July 22, 2014
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $33,500 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 130kW/229Nm 2.4 litre 4cyl petrol | 9spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.3 l/100km | tested: 9.9 l/100km
Jeep is playing the diversity card with its new Cherokee; the new range comes with a model for almost every buyer.
This one, the entry-level Sport, with just 2WD and a 2.4 litre four-cylinder under the bonnet, is chasing city buyers. Like families who want an SUV's flexibility, space and high-set driving position, but don't need the full 4WD enchilada.
At the top-end of the range you can still get a ‘trail rated’ hard-working off-roader - the $47,500 Trailhawk. And, sitting $5500 above the Sport, sits the $39,000 4X4 Longitude and $44,000 4X4 Limited models which also have some capability for the family adventure.
But this model, the front-wheel drive Sport, has all the SUV's packaging benefits, at a much more family-friendly price.
There’s still plenty of room inside, and features like alloy wheels, cruise control, reverse camera and a nine-speed auto, but this time coupled to a more frugal four-cylinder petrol engine.
And it's a more-than-reasonable performer.
- 5-inch touchscreen display with voice control and reverse camera
- Manual air-conditioning, including rear vents
- Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, Uconnect media centre with AM/FM radio, USB and Aux, six-speakers
- Three 12-volt power outlets (cargo, floor console and instrument panel)
- 3.5 inch instrument cluster display
- Rear reading lamps, courtesy lamps and illuminated cargo compartment
- Multi-function trip computer and cruise control with steering wheel controls
Anyone familiar with the previous generation Cherokee will immediately spot the improvements to the new interior.
It is modern, well assembled, with soft-touch plastics and contrasting stitching, and features big controls - so that snow lovers can still operate everything with gloves on.
As the entry model the Sport features hardy trim items like a urethane steering wheel and gear knob, and cloth trim that looks and feels great but should be robust enough to take a beating.
Unfortunately we found a few ‘rough edges’. On the front seats the cloth trim featured puckered stitching in a couple of spots, the passenger seat felt loose, the brake pedal had plenty of free-play from side to side and the rear seats had a light rattle when empty.
There’s huge width and headroom up front, while in the back the raised theatre-style seating allows commanding forward vision.
The centre position is a little short of padding though, is very upright and might be better left as an armrest.
The rear seats slide and recline so that you can offer more space to passengers or cargo, slid back there’s an abundance of legroom but even in their reclined position they’re still very upright.
Head to the boot and the tailgate swings up to reveal 500 litres of boot space, with integrated Jeep Rack to hold odds and ends in place, expanding to 1555 litres with the rear seats folded.
The tailgate is shaped to keep top clearance low, but that means anyone over six foot is going to have to duck to avoid it.
ON THE ROAD
- 2.4 litre petrol four cylinder, 130kW/229Nm
- 9-speed ZF automatic, front wheel drive
- Electronic power steering
- McPherson strut front suspension, four-link rear
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Four wheel disc brakes
The 4WD models in the Cherokee range come with the Pentastar V6, making the base model Sport the only model to feature a four-cylinder engine.
Its outputs, at 130kw and 229Nm, are about what you’d expect for an engine of its size.
And it's comfortably up to the task. Around town the Cherokee can spring off the line with surprising zest, although by the time we added four adult passengers responses were severely dulled.
On the city cycle the Cherokee is fairly fond of fuel too, with the trip computer showing mid-14s per 100km before we balanced it with some freeway driving.
The only transmission available is a first-in-class nine-speed auto. Overall the transmission is smooth, but we encountered a thuddy shift between second and third gear.
The gearbox logic needs a little work too. After coasting, it’s too eager to kickdown, but ask for a lower gear when pressing on and there’s often no reply.
Curiously at 100km/h only seventh gear is selected, and at 110km/h under low load and level cruising the transmission will select eighth.
Ninth gear will remain off-limits to most Aussies unless you’re prepared to head to the unrestricted Sturt Highway in the Northern Territory and cruise at higher speeds.
When it comes to cross-country touring of that nature, the Cherokee Sport scores top marks.
It is comfortable (even after a five-hour stint behind the wheel), reasonably quiet and barely sips fuel on the freeway, despite toting four adult occupants at the time.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.16 out of 37 possible points, diesel AWD model tested by Euro NCAP.
Safety features: Stability control and traction control, ABS, EBD, reversing camera, and seven airbags Anti-whiplash head restraints, pretensioners and height adjustable seatbelts for front seats, three-point belts in all positions and ISOFIX child anchorages in the rear.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
In a packed marketplace buyers are spoilt for choice - CR-V, CX-5 and Outlander start just under $30k with an automatic transmission but a 2.0 litre engine, but a RAV4 sneaks over $30,000 for the same spec.
Captiva starts under $29k comes with a 2.4 litre engine while the Forester scores a 2.5 and AWD and still undercuts the Cherokee’s entry price.
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Toyota RAV4
- Nissan X-Trail
- Honda CR-V
- Holden Captiva 5
- Mazda CX-5
- Subaru Forester
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Despite being the entry point of the new Cherokee range, the Sport comes with a well-padded equipment list and an impressively designed interior.
Price might be a consideration for some buyers though, and you will pay more for a Cherokee than for a lot of its competitors.
The Jeep though offers some enticing features and feels a larger car at the wheel.
But there are also some niggles that Jeep will no doubt be attending to. The nine-speed auto, while mostly smooth and generally well-matched to the 2.4 litre engine, could do with some fine-tuning to the calibration.
The play in pedals of this test car is also something that seems to have snuck out the door.
Those debits aside, the Cherokee Sport is an easy drive around town and excels as a long-distance tourer. It's also quiet and comfortable, has the full suite of safety credentials and has room for a family.
It is perhaps, however, not quite as convincing as the 4X4 models in the new Cherokee range.
PRICING (Excludes on-road costs)
- Sport 4x2 - 2.4 litre 4cyl auto - $33,500
- Longitude 4x4 - 3.2 litre V6 auto - $39,000
- Limited 4x4 - 3.2 litre V6 auto - $44,000
- Trailhawk 4x4 3.2-litre V6 auto - $47,500