- Intuitive interior controls and infotainment system.
- Trailhawk model is very capable off-road.
- Numerous engine and drivetrain options.
- Long list of newly standard driver assistance features.
- Base four-cylinder engine is severely underpowered.
- Some interior materials feel cheap.
- Prices rise quickly with options.
- Not as refined to drive as the best in class.
Vehicle Type: The 2020 Jeep Cherokee is a four-door, five-seat compact SUV.
Price Range: From $27,805 MSRP to $37,540, including a $1,495 destination charge.
Powertrain: A 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, and a 9-speed automatic transmission.
A 271-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6, with front-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive, or four-wheel-drive, and a 9-speed automatic.
A 270-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with a front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive drivetrain, and a 9-speed automatic.
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan.
Overall Score: 6.6/10
Safety Features: 8/10
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the 2021 Cherokee four stars out of a possible five in overall testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet tested the 2021 model, but it gave the identical 2019 Cherokee its Top Safety Pick honors, scoring well in all categories, including headlight performance.
The Cherokee gets numerous driver assistance technology features standard across all models that were previously optional. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, full-speed automatic emergency braking with forward collision warning, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers are now included. Adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam assist, front and rear parking sensors, and rear automatic emergency braking are standard on high-end Limited and HIgh Altitude models, available on others.
Pricing for the base 2.4-liter Cherokee models starts at nearly $28,000, which is already on the higher end of starting prices for rivals, and that’s before adding $245 for any exterior paint color that is not white. Adding all-wheel-drive and a couple of options pushes the price over $30,000 for what is still a modestly equipped and underpowered model.
At least there are more standard features for 2021, with all but the base Latitude gaining heated front seats, and the new Latitude Lux adding items such as Nappa leather upholstery and power front seats. A new 80th Anniversary Edition bridges the gap between Latitude and Limited models with a panoramic sunroof, 19-inch wheels, and dual-zone automatic climate control for around $33,000 to start.
Limited, High Altitude, and Trailhawk models with leather seats, V6, and four-wheel-drive can easily exceed $40,000 with the numerous options they offer in terms of luxury and off-road features, placing it in the company of larger SUVs, and even Jeep’s own Grand Cherokee), as well as some premium compact SUVs like the Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40. Jeep dealerships have been known to deeply discount new Cherokees, though.
Tech Features: 7/10
Base Cherokee models get a 7-inch touchscreen with the UConnect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. All but the Latitude model also adds two USB ports for rear seat passengers. Latitude Plus and higher can also be equipped with a 115-volt household outlet, automatic climate control, power liftgate and remote start, among other features.
Limited trim and higher versions get an 8.4-inch touchscreen upgrade that also includes Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and can be upgraded to include built-in navigation. Even with its extensive capabilities, the Cherokee’s infotainment system is easy to use and redundant knobs and buttons make it easy to get to common functions without flipping through menus on the touchscreen.
The Cherokee’s cargo space with the seats up and down is significantly smaller than models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. And the larger VW Tiguan offers a seven-seat option, whereas the Cherokee is strictly limited to five. But the rear seat is reasonably spacious for two adults and can be optioned to move forward and backward for more legroom or more cargo space. There is a decent amount of small-item storage, too, but it is nothing special for this type of vehicle.
V6-powered versions of the Cherokee can be equipped to tow up to 4,500 pounds when properly equipped. Turbocharged four-cylinder models have a towing rating of 4,000 pounds, still generous for a compact SUV. Base four-cylinder models have a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 pounds.
Styling & Design: 6/10
A variety of Cherokee trim levels also means there are numerous appearance packages for the Jeep. Latitude models are relatively modestly adorned, but include alloy wheels and some chrome trim. Limited and High Altitude versions get more chrome and larger wheels, while the Cherokee Trailhawk gets a different bumper design and rugged tires to make it more off-road capability. The Cherokee has a distinctive look that makes it stand out some compared to other compact SUVs.
The dashboard is nicely designed, with a large touchscreen and large knobs and buttons for commonly used functions prominently displayed and easy to reach. Plastics are more utilitarian than plush, which is fine on less expensive models, but starts to become harder to justify on the upscale trims. At least those models add niceties such as upgraded leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, and large glass sunroofs to make the interior more pleasant.
Driving Experience: 6/10
The 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder that is standard on Latitude models is not powerful enough to move the relatively heavy Cherokee with the same authority as similarly powered rivals. The 9-speed automatic transmission can also struggle at times to find the right gear to tap into what power there is. The available turbo four-cylinder and V6 models are not exactly quick, either, but they are more satisfying under acceleration.
The Cherokee always feels larger than it is to drive. While it boasts a more solid feel than some compact SUVs, it is not especially quiet or refined to drive like the VW Tiguan. And it is far removed from the athletic Mazda CX-5.
Fuel Efficiency: 6/10
The 2021 Jeep Cherokee with the 2.4-liter engine and front-wheel-drive is rated at 22 mpg city, 31 highway, and 25 combined by the Environmental Protection Agency. Adding all-wheel-drive reduces ratings by 1 to 2 mpg in each category. The 2.0-liter turbo is rated at 23 mpg city, 31 highway, and 26 combined with front-wheel-drive, or 21 city, 29 highway, and 24 combined with four-wheel-drive.
The optional 3.2-liter V6 is rated at 20 mpg city, 29 highway, and 23 combined with front-drive. Adding one of the available four-wheel-drive systems lowers figures to either 18 or 19 city, 24-27 mpg highway, and 21-22 combined.
Every Cherokee model does not match up with the most efficient vehicles in this class, such as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. The more powerful versions of the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 are also considerably more efficient than the V6-powered Cherokees, but far closer to the relatively efficient turbocharged four-cylinder with the Cherokee.