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Driven: Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.

Driven: Jeep Cherokee
SUV originator Jeep tries to take on its premium competitors with the squinting Cherokee.

 



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Jeep Cherokee 2.0 Limited

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: smooth ride, impressive interior, economy, plenty of space, equipment
Not so good: unusual looks, 140hp engine a bit underpowered

Key Facts

Model tested: Jeep Cherokee 2.0 Limited 140 manual 4x4
Pricing: 33,195 basic; 34,995 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 147g/km
Combined economy: 50.4mpg
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 12.0 seconds
Power: 140hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,500rpm

Our view:

We might as well grab the bull by the horns and deal with the new Jeep Cherokee's looks first and foremost, as it's going to be the main barrier to anyone buying one. To say the appearance is distinctive is perhaps an understatement, because - although there are some Jeep signifiers included, like the seven-bar front grille - it doesn't really look like a Jeep. Each to their own, of course, but the front end is fine with us; it's a little hard to get used to initially but it grows on you. It's actually the rear we have more problems with, as it's more generic and somehow vaguely Korean. Being Korean is not a bad thing if you're Kia or Hyundai, but Jeep was a pioneer in this segment and even under Fiat ownership, it ought to be able to strike its own styling path. Aesthetically, we're undecided on whether we like the Jeep for its risky, outlandish face, or dislike it for being too anonymous at the back.

Moving inside improves things no end. Options on a Limited are, er... limited to just three items, which are special paint at 625 (although only white is cost-free; every other colour, including the Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearlcoat of our test car, incurs a fee), a full-size 17-inch spare at 225 and the lovely panoramic sunroof, which opens halfway, at 950. This car had all three fitted, so basically 34,995 is as much as you can spend on a Cherokee with this engine and gearbox. That's quite impressive, as things like satnav, heated leather seats, keyless entry and go, DAB, Bluetooth and much more are all standard fit. Try getting that on any German or Swedish rivals.

The interior is spacious enough for five people, has an acceptable boot behind the rear seats and is generally nice to look at. But we have one or two minor gripes, mainly centring around that Uconnect touchscreen system. When we tried it last year in a Grand Cherokee, it seemed forward thinking and quite intuitive, but such is the pace of progress when it comes to infotainment systems that it is already lagging behind competitor software. Jeep is also guilty of being too focused on getting rid of physical buttons and putting all the controls in the centre screen; this is something annoying that Peugeot has done in the 308, a car we otherwise love. It's all very well de-cluttering, but when, for example, you've got to look at the screen while driving, find the 'Controls' tab, tap it and then look for the heated seats function bottom right of the screen, it becomes distracting - and even more infuriating when there are three blanking plates right below the Uconnect screen, running alongside the hazard warning button, two of which could be easily used for the seat heating function for front-seat occupants. Sometimes, shortcut switchgear is not a bad thing.

However, as a machine to drive the Jeep is impressive. Admittedly, if we're being honest, 140hp and 320Nm is probably not quite enough for a four-wheel drive vehicle weighing 1,846kg - you'd be better off stumping up for the 170hp version of the 2.0-litre MultiJet II, which also gives you the nine-speed automatic gearbox, rather than the heavy duty six-speed manual in this car. So the Jeep isn't quick, but then target customers don't really need SRT-8-like performance.

Which means the Jeep's superb ride, quiet cruising manners and nicely judged level of body control are all a delight to experience. It's one of those easy companion cars that you don't really think about when driving, which again is presumably ideal for the small SUV buying demographic. It's not boring, though, as the steering is well-weighted and positive in feel, while the four-wheel drive system blesses it with an abundance of grip. Aside from its leisurely acceleration, there's little to complain about with the way the Cherokee gets from A to B, and all the while it's getting close to 50mpg. We only drove it on A-roads, country lanes and in urban areas, but after nearly 200 miles of such treatment it had only used a quarter of a tank of diesel, which is frugality of the highest order.

After a week in its company, we like the Cherokee. It's perhaps more refined than you might expect of a brand that favours ruggedness over on-road civility and whatever you think about the looks, at least it won't blend into a car-park crowd. Nevertheless, it has a tough job on its hands trying to prize people out of Q5s, X3s and the Volvo XC60. All of these will be more expensive when you kit them out with the same toys as the Jeep, but they will probably have stronger residual values to balance that out. And, as we're all well aware, sometimes badge cachet plays a bigger part in car purchasing than objective dynamic comparison. Which is a shame, because the new Cherokee is a very competitive package in this segment; you'd be wise not to ignore it.

Alternatives:

Audi Q5: a 150hp SE 2.0 TDI quattro manual costs less than the Jeep Cherokee Limited, but as you're comparing base spec with top-line luxury, expect the Audi to come with fewer toys than a gulag for Jeep cash.

BMW X3: like the Audi, an X3 for less than the Cherokee Limited means next to no standard equipment. However, it does have a 190hp 2.0 diesel engine, four-wheel drive and the usual BMW chassis excellence.

Volvo XC60: superb new Drive-E diesel engine makes this well worth a look, although you'll pay more for a basic 181hp, front-wheel drive XC60 than you would for a fully-loaded 140hp Cherokee.


Matt Robinson - 17 Oct 2014









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2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.



2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2014 Jeep Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 






 

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