The Jeep Cherokee has a brilliant interior. There are so many places to put things.
The door bins are huge; there’s a deep, lidded compartment in the top of the dashboard; a deep space and cupholders in the centre console; a large box underneath the armrest; a small tray in front of the armrest exactly the right size for my glasses.
Passengers have more than enough space, and the boot is enormous – 591 litres with the rear seats up. The interior architecture looks good, material quality has taken a giant leap forward and the optional (£1,095) panoramic sunroof floods light in.
The Uconnect infotainment system has clear, legible graphics and enough functions to keep you busy for a month.
Then you take it for a drive. Jeep was clearly aiming for calm and serene, but hasn’t quite hit the mark. The ride is harsh and crashy, the engine grumbly and the seats aren’t supportive enough for my admittedly ruined back.
The 168bhp 2.0-litre Multijet diesel engine tested here has actually since been been superceeded by a new, 2.2-litre unit in the last few weeks. For the record it’s not exactly fast, but has a reasonably stout mid-range. But it – and the new engine – is attached to a nine-speed automatic gearbox that never seemed entirely able to make up its mind. The drivetrain – and the chassis, for that matter – encourages a slower pace.
Fuel economy on a town and country run was in the high-30s, not bad for this type of car.
Jeep takes off-roading seriously, so the Cherokee has off-road suspension and ‘Select-Terrain’ – you rotate the dial round to whatever surface you’re on and the car sorts out the rest. It’s not quite as capable as the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but will go as far into the wilderness as most people will ever want to. It can tow 2.4 tons, as well.
Bit of a mixed bag so far, then: very practical with useful off-road and towing ability, but not great to drive. If you really value the former, though, you’re probably not that fussed about the latter.
But there are bigger issues. And I’m not talking about the devisive styling or the many unintelligble bongs from the driver assistance systems.
No, the trouble is that this top-spec Cherokee is rather expensive. The equivalent BMW X3 costs about £1,000 less and the Discovery Sport about £1,000 more. This is very strong company for the Cherokee to keep.
If you go to the other end of the range below £30,00o, the Cherokee starts to make more sense. There it goes up against the likes of the Ford Kuga and Hyundai Tucson. Again, these are talented cars, but the Cherokee is on more of a level playing field.
If you get the impression I’m feeling luke warm towards the Jeep Cherokee, you’re not wrong. We know Jeep can make good cars – I was hugely impressed with current Grand Cherokee and the little Renegade is flying off the shelves. There is a good car in the Cherokee, but it can’t quite get out. Hopefully Jeep will rectify its problems at the next model year change and we can reassess.
Jeep Cherokee 2.0 JTDm-2 170 Limited 4×4
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission: 9-speed automatic, 4-wheel-drive
Power/Torque: 168bhp; 258lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 48.7mpg; 154g/km
Top speed: 119mph
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By Only Motors