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Jeep Cherokee 2019 review

EXPERT RATING
7.4
The Jeep Cherokee has banished its odd-bod visage and scored vital safety updates for 2019 - but is it enough to improve its fortunes?

The presence of a strong medium-sized SUV is of vital importance to any mainstream automotive brand at the moment. And if you do have one, to get bums on seats it needs to be absolutely on point across the spectrum.

Jeep is, according to its masters, in the midst of a renewal, with all new vehicles expected across its line by the end of 2020. The next cab off the rank is the Cherokee – codenamed KL – which launched in Australia in 2015 to a less than enthusiastic reception.

Up against sales powerhouses like the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4, the Cherokee needs to be good looking, good value and offer good performance. How does the 2019 update stack up?

Jeep Cherokee 2019: Sport (4x2)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.5L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$35,950

Is there anything interesting about its design?  7/10

Thank the Lord, the ugliness is no more. There’s a difference between unusual and terrible, and the previous Cherokee - in my eyes at least - had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down. Hard.

Jeep was all too aware that the challengingly styled Cherokee had a perception problem; in fact, Fiat Chrysler Australia chief Steve Zanlunghi told us that the number one reason people chose not to buy it was because of the way it looked.

So gone is the divisive split and inverted headlight design, replaced with something that is much more closely related to the Grand Cherokee. Narrow LED headlights and a classic seven-slot grille are complemented by a new lower bumper bar and LED daytime lamps, while there’s also a new composite bonnet.

  • The Cherokee looks much more resolved now, although the excess of chrome trim on the nose does age the car prematurely. (Trailhawk pictured) The Cherokee looks much more resolved now, although the excess of chrome trim on the nose does age the car prematurely. (Trailhawk pictured)
  • New LED tail-lights and a composite tailgate join a new bumper skin on the rear, while roof rails are now standard. (Trailhawk pictured) New LED tail-lights and a composite tailgate join a new bumper skin on the rear, while roof rails are now standard. (Trailhawk pictured)

New LED tail-lights and a composite tailgate join a new bumper skin on the rear, while roof rails are now standard, along with a push-open fuel door and capless filler. It now looks much more resolved, although the excess of chrome trim on the nose does age the car prematurely.

While the interior basics are still the same, Jeep claims it’s worked hard on the ‘touch and feel’ stuff; better quality plastics, bigger oddments trays and nicer trims.

Vinyl replaces cloth on the door cards, and the electronic park brake surround has been rejigged to increase the size of the phone tray, but other than that, the interior remains largely as it was.

How practical is the space inside?  7/10

The Cherokee is one of the larger medium SUVs in the burgeoning segment, with about 80mm extra length over the CX-5.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t extend to more room inside the cabin. The second row of seats can be a cramped place to sit, especially if the occupants are even slightly taller than average.

Throw in a small rear door aperture and – if you have one fitted – a crazily low sunroof headliner, and the back can soon becomes cramped for teens and grown-ups. The seat backs can be reclined to help out here, though.

On the up side, the Cherokee has three ISOFIX baby seat mounts, which is unusual, as well as rear vents and a pair of cupholders in a pull-down armrest.

Bottles can also be added to the four doors, and there’s a decently sized centre console bin behind two front cupholders.

  • Front seat occupants fare well enough, with decently bolstered and supportive seats. Front seat occupants fare well enough, with decently bolstered and supportive seats.
  • The Cherokee has three ISOFIX baby seat mounts in the second row, which is unusual. The Cherokee has three ISOFIX baby seat mounts in the second row, which is unusual.

Front seat occupants fare well enough, with decently bolstered and supportive seats. However, the driver’s position is more than a little compromised, thanks to a huge, bulbous protrusion on the transmission tunnel that gets in the way of your left leg, and there’s nowhere to rest your left foot. Surely a plastic footrest for RHD markets wouldn’t be a big expense.

The wheel is comfortable enough, but could extend towards the driver another 15 or 20mm, and I inadvertently opened the powered tailgate a couple of times when trying to start the car; both buttons are round and located in places where such buttons should be.

Boot capacity has been increased by 84 litres to 784 litres by way of a two-level boot floor, though bear in mind this is measured via the SAE standard, and not the VDA standard used by virtually everyone else.

A full-size steel wheel serves as a spare for all variants.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  7/10

Jeep claims it’s in a space called ‘access premium’ – think premium economy – that offers extra kit on its cars at a more affordable price. It sees itself rivalling the likes of the Honda HR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe, rather than the CX-5.

The updated Cherokee will maintain the status quo when it comes to the model mix, with the entry level Sport keeping its $35,950 (plus ORCs) price tag.

For that, you’ll get a five-seat SUV with a 130kW 2.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, backed up by a nine-speed automatic gearbox driving the front wheels.

There's the entry-level Sport, Longitude, Limited (pictured), and range-topping Trailhawk (pictured). There's the entry-level Sport, Longitude, Limited (pictured), and range-topping Trailhawk (pictured).

As well, you’ll also score LED headlights and tail-lights, a 7.0-inch 'Uconnect' multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather-wrapped wheel and gear knob, roof rails and a comprehensive suite of driver aids over and above the outgoing model.

That suite of driver aids includes high-speed forward collision warning with AEB and pedestrian emergency braking, advanced lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

It only has cloth trim, regular lights and wipers and single-zone air, though, so you’ll need to look at the Longitude ($41,950 plus ORCs) for more of the good stuff.

The Trailhawk makes up about 10 per cent of the model sales at present

It adds AWD to the 2.4-litre four-cylinder powertrain, as well as auto lights and wipers, a multi-mode traction management set-up, powered front seats, parking sensors, a powered tailgate with foot activation (only if the wind is blowing the right way and Jupiter is in crescent moon ascending, if our brief and fruitless testing is anything to go by) and push-button start with keyless entry.

Add $5000 to get into the Limited, and you’ll get a proper low-range 4x4 drivetrain hooked up to a 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine, leather upholstery with heated and vented front seats, 18-inch rims, a larger 8.4-inch multimedia system with sat nav and a colour screen between the dash dials, along with adaptive cruise control and auto parking.

  • The Cherokee starts further up the ladder price-wise than its rivals, but there’s value to be found in the off-road performance. The Cherokee starts further up the ladder price-wise than its rivals, but there’s value to be found in the off-road performance.
  • 'Select Terrain' offers up Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud settings. 'Select Terrain' offers up Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud settings.
  • The Trailhawk adds extra elements, such as a rock crawling mode and a mechanical locking rear diff. The Trailhawk adds extra elements, such as a rock crawling mode and a mechanical locking rear diff.

Topping the tree is the $48,450 Trailhawk, Jeep’s self-rated offroad-ready version of the Cherokee that complements the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee Trailhawks.

It’s the more rugged version of the Limited, and its triple-diff 4x4 drivetrain also includes a low-range transfer case, the ability to lock all three diffs, hill ascent and descent control, taller suspension, unique bumpers and underbody skid plates, offroad-spec rims and leather/cloth seats.

The Trailhawk makes up about 10 per cent of the model sales at present – given there’s only been 324 sold all year so far (as opposed to 16,000 for the CX-5), it’s still not a big number.

On balance, the Cherokee starts further up the ladder price-wise than its rivals, but there’s value to be found in the additional off-road performance – and the new additions have come at zero cost over the old car.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  7/10

The 2.4-litre 'Tigershark' engine makes 130kW and just 229Nm of torque, while the heavier 3.2-litre 'Pentastar' V6 offers up 200kW/315Nm.

All variants use the Chrysler-designed ZF-sourced nine-speeder, which has seen its transmission maps updated for this facelift.

There are effectively three drivetrain types; front- and all-wheel drive for the four-cylinder Sport and Longitude, and 4x4 for the Limited and Trailhawk, both of which use the V6.

Towing isn’t exactly the Cherokee's forte, though all variants will deal with a small van or boat. Towing isn’t exactly the Cherokee's forte, though all variants will deal with a small van or boat.

The 4x4 system is 8.0kg lighter than previously, too.

Hill descent and ascent is standard on the V6-powered cars, while 'Select Terrain' offers up Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud settings. Trailhawk adds extra elements including a rock crawling mode, as well as a mechanical locking rear diff, and electronic locks for the centre and front diffs.

Towing isn’t exactly a forte, though all will deal with a small van or boat. The base car will haul 1500kg, while the other three can handle 2200kg of braked trailer each.

How much fuel does it consume?  7/10

Claimed fuel consumption figure for the smallest engine is 8.5 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, 9.8L/100km on the V6 Limited and 10.2L/100km for the Trailhawk.

A 90km highway stint in the latter saw a dash figure of 12.1L/100km, while a similar distance in the Limited yielded 11.8L/100km.

All variants use a 60-litre fuel tank, and will accept regular unleaded fuel. The lightest Cherokee weighs 1590kg and the heaviest is 1889kg.

What's it like to drive?  8/10

Over a 200km-odd drive route in the Limited and Trailhawk V6s, the Cherokee reinforces its position as a more rugged and ready SUV. It lacks the absolute precision and poise of more road-oriented rigs, but – and particularly in the case of the Trailhawk – shows its chops when the going gets a bit steep and slippery.

The V6 I sampled is adequate rather than enthusiastic, and it doesn’t make soul-stirring noises, but it’s linear and reasonably responsive underfoot. I found the throttle to be a bit sticky underfoot, which made smooth pull-aways a pain at times, but its relationship with the nine-speed auto is a good one.

  • Over a 200km-odd drive route in the Limited and Trailhawk V6s, the Cherokee reinforces its position as a more rugged and ready SUV. Over a 200km-odd drive route in the Limited and Trailhawk V6s, the Cherokee reinforces its position as a more rugged and ready SUV.
  • It lacks the poise of more road-oriented rigs, but it shows its chops when the going gets a bit steep and slippery. It lacks the poise of more road-oriented rigs, but it shows its chops when the going gets a bit steep and slippery.
  • With bespoke bumpers, underbody protection and proper off-road tyres, the Trailhawk would make for a very handy full time off-roader. With bespoke bumpers, underbody protection and proper off-road tyres, the Trailhawk would make for a very handy full time off-roader.

The Cherokee’s electrically assisted steering verges on being too light and vague, but body roll suppression is really impressive, especially across the front axle, while ride quality is excellent.

A quick – or slow, in this case – lap of a genuinely rugged off-road course shows that the Trailhawk is more than a rebadging exercise. With bespoke bumpers, underbody protection and proper off-road tyres, the smaller form factor of the Cherokee Trailhawk would make for a very handy full time off-roader for a couple, if ultra-long range touring wasn’t a consideration.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  8/10

Active forward collision warning and AEB, advanced lane departure wanring and rear cross traffic alert are now standard across the four-model line-up. Adaptive cruise is optional on the Longitude and standard on the Limited and Trailhawk.

Jeep is currently in a wait-and-see situation with its ANCAP rating

LED headlights are also standard across the line, as well as six airbags, rear view camera with guidelines and parking sensors (from the Longitude up).

Jeep is currently in a wait-and-see situation with its ANCAP rating, which currently sits at a maximum five-star rating under last year’s rankings, but it expects to be issued a similar score from the safety body.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  8/10

Jeep offers a five-year/100,000km warranty program that includes five years of roadside service and fixed price servicing.

Service intervals are 12,000km or 12 months, and five years of servicing on all drivetrains equals $2650 (August 2019).

Pricing Guides

$42,200
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$35,950
Highest Price
$48,450

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Limited (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $46,950 2019 Jeep Cherokee 2019 Limited (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Longitude (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $41,950 2019 Jeep Cherokee 2019 Longitude (4x4) Pricing and Specs
NIGHT EAGLE (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $45,150 2019 Jeep Cherokee 2019 NIGHT EAGLE (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Sport (4x2) 2.4L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $35,950 2019 Jeep Cherokee 2019 Sport (4x2) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.4
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Driving8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership8

“The latest Cherokee hasn’t resonated with buyers of mid-sized SUVs yet, but this facelift may bring some more potential buyers out of the woodwork – especially those looking for something with a bit of off-road ability.”

Would you prefer your SUV to have more of an off-road focus? Tell us in the comments below.