- Fairly economical
- Some cheap materials
The Jeep Cherokee is back and it appears the American icon is more European than ever before. Andy Goodwin went to check it out.
The Jeep Cherokee has always been the mainstay of the Jeep range in the UK, so it’s surprising it hasn’t actually been on sale here since 2010. Now it’s back, everything about the 2014 Cherokee is new, and thanks to Chrysler’s shared ownership with Fiat, it’s also more suited to roads on our shores. Prices start from £25,495 and climb to £35,695.
Jeep has the richest heritage of any off-road brand and the Cherokee isn’t afraid to show it off. The traditional seven-slot grille is a Jeep trademark, and its pronounced flat-topped wheel arches hark back to the Willy’s Jeep. There’s contemporary design here too, particularly the high-set LED daytime running lights which look like ultra-slim headlights but aren’t. In fact, those are hidden lower down, behind tinted glass. Inside it’s a case of spot-the-Jeep-design-cue, with ‘Since 1941’ embossed on the steering wheel, a tiny Jeep silhouette at the base of the windscreen and a military-style rev-counter, being just a few we found.
The Cherokee is priced to sit between mainstream models and premium badged 4x4s and feels like a large vehicle from behind the wheel, certainly more so than a Freelander or CR-V. There’s a slightly odd mixture of expensive and cheap materials (the Limited trim level we tested had full leather upholstery) like the attractive leather-topped dashboard and steering wheel, but a flimsy plastic dash-top cubby and arm-rest storage bin, which suggests compromises have had to be made to keep costs down.
But, it’s a success on the whole. There’s lots of passenger space, and the 591-litre boot grows to 714 litres if you slide the rear seats forward. The most powerful version also has a huge 2,475kg braked trailer towing capacity, so you can haul your boat, horses, second car or home-away-from-home wherever you want.
Performance & handling
It’s hard to believe, but the Cherokee is based on a stretched version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta’s chassis, and it also gets Fiat and Alfa’s 2.0-litre Multijet diesel engine. It’s available with 138bhp sent to just the front wheels or with four-wheel drive for £2,000 extra. Lastly, there’s the range-topper with 168bhp, four-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
We tested the lower-powered four-wheel drive first and found it fine for cruising around – which is what you’ll most likely do in a car like this – but its 12 second 0-62mph acceleration won’t have the competition losing any sleep. Far better is the 168bhp model, not just because it’s a bit quicker, but because the automatic gearbox (the same ZF ‘box fitted in the Evoque) is a real peach.
Of course, being a Jeep, we were treated to an off-road course where the Cherokee proved it can find traction even if just one wheel has grip. Back on the road, the Cherokee has brake steering and torque vectoring to assist you when cornering quickly, but really, it’s not a car which encourages such sporty behaviour.
Economy & environment
While Jeep doesn’t have a reputation for building economical cars, Fiat certainly does. The Cherokee unsurprisingly falls somewhere in the middle, with economy ranging from 53.3mpg (front-wheel drive only) to 48.7mpg for the top dog and emissions from 139g/km of CO2 to 154g/km. This brings Jeep back into line with the competition, the rear-wheel drive BMW X3 only slightly ahead, with 56.5mpg, and the Freelander behind with 47.1mpg. All versions of the Cherokee are fitted with stop and start to save fuel in traffic.
Equipment & value
There are three trim levels at launch, called ‘Longitude’, ‘Longitude Plus’ and ‘Limited’, while a more off-roadery ‘Trailhawk’ will arrive with a V6 petrol later. The basic spec is well-equipped with LED lights, 17-inch alloys, roof rails, air-con, leather steering wheel, USB and Bluetooth connections and rear parking sensors. It misses out on the Uconnect 8.4-inch touch-screen infotainment system (including sat-nav, DAB radio and nine speakers) fitted in the ‘Longitude Plus’ version. Top-spec cars get keyless entry, auto wipers, bi-xenon headlamps, reversing camera and polished 18-inch alloys. ‘Limited’ cars also get a wireless charging pad for phones and tablets and seven-inch colour screen between the instrument gauges.
The Cherokee was awarded five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, with an impressive 92 per cent for adult occupant protection. It’s an excellent result for a car popular with families. The Cherokee has seven airbags as standard as well as stability control (which can stop a trailer swaying), tyre pressure monitoring and a system which can automatically alert the emergency services in the event of a crash.
This is by far the best Cherokee yet, but does that make it a class leader? Probably not, but that’s mainly because the small 4×4 market it so fiercely contested, it’s one hell of a tough nut to crack. The Cherokee succeeds in having more character than models like the CR-V, and being better off-road, but it’s not as convincingly premium or as refined as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. There are some flaws, but those who buy the Cherokee will do so for its handsome looks, rugged ability and because it’s something a bit different on this side of the pond.