Jeep is known for rugged SUVs, so when it turns to a more road-oriented compact SUV, Jeep’s heritage brings some serious advantages to the table. For one, it is one of the most off-road capable options in the crossover market, though not every model is “Trail Rated.” The Cherokee also has great on-road handling, and a touchscreen infotainment system that is the standard by which other automakers should judge theirs. But how do we judge the Cherokee as a whole? Read on to find out.
2017 Jeep Cherokee Fast Facts
Seating: 5-passenger standard
• High quality cabin
• Spacious, comfortable seats
• Potent available V6 engine
• Smooth ride
• Off-road-ready Trailhawk trim
• Great infotainment
• Self-Parking in Parallel/Perpendicular Spots
• Expensive on all ends of the lineup
• Lackluster base engine
• So-so fuel economy
• Not the most Cargo space
• Reliability questions
• Trailhawk has poor on-road handling
Dealmakers: Jeep Cherokee’s Top Lifestyle Features
The Cherokee has the Jeep name to live up to– not just in terms of off-road prowess, but also in terms of luxury. Its big brother, the Grand Cherokee, has been called the “American Range Rover.” That’s high praise, and the Cherokee manages to live up to it with an upscale cabin, smooth ride, and available trims that deliver some serious luxury.
Dealmaker: Futuristic Design
The Cherokee has a very unique design for a compact SUV. In fact, it is one of the most revolutionary designs in the class. A few years ago, when the Cherokee first arrived, we asked the CEO of Jeep why they went in this direction, he said they wanted a vehicle that will look contemporary ten years in the future. With that in mind, the forward-thinking Cherokee adds value because it will still look like a new car many years after you purchase it.
Dealmaker: High Quality Cabin
The exterior of the Cherokee may or may not be polarizing, but the cabin is one of the nicest and best-laid-out in the compact SUV class. It echoes its larger brother, the Grand Cherokee, which is high praise. The cupholders and cubbies are deep, crucial climate and audio controls are right where you need them, and most other controls are behind a well-planned touch screen (more on that later).
Dealmaker: Spacious, Comfortable Seats
The Cherokee will be a great vehicle to hold all manner of mountain bike, kayak, camping gear and more. But just because you’re roughing it, doesn’t mean you could rough it when you get behind the wheel. To that end, the Cherokee has incredibly soft, supportive seats. They’ll be the ideal place to plop down in after a long hike.
Dealmaker: Off-Road-Ready Trailhawk Model
When you say the word “Jeep” you might instantly think of the Wrangler or even the Grand Cherokee. Those are two off-road ready beasts when it comes to traversing the trail, but the base Cherokee is not as trail-ready (though most versions of the Cherokee will be fine on some “soft-roading”). However the Trailhawk will put your off-roading concerns at ease. This is the most capable version of the Cherokee, and sets itself apart with dark window and grille bezels, red accents, red tow hooks, and aggressive off-road tires.
Dealmaker: Outstanding Uconnect Infotainment
Good infotainment layout is one of those things that you don’t appreciate until you encounter a vehicle with a really bad layout. Well, take in the logical, sensible layout of Jeep’s Uconnect 8.4 system (2016 version shown in the video above, carried over to 2017). The 8.4-inch touch screen has vivd, easy-to-ready fonts and graphics, and the menu navigation is a standard that other automakers should follow. It has a tablet-like layout, with home buttons for the major functions, and has familiar gesture operation such as swiping to get through menus.
Dealmaker: Self Parking in Parallel and Perpendicular Spots
Some vehicles offer innovative self-parking features. These systems use sensors while driving along a street to find open spots. Once it locates the spot, it can either execute all the steering inputs to back into the spot while you follow the instructions to put it in reverse/drive and operate the brake/throttle, or it completely backs itself in. The Cherokee is available with a self-parking feature that can self park not only in a parallel spot, but also a perpendicular parking lot spot. It’s a pretty impressive and helpful feature to use.
Dealmaker: Luxurious Overland Trim
While the Trailhawk is the rugged off-road edition, the Overland is the ultimate luxury Cherokee. It features unique 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, unqiue, body color bumpers, stanard 8.4-inch Uconnect with navigation, and unique premium leather interior with “Overland” badging on the seatbacks. IT is an upscale cabin that will rival even some luxury compact SUVs.
Dealbreakers: Jeep Cherokee’s Worst Lifestyle Features
But something’s gotta give with the Cherokee. It delivers luxury, but that luxury comes at a price– literally. The Cherokee trims can run steep, while its cargo area may be considered shallow. For a corner of the market so focused on versatility, utility, and numbers like price and fuel economy. The Cherokee falls short on these things, and it’s up to you how serious those are as setbacks.
Dealbreaker: Expensive On All Ends of the Lineup
The Cherokee starts at $23,695, and though it comes with a long list of standard features, it is on the pricey side for compact SUVs. On the other end of the lineup, the Overland is almost $35,000. And while the Cherokee Overland does have some of the luxury credentials to justify the price, that’s still a lot for a vehicle with only two rows of seating. A base Toyota Highlander starts at just over $30,000, and while that’s not the same class of vehicle, it’s less than the overland while having more cargo space and seating capacity.
Dealbreaker: Lacks the Cargo Space of Some Rivals
Even within the compact SUV segment, the Cherokee’s cargo space falls short. With the rear seats up, the Cherokee has 24.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold those rear seats down, and it gives way to 54.9 cubic inches of cargo space. That’s well behind notable compact SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Both beat the Jeep’s max cargo space by nearly 16 cubic feet. That could mean the difference between that one last bag for the trip.
Dealmaker: Basic, to Brimming with Tech
The Cherokee has a taller base price than some of its competitors, but you get a decent amount of gear for the price, including a touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and a helpful cargo management system. Move up from there, and you get some terrific features that focus on tech, luxury, and–in the case of the Trailhawk– serious off-road credentials.
Sport: (MSRP: $23,595)
• 17-inch steel wheels
• LED daytime running lights
• Jeep cargo management system
• USB/aux audio inputs
• 5.0-inch touchscreen w/ Bluetooth
Latitude: (MSRP $25,545, includes everything from Sport, plus)
• 17-inch aluminum wheels
• Premium cloth bucket seats
• Leather-wrapped steering wheel
• Ambient LED interior lighting
• Steering-wheel mounted audio controls
Limited: (MSRP $29,495, includes everything from Latitude, plus)
• 18-inch polished aluminum wheels
• Integrated side-mirror turn signals
• Heated front seats
• Leather seating
• 8.4-inch touchscreen
Trailhawk: (MSRP $31,195, includes everything from Limited, plus)
• Cloth/leather/vinyl multi-surface bucket seats
• All-season floor mats
• Tow hooks
• All-terrain tires
• Jeep Active Drive II
Overland: (MSRP $34,895)
• Dual bright exhaust tips
• Unique body-color rear fascia
• Premium Nappa leather interior
• Heated/cooled front seats
Dealmaker: Power for Towing, Off-Roading, and More
The Cherokee lives up to the Jeep name with the ability to deliver serious off-road capabilities. But it also offers the on-road manners that are right at home in the road-based compact crossover segment. But you can’t necessarily have your cake and eat it too. As you’ll find out, you have to choose your flavor of ride: road or trail.
Handling: Smooth On-Road Models, Rough for Trailhawk
If you opt for most trims of the Cherokee, the ride will be very smooth, with very well-weighted steering for the class. Every trim but the Trailhawk delivers a smooth, car-like ride that most drivers will love. If you go for the Trailhawk trim, you give up ride quality for off-road capability. As The Car Connection puts it: It’s shocking how Jeep has managed to make a rugged off-roader and sedate family hauler in the same vehicle.” The review continues, “It takes both tasks with aplomb—although its adeptness off-road is where it separates from its competition.”
Drivetrain: Basic Base Engine, Potent Uprated V6
The base engine makes 181 horsepower, and it tends to feel underwhelming, but you do get as much as 30 MPG highway. IF you plan on sitting in traffic, this engine will minimize the hit to your wallet every week at the pump, but it won’t be very exciting.
The available V6 engine is just the opposite– middling fuel economy, but packs a lot of punch. It also makes the Cherokee one of the few options in this segment to actually offer a V6 engine. No matter which engine you choose, power is sent to the front wheels or available four-wheel drive. There are two 4×4 systems available and one sub-system; Active Drive I and Active Drive II. Active Drive I is a single-speed system, that’s more akin to a simple AWD setup found on most of the other entrants in the segment.
Active Drive II is where Jeep sets the Cherokee apart, offering low-range for far more capability. It could be a rugged trail or even just a muddy section of the parking lot– the low range could get you could of a jam one day. If you get a Trailhawk model, 4×4 is standard, and equipped with Active Drive Lock, which has low range and a locking rear differential.
• Engine #1: 2.4-liter inline-4
• Output: 184 horsepower / 171 lb-ft of torque
• Transmission: 6-speed automatic
• Drivetrain: FWD/4WD
• Towing: 2,000 lbs.
• Fuel economy, FWD: 21/30/25 (city/highway/combined)
• Fuel economy, 4×4: 21/27/23 (city/highway/combined)
• Engine #2: 3.2-liter V6
• Output: 271 horsepower / 239 lb-ft of torque
• Transmission: 9-speed automatic
• Drivetrain: FWD/FWD
• Towing: 4,500 lbs.
• Fuel economy, FWD: 21/29/24 (city/highway/combined)
• Fuel economy, 4×4: 18/26/21 (city/highway/combined)
Dealmaker: Unrivaled Off-Road Chops
The Cherokee is one of the only compact SUVs to offer a legit off-road model, and it’s called the Trailhawk. This vehicle has standard 4×4 with Active Drive Lock, basically Active Drive II with a locking rear differential that helps you claw over rocks and roots alike. Though it doesn’t have the silky smooth ride of the the rest of the lineup, its off-road capability is undeniable. Besides, if you’re in the market for such a vehicle, you’ll likely expect the off-road models to ride rough. The Trailhawk is quite a beast.
Dealmaker: The Tech, But Not the Scores
There are two major safety organizations that test road cars and publish scores. They are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). NHTSA scores vehicles out of five stars, while the IIHS scores on a scale of Poor, Marginal, Acceptable, and Good. Additionally, the IIHS offers “Top Safety Pick” recommendations, as well as “Top Safety Pick +” for vehicles with advanced crash avoidance and mitigation features.
The IIHS also affixes a crash avoidance technology rating for vehicles. Top Safety Pick+ vehicles have “Superior” crash avoidance ratings, mid-range scores are “Advanced,” and the minimum crash prevention tech is considered “Basic.” If a vehicle is not a Top Safety Pick+, we’ll include any subsequent crash prevention technology.
Crash Test Safety: Four Stars
The Jeep Cherokee earns a Four Star overall crash test rating from NHTSA, putting it in the middle of the pack for the safest vehicles from a crash test standpoint.
|Crossover||NHTSA Overall Crash Results|
|Toyota RAV4||5 Star|
|Subaru Forester||5 Star|
|Ford Escape||5 Star|
|Hyundai Tucson||5 Star|
|Kia Sportage||5 Star|
|Nissan Rogue||4 Star|
|Jeep Cherokee||4 Star|
|’18 Chevrolet Equinox||N/A|
|’18 GMC Terrain||N/A|
The lead pack consists of the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, and Kia Sportage as 5 Star crash-test vehicles. Right behind that lead pack is the Jeep Cherokee, earning a 4 Star crash test rating, and is joined by the Nissan Rogue. The Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, and 2018 GMC Terrain are all so new that they have not been tested by NHTSA. When these vehicles have been tested, we will update our safety tables accordingly.
IIHS Test Results
|Toyota RAV4||Top Safety Pick+|
|Nissan Rogue||Top Safety Pick+|
|Subaru Forester||Top Safety Pick+|
|Hyundai Tucson||Top Safety Pick (Superior)|
|Kia Sportage||Top Safety Pick (Superior)|
|Jeep Cherokee||None (Superior)|
|Ford Escape||None (Basic)|
|’18 Chevrolet Equinox||N/A|
|’18 GMC Terrain||N/A|
The Cherokee does not earn a Top Safety Pick accolade, however its crash prevention technology is rated as “Superior.” But the Cherokee falls behind the group of vehicles that earn a Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards. The Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, and 2018 GMC Terrain are all so new that they have not been tested by NHTSA. When these vehicles have been tested, we will update our safety tables accordingly.
The Cherokee comes standard with front and side impact airbags, LATCH child seat anchoring system, hill start assist, and electronic stability control. It does not come standard with a rear view camera, which is disappointing.
Safety Tech: A Full Array of Safety
The Cherokee is available with forward collision warning and avoidance, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, blind spot monitoring system, and front and rear parking sensors. The Cherokee also has one of the best self-parking setups available in the compact SUV segment, allowing for both parallel and perpendicular self-parking.
Reliability: Falling Behind
The Cherokee is one of the worst scorers when it comes to J.D. Power Predicted Reliability scores. This score is given if Vehicle Dependability Studies are not available for that vehicle. It earns just 2.5 out of 5 bubbles, which puts it between “About Average” and “The Rest,” which is quite low for this segment.
Tiebreakers: Comparing the Jeep Cherokee to the Competition
The Cherokee is one of the few options in the compact SUV market that still hold true to the “SUV” part of the name. It has a strong engine and available off-road capabilities. It is also one of the most luxurious options in the segment, but where does it stack up compared to its rivals? Read on to find out.
Ford Escape (MSRP $23,750-$31,000)
The Escape is one of the performance-oriented and upscale options. It has sharp handling, strong turbocharged engines, and an upscale cabin. It also has great SYNC3 infotainment technology. But its cabin lacks the storage options.
Ford Escape vs Jeep Cherokee:
• Tight handling and strong engines (Certain Cherokee models have good handling)
• Impressive SYNC3 infotainment (Uconnect still better)
• Strong fuel economy on certain engines (Cherokee lacking in MPG)
Learn more about the Ford Escape here.
Nissan Rogue (MSRP $$23,820-$31,310)
The Rogue pushes the definition of “compact,” with three rows of seating, tons of cargo space, and plenty of cabin space for occupants. The Rogue also has a smooth ride, and is one of the few options in this segment with a hybrid variant.
Nissan Rogue vs Jeep Cherokee:
• Only three-row compact crossover
• Large cargo area (Cherokee has tight cargo area)
• Rogue Hybrid Option (No hybrid option on Cherokee)
Learn more about the Nissan Rogue here.
Subaru Forester (MSRP $22,595-$34,295)
The Forester is one of the most affordable options in the compact SUV segment. And you get a lot for that low starting price. It has standard all-wheel drive, some of the most cargo space and passenger space in the class, and outstanding visibility. You can also get the fantastic EyeSight safety technology system.
Subaru Forester vs Jeep Cherokee:
• Low starting price (Cherokee can get pricey)
• Large, upright cargo area (Cherokee lacking in cargo)
• Standard all-wheel drive (Subaru only to offer standard AWD)
Learn more about the Subaru Forester here.
Toyota RAV4 (MSRP $24,910-$36,150)
The RAV4 has a good reputation for reliability, easy-to-use infotainment, and is even available as a hybrid mode. The RAV4 also has plenty of rear seat space, making it a great option for carpooling.
Toyota RAV4 vs Jeep Cherokee:
• Standard high-tech safety gear (need to shell out for safety tech)
• RAV4 Hybrid model (No Cherokee Hybrid option)
• Surprisingly spacious rear seats (Cherokee has tight rear seats)
Learn more about the Toyota RAV4 here.
Should I Buy a Jeep Cheorkee?
If you value a comfortable ride, serious safety tech, or impressive infotainment, the Cherokee is a great option, and one of the more truly rugged options in this segment. The Cherokee lacks on cargo space, and there are other areas where rivals excel.
So Which to Buy?
• If you love upscale cabins: Escape, Cherokee
• If you actually enjoy fun driving: Escape, CX-5
• If you require cargo space: Forester, Rogue
• If you want second row cabin space: RAV4, Rogue
• If you want the latest safety and infotainment tech: Escape, Cherokee
• If you want to go off road: Cherokee, Forester
• • If you want the best fuel economy: RAV4 Hybrid, Rogue Hybrid
• If you’re on a tight budget: Forester
Dealmakers vs. Dealbreakers Final Tally
Dealmaker: Futuristic design
Dealmaker: High quality cabin
Dealmaker: Spacious, comfortable seats
Dealmaker: Potent available V6 engine
Dealmaker: Smooth ride
Dealmaker: Off-road-ready Trailhawk trim
Dealmaker: Outstanding Uconnect infotainment system
Dealmaker: Self-Parking in Parallel/Perpendicular Spots
Dealbreaker: Expensive on all ends of the lineup
Dealbreaker: Lackluster base engine
Dealbreaker: So-so fuel economy
Dealbreaker: Not the most cargo space
Dealbreaker: Falls short on safety scores
Dealbreaker: Reliability questions (Half-breaker)
Final Tally: +2.5
Market Average: TBD
The Cherokee catches the eye with its out-there styling, but beneath the surface is one of the more rugged and capable SUVs in the segment. It may not have the cargo space of the Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester, but with the Trailhawk off-road model, it can take its cargo places where no other compact SUV can. Non-Trailhawk models have very smooth handling on the road, and all models are available with the Uconnect infotainment system, which is the gold standard for infotainment. The only major hangups are the poor fuel economy and questions about reliability, but if you want a more powerful and rugged compact SUV option, the Cherokee is there.
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