The Jeep Cherokee starts at $26,510 in the United States and $32,765 in Canada.
Rugged character, off-road capability, class-leading towing.
Spotty reliability record, dismal fuel economy, cargo area could be bigger.
Overlapping the compact and two-row midsize utility vehicle segments, the 2021 Jeep Cherokee continues to offer rugged looks, excellent off-road capabilities as well as plenty of trim levels and features to choose from.
Bigger than the Jeep Compass, smaller than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the current-generation Cherokee was introduced for the 2014 model year. After a relatively slow start, sales gained momentum to the point where the Cherokee became one of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ best-selling vehicles.
The five-passenger 2021 Jeep Cherokee is available in a slew of trim levels. In the United States, the brand offers Latitude, Freedom, Latitude Plus, Altitude, Latitude LUX, 80th Anniversary, Limited, Trailhawk and High Altitude. The Canadian market gets Sport, North, 80th Anniversary, Altitude, Trailhawk, Limited, Trailhawk Elite and High Altitude.
What’s the difference between all these variants? Well, it’s indeed fairly confusing, but let’s try to sort it out. The base trims (Latitude, Freedom, Sport, North) offer an essential set of features at an affordable price level, while the Latitude Plus and Latitude LUX add incremental comfort and convenience items. The Altitude boasts a blacked-out appearance, while the 80th Anniversary and High Altitude are special editions that build on North/Latitude LUX and Limited trims respectively, but with unique styling details and more equipment. The Trailhawk is the off-road beast of the bunch, and the only one to wear a Trail Rated badge.
A 2.4L inline-four is on duty in the lower-level 2021 Jeep Cherokee variants, developing 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. A 3.2L V6 producing 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet is optional in various trims, as is a turbocharged 2.0L four that generates 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet. All three engines are connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission. In addition to the standard front-wheel drivetrain, buyers can choose the Jeep Active Drive I or Active Drive II all-wheel drivetrains, while the Trailhawk gets a system called Jeep Active Drive Lock. The latter adds the Active Drive II’s low range and is paired with a mechanical locking differential as well as hill descent control with a selectable speed program.
With the 2.4L engine, the Cherokee can tow up to 2,000 pounds or 907 kilograms, while the turbo 2.0L engine raises that capacity to 4,000 pounds or 1,814 kg. The V6 engine offers a compact class-leading tow rating of 4,500 pounds or 2,041 kg.
Available features in the 2021 Jeep Cherokee include LED headlights, a dual-pane sunroof, 17- to 19-inch wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, dual-zone climate control, a seven-inch digital driver instrument panel, leather or Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, remote engine start, a nine-speaker Alpine sound system and an infotainment system with 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation and SiriusXM. Advanced safety items consist of adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
Pricing ranges from $26,510 to $44,295 in the United States and from $32,765 to $51,760 before freight and delivery charges. In the compact crossover segment, the Cherokee competes with the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, the Ford Escape, the Nissan Rogue, the Mazda CX-5, the Subaru Forester and the Hyundai Tucson, just to name a few, but can also rival the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Honda Passport, the Nissan Murano and the Kia Sorento in terms of price.
What the 2021 Jeep Cherokee Does Well
- Its off-road capabilities are quite good, and frankly, quite excellent in the case of the Trailhawk variants. It’s pretty much the only compact-category model that has a drivetrain set up for heading way off the beaten path.
- As mentioned above, the 2021 Jeep Cherokee leads the compact segment in towing capacity.
- The wide selection of trim levels and powertrains make the Cherokee a good choice for those who like variety. The crossover can be an affordable family hauler to a luxuriously equipped utility vehicle.
- The Cherokee’s Uconnect 8.4 system is no spring chicken, but is still among the most user-friendly in the business with a large and responsive screen as well as plenty of features.
What the 2021 Jeep Cherokee Doesn’t Do Well
- The Cherokee’s base price may be attainable, but the better-equipped variants don’t come cheap, which explains why we’re comparing it to some midsize crossovers.
- The 2021 Jeep Cherokee equipped with AWD is among the least-efficient models in the compact crossover segment, with a combined city/highway rating of 9.8 L/100 or 24 mpg, and it just gets worse with the V6 engine and Active Drive II system. Rated at a combined 11.5 L/100 km or 21 mpg, the Cherokee Trailhawk isn’t too eco-friendly.
- With a volume of 27.6 cubic feet or 781 litres with the rear seat in place, the Cherokee’s cargo area is among the smallest in the compact category. Same deal with the rear seatbacks folded down, as maximum volume reaches 57.7 cubic feet or 1,634 litres. The CR-V, the Tiguan, the Forester and the Rogue all boast cargo volumes of more than 2,000 litres.
- The 2021 Jeep Cherokee isn’t the most reliable model in its category. Consumer Reports gives it a rating of 2 out of 5, citing minor issues with the engines, brakes, suspension, electrical components and in-car electronics.
What We Tell Our Friends
The 2021 Jeep Cherokee is a rugged, well equipped and versatile compact crossover that’s available in many trim levels and colours. It’s a handy vehicle for towing, and the desirable Trailhawk edition shows some real off-road prowess. It’s got character, something that can’t be said of several of its rivals.
However, Stellantis still has a way to go to make the Cherokee competitive in regards to fuel economy, interior space and trouble-free owner experience. All things that should be improved upon when the next-generation model arrives on the market, probably within a couple of years.