Review: The Jeep Cherokee

Jeep Cherokee

Jeep Cherokee - Credit: Archant

Posh yet affordable, the new Cherokee upholds its famous battlefield heritage as well as modern Fiat-inspired refinement and cabin appeal

A tough recession was required to convince 4x4 fans that they didn’t need all-wheel drive to get the ‘funky chunky’ looks they crave.

Instead, economical front-wheel drive ‘soft roaders’ have become the recent norm rather than those with 4x4 kit.

But what if you still need decent yet affordable off-road ability wrapped up in a family size car? It would seem that Jeep, America’s 4x4 star, has the answer with the latest Cherokee, launched this year.

It is also available with front-wheel drive, but Jeep has ensured that the latest Cherokee can still hack it off-road. With decent ground clearance and selectable 4x4 abilities, the Cherokee really only has one rival: Land Rover’s comparatively expensive and ageing Freelander.

You’ll get a lot more kit as standard on the Jeep, and distinctive looks, too: the Cherokee’s designers have carried over Jeep’s classic slotted grille, but with a horizontal crease. Paired with the car’s slimline lighting array, it creates a front end to be loved by some and loathed by others.

But there’s much more to endear this Cherokee to buyers than on the previous three generations seen in the UK. Jeep’s new owner Fiat has endowed the Cherokee with a lighter touch in build and economy.

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So the Cherokee’s powertrains comprise two powerful yet miserly versions of the Italian brand’s classy 2.0-litre MultiJet turbodiesel: a 138bhp unit with six-speed manual gearbox or a 168bhp with new nine-speed auto transmission.

I drove the 140bhp in 4x4 format and was impressed by its high-speed refinement, not something you expected from previous Cherokees. And on a twisty rural lane it continues to shine with decent grip and a modest yet well-controlled lean on the bends. Ride quality is impressive.

An official combined 50.4mpg for a fully competent diesel 4x4 is not bad either.

In the cabin, Jeep has often grappled with a typically American inability to trim and equip interiors to equal the off-road prowess of its cars, but there’s a definite step-up this time, plus upmarket options like the well-priced £950 ‘CommandView’ dual-pane electric sunroof extending from the windscreen and almost to the car’s rear.

The Cherokee interior is practical, with 60/40 split rear seats adjusting fore and aft for increased passenger comfort and cargo flexibility, plus fold-flat front passenger seat with stowage beneath the seat cushion.

Those sliding rear seats are vital because boot space with them fully back is only modest for the class, if understandable given the need for the extra transmission serving the rear wheels on 4x4 versions.

It is worth adding here the Cherokee’s impressive safety thumbs-up: a five-star ‘best in class’ Euro NCAP rating in the Small Off-Road 4x4 category. n

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