Road Test: Jeep Cherokee
Can Jeep’s best-known nameplate further the brand’s recent growth in fleet? Alex Grant finds out.
SECTOR Large SUV PRICE £35,000-40,000 (est) FUEL 42.8mpg CO2 176g/km
Jeep can credibly lay claim to coining the phrase ‘sport utility vehicle’ with the 1970s Cherokee. But, despite SUVs accounting for a third of Europe’s true fleet market, it’s taken until recently to capitalise on its rugged brand image to widen its appeal. So, while this isn’t an all-new Cherokee, it’s launching with an all-new focus.
There is fresh ground to break, but Jeep is already growing. Its true fleet volumes across Europe are up 60% year-on-year to the end of July, as the Qashqai-sized Compass builds on the popularity of the Renegade and puts the brand on more choice lists. Jeep’s aim is to have products for all layers of a corporate fleet, so while the outgoing Cherokee had targeted SMEs, the newcomer is going after middle-management user-choosers.
This is a significant visual overhaul, mostly to tone down the old car’s styling and align it with the Compass and Grand Cherokee. Jeep hasn’t released UK pricing yet, but this will be positioned between large mainstream-brand SUVs such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan X-Trail, and mid-size premium rivals including the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60. Optimised servicing and maintenance costs, and residual values, are aimed at giving it a competitive edge, Jeep says.
There’s equity in the brand, and the less divisive styling should help, but the Cherokee’s biggest challenge might be a limited engine line-up. In the UK, it launches with a 193bhp 2.2-litre diesel equipped with four-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox – the first ever two-wheel drive version and the 148bhp entry-level diesel offered in other markets won’t be brought here. And, although there are plug-in hybrid and electric models on the way, it’s likely those will arrive with the next-generation Cherokee, due by 2022.
So, for now, CO2 emissions start at 175g/km, which isn’t mainstream fleet territory. The engine is a gutsy if never overly urgent performer, and plenty refined enough while cruising – though our test car was fitted with acoustic glass, which might be optional in the UK. Four-wheel drive only kicks in when it’s needed, and drivers get four modes to suit different surfaces when it is. We also drove the two-wheel drive 193bhp diesel and, despite the 50mm lower suspension and reduction in weight, it felt almost identical on the road. Given its slightly more palatable 161g/km CO2, it seems a shame not to offer it in the UK.
Otherwise, improvements comprise a more consistent set of cabin materials, and measures to increase the boot capacity – no doubt helped by the sliding rear bench. The new infotainment includes the prerequisite Android and Apple app streaming, as well as the ability to send data to third-party fleet management systems, or to FCA’s own. It’s as spacious inside as any other mid-size SUV, though the ride quality felt a little bouncy on Italian road surfaces. The original sport utility vehicle is a worthy alternative to the familiar names.
A familiar product and brand, but – without low-CO2 engines – it’s likely to appeal most to opt-out drivers.
Key Fleet Model – Jeep Cherokee Limited
Strengths – Off-road ability. Factory-fitted telematics.
Weaknesses – Limited engine range. AWD-only.