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Overview (Final Score: B)

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee sees little change from last year, but that doesn’t mean it needed change. The Cherokee is offered in four trim levels, with two engine choices and three drivetrain options. Among the small crossovers on the market, the 2016 Cherokee stands as the most off-road capable and unusually comfortable in the class.

For those looking for an around-town drive or a daily commuter, the Cherokee is probably not the first choice. For those who want a unique crossover with dependable fuel economy, solid off-road credentials and a lot of daily use ergonomics, the Cherokee is definitely a winner.

There are some rivals to consider against this five-seat crossover, but we think many who’ve avoided the Jeep brand may be surprised at how far the 2016 Cherokee has come and how competitive it really is.

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What We Love About the 2016 Jeep Cherokee:

  • Excellent off-road capability to match its cred
  • Good V6 option with a well-done transmission
  • Lots of interior space for passengers in all seats

 

What We Don’t Love About the 2016 Jeep Cherokee:

  • Sub-par four-cylinder base engine
  • Barely average safety ratings
  • Small and relatively limited cargo space

 

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Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (8/10)

Among contemporaries with high-quality interiors as the norm, the Cherokee is definitely holding its own. Quality and excellent materials choices are the norm here and as trim levels upgrade, so does the interior ambiance and appeal. Beyond that, the 2016 Cherokee steps above many of its competitors in roominess and infotainment. We do note, that cubbies for gadgets and gear are lacking in the front seating area.

Every seating position in the Cherokee is generous in proportions. The back seats, especially, are adult-friendly and have good support, legroom and headroom compared with most others in this class. Adults can sit in all five positions within the 2016 Cherokee and find comfort.

This comfort level in the rear seats comes at the price of cargo space. Cargo room in the 2016 Jeep Cherokee is limited to 24.6 cubic feet behind the second row and 54.9 cubes with that row folded. That’s about ten percent less than the segment average and more on par with subcompact crossovers. The loading floor is higher than average as well and not as square or easily accessed.

Yet for those using the Cherokee everyday and as a weekend getaway machine, it’s more than ample. For small items and gear such as sleeping bags, stowed tents and the like, the Jeep fits well. For large items from the big box store, not so much. With the Cherokee, it’s a question of priorities and style. We suspect most who are interested in the Jeep lifestyle are prioritizing what the Cherokee is best at doing.

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Technology (10/10)

There’s no question that Chrysler-Jeep has the best infotainment in the industry when it comes to ease of use and ergonomics. The available 8.4-inch infotainment screen in the 2016 Cherokee is large, crisp and easy to master. With added bonuses like speech-to-text and a fast-responding navigation system, the UConnect system becomes a benchmark for others to meet.

Even without the upgrade, which comes standard on every trim level but the base Sport model, the 5-inch touchscreen in the Cherokee is excellent for the segment. Smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth and USB are standard features and the upgraded screen has apps and other options that are becoming the norm for infotainment upgrades in the industry.

Buyers will be hard pressed to find better technology than what’s to be had in the Jeep Cherokee.

Fuel Economy (8/10)

There are more fuel efficient options on the market, but the 2016 Cherokee does well with either its 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder engine in either front-wheel or 4-wheel drive. Much of this is thanks to the 9-speed automatic transmission that comes as standard.

The EPA rates the 4-cylinder Cherokee at 25 mpg combined in FWD, with 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Adding 4WD to this engine drops fuel economy estimates to 24 mpg combined (21 city, 28 highway) or 22 mpg combined with the more robust Active Drive II.

The EPA gives the V6 option a rating of 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway) in FWD and 23 mpg combined (20/28) with the light-duty 4WD system. The heavier-duty Active Drive II 4WD system drops the V6 to 22 mpg combined.

These numbers are not quite real world in our experience, with both a Trailhawk and a 75th Anniversary 4WD bettering the highway estimate, but coming underneath the city expectation to average out just below EPA estimates for combined mileage.

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Performance (9/10)

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee has both a 4-cylinder and a 6-cylinder engine option, both mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and two 4-wheel drive options are available (Active Drive I and II).

The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder base engine outputs 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. This engine is generally under performing for the Cherokee’s size and the fuel economy benefit is negligible in comparison to the better-performing V6.

The V6 is a 3.2-liter that outputs 271 horses and 239 lb-ft. This engine adds the benefit of towing to the tune of 4,500 pounds when equipped. It also adds the needed torque to move the Cherokee off the pavement when required and the excellent Active Drive II system (available on all models) is excellent. Although the “pull a lever, turn a dial, hold the wheel” dynamics of the fun to off-road Wrangler are not present in the Cherokee, the confidence that the terrain selection system and strong output of the V6 give are more than enough to keep this rugged machine a Jeep in feel and spirit.

Acceleration and cornering are remarkably good in the 2016 Cherokee with the V6 equipped, though there are sportier rivals that will better it both ways. Those rivals won’t go off the pavement as well.

On the road around town, the Cherokee is maneuverable and easy to drive, though visibility can be a concern, especially rearward. On the highway the Cherokee is unusually quiet, even with the off-road packages added. The exception being the knobbier tires found on the Trailhawk model, which make a bit more road noise in the cabin.

All the way around, the 2016 Jeep Cherokee is a well-balanced crossover.

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Total Score and Competitive Comparison (67/80, 84%)

There are more than a few rivals for the 2016 Cherokee, and the market is quite contentious as one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry. The best-selling Honda CR-V holds itself superior in cargo space and fuel economy, while the Toyota RAV4 has appealing looks and better fuel economy, especially with its very well done hybrid option.

A fun drive experience can be had with the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, but the only off-road rival may come from the Subaru Forester or Subaru Outback. We’d recommend shopping most of these options against one another before making a decision, but the Cherokee should stay on your list of considerations.

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee is a compelling offer with a lot of goodness going for it. The unmistakable Jeep styling, excellent interior and strong V6 option are all things to consider above and beyond its class-leading off-road capability.

Read the FULL REVIEW Now to get more expert tips on the 2016 Jeep Cherokee’s safety, reliability, exterior and pricing.

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