Meet the new front-drive, four-cylinder Jeep Cherokee. We find out exactly what the world is coming to.
Base price: $39,990.
Powertrain and performance: 2.4-litre petrol four, 130kW/229Nm, 9-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 8.3 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4623mm long, 1631mm high, 2699mm wheelbase, fuel tank 60 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? It should come as no shock that Jeep now offers a two-wheel drive version of the Cherokee in New Zealand. The American brand might be legendary for its off-road vehicles, but it’s also had urban SUVs in its lineup for decades. The Grand Cherokee, for example, has been available in two-wheel drive virtually right from its inception. So it’s okay, trust us.
A two-wheel drive version of the latest Cherokee was always a no-brainer. It’s a product of Fiat Chrysler and is based upon a monocoque platform shared with other models in the group. So while Jeep still produces ‘trail rated’ versions of Cherokee, it’s still more of a road car at heart than ever before.
The $39,990 Cherokee Sport is the entry-level model in the Kiwi range. It’s the only version limited to front-drive and the only one powered by the new so-called Tigershark 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? For such an outwardly simple machine, there’s plenty of component-complexity in the Cherokee Sport. The Tigershark four-cylinder engine is a brand-new unit from Fiat Chrysler that employs the Italian maker’s MultiAir technology. Like the rest of the Cherokee range, it’s matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Yes, nine.
The 2.4-litre engine looks modest on paper, especially in terms of torque when the Cherokee is quite heavy by segment-standards. But whereas the V6-powerplant in more upmarket models seems to overpromise and underdeliver, the opposite is the case with the four: it’s crisp, lively and makes the Cherokee Sport a very capable on-road performer.
Some of the credit must go to the nine-speed automatic, although as with the V6 model, the transmission is not as seamless and controlled as you might expect. It occasionally clunks into gear quite hard in urban driving and it’s not difficult to get the gearbox confused if you’re a little unpredictable with the throttle.
Ultimately, if you’re going to drive the Cherokee Sport hard you’ll find it a bit breathless, because it’s not the most powerful vehicle in the class and it’s one of the heaviest. But it is eager and quite entertaining for a vehicle of this type.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The interior picks up many design cues from the larger Grand Cherokee – if not its tactile choice of materials. There’s a clear and simple instrument panel with digital display in the middle, plus a touch screen in the centre console that handles the Jeep UConnect functions.
Being an entry-level model, the Sport has a smaller (five-inch) screen than the upmarket Cherokee models. It’s smaller and it also does less, with no satellite-navigation for example. But it’s nice and tactile for Bluetooth and audio functions, especially the radio tuner which allows you to input a digital frequency instead of messing about with channel searches.
Americans seem to be particularly good at integrating practical touches into vehicles like these. The Cherokee is no exception, with little things like a pen-clip on the centre console to big things like the glovebox – which is large indeed by modern standards.
The boot is a bit tight for family crossover, but there are redeeming features, such as a bracket with can hold shopping bags or other small items.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? Crossovers are the most popular vehicle type in New Zealand at the moment, and as such there are a bewildering array of different models to choose from. It’s hard for any one model to really stand out.
But the Cherokee Sport does. At $39,990 we’re talking Toyota RAV4 money, yet the Jeep has status on its side thanks to that famous SUV name on the bonnet, it’s quite accomplished on-road (even if it can’t leave the beaten track) and there’s a functional feel to it that will appeal to the family buyer.
- Air conditioning: Manual
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: No/No
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Keyless entry/start: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: No
- Parking radar: Rear camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: No
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
Find a Jeep Cherokee for sale on Autotrader.