeep, your only option is the 3.2-litre V6 Trailhawk. It’ll return a measly 29.4mpg and emit a colossal 223g/km of CO2, yet is only one tenth of a second faster to 62mph than the top-spec diesel. We’d advise UK buyers to avoid this model as its cons far outweigh its pros.
Insurance groups for the Jeep Cherokee range from 26 to 29, which is about average for the mid-sized SUV class. Cheaper models like the Ford Kuga cost less in annual premiums, with groups ranging from 18 to 23 – but models like the BMW X3 will be considerably more. A top-spec BMW sits in group 43, due it is powerful 3.0-litre diesel engine and flash image.
Depreciation is fairly consistent across the range, with all models (excluding the range-topping Trailhawk V6) posting residual values of around 30 per cent. Some of the lower-powered diesels manage to retain 35 per cent of their value, but the most expensive 197bhp Limited spec cars hover around 29-31 per cent.
Expect that to compare with the likes of Audi’s Q5 and you’ll be sorely disappointed. Often touted as one of the industry’s depreciation busters, all Q5s – including the high-power SQ5 – will be worth more than 50% of their original value after three years. A BMW X3 is very nearly as impressive, with all models retaining between 49% and 52%.
Interior, design and technology
You won’t confuse the new Cherokee with anything else on the road. Jeep’s gone radical with the SUV’s looks, and while the trademark Jeep seven-bar grille is present, it’s been totally overhauled.
Rather than being upright, the bars are folded over the leading edge of the bonnet, while the lights have been given a Nissan Juke-style makeover, with high-set daytime running lights and large main lights and foglamps set below. The final result isn’t that attractive, but you can’t fault Jeep for daring to be different.
The rest of the Cherokee’s shape is standard compact SUV, with simple lines and a rakish tailgate. Squared-off wheelarches add a chunky touch, and roof rails are standard, but some of the details look a bit odd. The front window sills are curved awkwardly and the tailgate looks a vast expanse of metal because the number plate is set into the bumper.
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Inside, the Cherokee makes a good first impression, thanks to the crystal clear TFT screens used for the touchscreen and trip computer. This is offset by some frustrating touches, though.
The infotainment and climate controls are mixed up on the centre console, while most other functions are controlled via the touchscreen menus. The rev counter features a huge hatched area to signify the red line – it’s not really needed as you’ll get nowhere near this ‘danger zone’ in normal driving.
The Cherokee’s is a real Marmite design, just as controversial in the metal as in pictures, but we applaud Jeep’s confidence for trying to stand out in such a crowded marketplace.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
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Standard on entry-level Longitude models is a five-inch main touchscreen, while Longitude Plus and Limited models upgrade to an 8.4-inch display. It’s a colourful, crisp and intuitive system that could shame a few premium carmakers’ interfaces, and works well with the optional seven-inch TFT display in the instrument binnacle.
The sat-nav and stereo system are all easy enough to use, it’s just a shame that Jeep chose to install such a cheap-looking Garmin unit. All cars come with Bluetooth for music streaming and hands-free calls, while top-spec models even feature a wireless charging pad on the centre console for compatible mobile phones.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Cherokee is only available in one bodystyle, and unlike some rivals, doesn’t come with the option of seven seats. That said, it’s a spacious mid-sized SUV with a 591-litre boot that expands to 714 litres if you slide the rear seats forward. This obviously minimises legroom, but flip-over panels cover the gap between the boot floor and the seatbacks.
Whichever setting you choose, the load cover droops at the tailgate end, which can leave items exposed or reflecting in the rear window. You also get a removable metal bracket on one side of the boot, which features a set of handy bag hooks.
In the backs seats you get air vents and a 12V socket. Up front, storage is reasonable, with an armrest cubby, deep door bins and a handy iPod slot on the centre console, but the glovebox is small and the shallow dashtop cubby seems a bit pointless.
The Jeep Cherokee doesn’t feel much bigger or smaller than any of its main rivals. It’s on a par size-wise with models like BMW’s X3 and the Audi Q5. It’s easy enough to drive and the raised ride-height gives a commanding view of the road.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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Given the size of the Cherokee on the outside, it’s disappointingly cramped on the inside. Rear seat space is a little tight, despite the fact the bench can be slid backwards for more interior space.
Headroom is fine, though, and even taller adults shouldn’t find their hair brushing the roof. There’s a pair of ISOFIX mountings on each of the rear seats, which will prove handy if you have small children.
Having said all that, a Land Rover Discovery Sport is a better all-round package in terms of practicality– especially when you consider it’s available with two seats in the boot.
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Bootspace in the Jeep Cherokee is good, if a little off the class best. At 591 litres, it’s considerably bigger than family cars like a Ford Mondeo (541 litres) or Vauxhall Insignia (530 litres), and main rivals like the BMW X3 (550 litres) and Audi Q5 (530 litres).
However, the 689-litre Land Rover Discovery Sport takes class honours here. Just remember that with seven on board, the Land Rover’s load space shrinks to just 194 litres.
Fold the Jeep’s rear seats flat and you’ll unveil 1,267 litres of load space – and you can even fold the front passenger seat for extra-long items. However, while that may sound big, the Disco Sport manages a cavernous 1,698 litres and is the car to go for if you regularly carry stuff to the tip.
Underfloor storage is available, but with just 77 litres on offer, it’s not exactly huge. There’s enough space to stash a few valuables though, or that box of eggs you want to preserve on a spirited drive back from the shops. All cars come with an electrically-operated tailgate, which is particularly handy when your hands are full.
Reliability and Safety
The new Jeep Cherokee uses a platform similar to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, so many of the parts are proven in that car. The electronics are also shared with other Fiat Group models (not necessarily a good thing), while the sat-nav is from Garmin, and should be trouble-free.
Jeep doesn’t have the best reputation for customer service, though – it finished a lowly 26th out of 32 car companies in our Driver Power 2015 dealer survey.
The Cherokee earned a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and has seven airbags, stability control and switchable four-wheel drive that can be tailored to suit off-road conditions.
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Top-spec models feature a wealth of safety tech including lane-departure warning assistance, blind-spot monitoring, and even a system that’ll automatically apply the handbrake when reversing if an obstacle appears behind the car.
Considering there’s also a clear reversing camera view displayed through an impressive 8.4-inch touchscreen, manoeuvring the Cherokee should be a doddle, despite its gaping turning circle.
Like many new cars, the Jeep Cherokee benefits from a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. Paintwork is guaranteed for just 24 months, while Jeep ensures your car will remain rust-free with its seven-year perforating rust warranty – standard on all new cars. All the Cherokee’s main rivals – aside from models like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sportage, come with similar three-year guarantees.
Servicing intervals are 12,500 miles or 12 months, whichever comes sooner. But costs are hard to come by, as Jeep says each model requires a range of services and checks depending on your car’s mileage.