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Jeep Cherokee for the urban jungle

17.04.2015

THIS is the all-new Jeep Cherokee, the smaller brother to the bigger Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s a car-based SUV competing in a very hotly contested segment. It faces competition from vehicles such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Kuga, Toyota RAV4 and even the Mazda CX-5. I spent a week with the Cherokee to see if it has the kahunas to take on the competition like its great-grand-daddy, the Willys Jeep.

You might be wondering what I meant by, car-based SUV. Well, ever since Jeep partnered with the Fiat and Alfa group there has been some tech sharing. When it comes to this Jeep, Alfa supplied the platform. The Cherokee is based on the Alfa Romero Giulietta platform, which is a very strange combination. The Giulietta is a small hatchback, whereas the Jeep is an SUV. Suffice to say, it actually works. The Cherokee offers a really comfortable drive with a car-like feel and behaves rather spiritedly around corners.

To be honest, I’m not sold on the looks. The front-end features Jeep’s iconic seven-slat grille, which is nice, but the headlights are all wrong, in my opinion. They have a kind of Nissan Juke thing going on with the main headlights sitting above the fog lights and below the indicators and day time running lights. I guess if you dare to be different then you might like the setup. When it comes to the rear-end things do get better. It has a plain and neat design and I do like the black detailing around the taillights, which just accentuate them slightly.

Inside the Cherokee you’ll find a comfy interior, which has been put together using quality materials. The dashboard is similar to that of the bigger Jeep Grand Cherokee and features a leather-stitched top. There’s a big 8.4-inch touchscreen, which can be used to control the dual-zone climate settings, radio and media settings such as USB and Bluetooth as well as vehicle settings. I was given the entry level model, which had cloth seats. The Jeep also came with rear parking sensors but no reverse camera. Front and rear passengers have ample leg room and I managed to fit eight, 25kg bags of dog food in the rear (I have big hungry dogs) thanks to the forward sliding ability of the rear seats.

As this was the entry level Longitude model it came with a four-cylinder 130kW, 229Nm naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine. Unfortunately, this model was not four-wheel-drive, which is fine because if tasked with running around the city and dealing with the occasional dirt road then this Jeep is well suited for just that. My main concern was that the unit felt slightly under powered and I ended up having to mash my foot to the floor when I wanted to overtake or catch a gap in traffic and this reduces the fuel economy. If you’re a more relaxed driver then this engine should suit you fine. I averaged about 10 litres/100km over my test week.

One of the biggest problems with this car is the nine-speed ZF automatic gearbox. If you shift the lever to ‘D’ for Drive, and you refrain from touching the lever again until you need to park, reverse, or select neutral, then it’s okay. However, if you decide to be clever and pop it into sequential mode (Manual with the plus option) then may patience be your virtue. I have never experienced anything so slow and dim-witted throughout my years of testing.

Rather leave it in ‘D’ and go about your business. It just worries me because the exact same nine-speed gearbox can be found in the Range Rover Evoque and in that, it works wonderfully.

So to answer the question, has it got the kahunas to take on the competition? In some regard yes. Despite the  gearbox and slightly under-powered engine, the Jeep Cherokee Longitude is actually a nice car to drive once on the move. It has a quality interior and returns a comfortable drive. It looks different and there is space to load all sorts of things. The Cherokee has been awarded a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating – the highest that can be awarded.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
17.04.2015
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