We recently took the new Jeep Cherokee and five of its compact SUV rivals on an interstate road trip that gave us a chance to see how this cheeky newcomer stacked up against top players in one of today's hottest market segments. While most of the trek from our SoCal KBB home base to Phoenix and back took place on I-10, we also included an extended run over a stretch of twisty mountain two-lane to assess the Cherokee's talents in a more sporting setting.

Its somewhat polarizing exterior styling aside, this new Jeep made a solid impression on many levels. While not the most agile of the group, the Cherokee displayed a reassuring combination of confidence, comfort and control regardless of venue that brought to mind qualities found in the larger and more expensive Grand Cherokee. Optioned with the basic Active Drive I AWD system that includes Jeep's slick multi-mode Selec-Terrain traction control, our Latitude-trim Cherokee felt reassuringly sure-footed on all types of road surfaces. While a solid performer, its available V6 proved a bit less energetic than we'd anticipated. However, backed with the segment's first 9-speed automatic transmission and an economy-enhancing rear-axle disconnect setup, it did return some very respectable mileage numbers.

The Cherokee's well-finished, well-isolated cabin boasts a clean look that matches legible gauges with finger-friendly knobs/switchgear and decent-sized virtual buttons on the central touchscreen -- control attributes that gave it a clear edge over most others in this shootout. We're big fans of Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment interface, and our Cherokee's upgraded 8.4-inch system proved as capable and easy to use here as in any other of the automaker's vehicles. More plaudits are in order for its easily accessible SD/USB/Aux ports. And while the CR-V's covered center storage bin is in a class by itself, the Cherokee's stow space is certainly adequate. This new Jeep also deserves kudos for features like 10 standard airbags and upline options that include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and the first application of Chrysler Group's new ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist System.

Notable merits notwithstanding, the Cherokee isn't perfect. For openers, it spots all others in this set at least some measure of total interior volume, a critical consideration for many crossover SUV buyers. No issues up front, where well-formed buckets offer long-range appeal and dimensional specs that are more than competitive. However, while the Cherokee's 60/40 folding/sliding rear bench is comfortable and spacious enough to handle a pair of average adults plus a kid in the middle, the back seat trails the others in both shoulder and legroom. Second row up or down, the Cherokee's cargo capacity also is modest by comparison. That situation isn't helped by the shape of the hatch cutout, which is relatively narrow and has a higher-than-average liftover height.

More Jeep Cherokee

Whether you're ready to build and price your own Jeep Cherokee or want to first read what owners have to say, our Jeep Cherokee Editors' Page is the next stop on your journey.


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