Jeep's long-running Cherokee nameplate now applies to a bold SUV one size below the Grand Cherokee model. Introduced for the 2014 model year, the current-gen debuted with unconventional styling that distinguished it from Jeep's boxy designs. A 2019 refresh toned down the looks a bit.
For 2021, three engines are offered, with power distributed to the front or all four wheels. Cherokee trim levels range from urban runabout to trail-ready adventure-mobile.
Combining everyday usability with real off-road capabilities, the Jeep Cherokee is built to suit diverse preferences. Unfortunately, the Cherokee is let down by practical weaknesses that make considering the competition a good idea—if you're not already smitten by the Jeep brand's appeal.
On the road, the Cherokee is comfortable thanks to its supportive seats and smooth ride. There's plenty of legroom in every seat, though some competitors are even more spacious. Jeep's UConnect infotainment system is among our favorites for its responsiveness and ease of use (especially on the larger-available screen), while USB ports in both rows are available. The Cherokee makes a nice road tripper, especially when fitted with adaptive cruise control. However, cargo and fuel tank capacity aren't as great as in some segment competitors.
When fitted with available AWD or 4WD, the Cherokee lives up to its Jeep heritage. In loose conditions, it shows off rally-car reflexes, and the Trailhawk model is one of the best off-roaders in the compact crossover segment.
One example we tested displayed some NVH issues, making us wonder about overall quality. Those didn't shake our memories of quality problems in our 2014 Cherokee in a year-long test car. We like certain trims of the Cherokee (like the Trailhawk or any model with the turbo-four). But if you're looking for maximum fuel economy, driving range, cargo space, or even safety ratings—the Cherokee earns four stars out of a possible five in the NHTSA's overall rating—other options may work better. See our current rankings of compact SUVs here.
Regardless of engine, all Cherokee models use a nine-speed automatic transmission. FWD is standard, while AWD or 4WD are available or included depending on trim.
The Cherokee's standard engine is a 2.4-liter I-4 that produces 180 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. In MotorTrend testing, an AWD Cherokee with this engine took 9.5 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph. EPA-rated fuel economy is 22/31 mpg city/highway for FWD models, and 21/29 mpg for AWD models.
If you can, upgrade to the available 2.0-liter turbo-four. It makes 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, which resulted in 0-60 mph times ranging between 6.6 and 7.6 seconds in MotorTrend testing of AWD Cherokees. Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 23/31 mpg for FWD models, 21/29 mpg for AWD models, and 20/27 mpg for 4WD models.
An optional 3.2-liter V-6 generates 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. MotorTrend measured 0-60 mph times between 6.8 and 8.3 seconds from AWD Cherokees with this engine. EPA-rated fuel economy is 20/29 mpg with FWD, 19/27 mpg or 18/26 depending on the 4WD system chosen, and 18/24 mpg for the Trailhawk model.
The NHTSA gives the Cherokee a four-star overall safety rating out of a possible five stars. The IIHS gave the Cherokee 2019 Top Safety Pick designation, but rated its LED headlights Marginal and Acceptable, depending on trim (higher trims have high-beam assist).
Driver-assist and active safety features have become standard equipment for 2021. These include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Cargo space measures 25.8 cubic feet behind the Cherokee's second row seats. With the second row folded, maximum cargo space increases to 54.7 cubic feet. That may work for most situations, but compare that to the Honda CR-V (39.2/75.8) or Ford Escape (up to 37.5/65.4).
Front-row legroom is 41.1 inches in the Cherokee, close to the Toyota RAV4's 41.0 inches. Second-row legroom is greater in the Cherokee, measuring 40.3 inches to the RAV4's 37.8 inches. Front-row headroom is 39.4 inches in the Jeep, more than the 37.7 inches in the Toyota. There's an inch less rear headroom in the Cherokee though, which has 38.5 inches while the RAV4 has 39.5.
The base Cherokee is equipped with a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, while an 8.4-inch touchscreen is included on higher-end trims. Both are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; the larger screen can be had with built-in navigation. Two front-row USB ports are included, and two for the second row are available. On higher-end trims, a color 7.0-inch gauge cluster display replaces the standard black-and-white 3.5-inch unit. Instead of the standard six-speaker audio system, a nine-speaker Alpine premium setup can be optioned.
Among 2021's crop of compact crossovers, we prefer many SUVs to the Jeep Cherokee. These include the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester, to name a few. But none of those have the trail-ready capabilities of the Cherokee, and that's best exemplified in the Trailhawk trim.
The Cherokee Trailhawk is equipped with some proper off-road hardware. It gains a locking rear differential, standard 4WD, lifted suspension, and wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires. The Cherokee Trailhawk's distinctive bumpers improve approach and departure angles, and various off-road driving modes are programmed in. Red-painted tow hooks are there in case things go awry.
Road noise increases due to the Trailhawk's larger tires, but it still rides comfortably on pavement. Body control is also good given the modified suspension. The Trailhawk is one of the most expensive Cherokee trims, but it's also the most real-deal Jeep capable.
|$500||FCA announces a Bonus Cash offer on select models for eligible Military personnel.||01-03-2022|
|$750||FCA announces a Bonus Cash offer on select models when financing or leasing through Chrysler Capital.||02-01-2021|
|$500||FCA announces a Bonus Cash offer on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||02-01-2021|
|$500||FCA announces a Retail Bonus Cash offer on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||02-01-2021|
|$500||FCA announces a Bonus Cash offer on select models to returning lessees. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||02-01-2021|
|$500||FCA announces a Lease Bonus Cash offer on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||02-01-2021|