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The Jeep Cherokee has long been a choice SUV for those wanting some off-roading capabilities. Small but mighty, the 2021 Jeep Cherokee has a lot of cargo space and a good max towing capacity, much like its big sister, the Grand Cherokee. It is part of a segment packed with really superb choices though, so you might not settle on the Cherokee right off the bat - or at all.
But the 2021 Jeep Cherokee is worthy of some consideration. Both the V6 and turbocharged engine options are solid choices when it comes to their power output. The suspension is well tuned and is able to smooth out any bumps that the wheels happen across. And, if it is off-roading that is your priority, the ever-popular Trailhawk trim might just be right up your alley. This and quite a few other models also offer a user-friendly 8.4-inch touchscreen which is one of the better displays on the market.
Of course, there are a few downsides to owning a 2021 Cherokee. The base engine does come off as being a bit underwhelming. Additionally, other vehicles in this segment do offer more cargo space. The Cherokee just feels a little too small and not as practical as some of its top rivals. Are these dealbreakers for everyone? Probably not, but they might steer your attention to other competitors in this segment.
So, is the 2021 Jeep Cherokee the right vehicle for you? Should you consider something else? This review will go over what is new for the model year, ten things we like about the Cherokee, a few things we would like to see changed, and how the Cherokee stacks up against a few other SUVs. Hang tight until the end where we will give you our final verdict on the new Cherokee.
What's New for 2021?
2021 marks the debut of the new Latitude Lux Edition as well as the 80th Anniversary Edition. The former slates between the standard Latitude and the Trailhawk, offering a 3.2-L V6 engine or a turbo 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine. The 80th Anniversary Edition is also based on the Latitude but will have some exclusive styling elements to celebrate Jeep's big birthday milestone. Bear in mind that more creature comforts are becoming standard features on all trim levels this year, and many previously optional advanced driver aids are now standard too.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Jeep Cherokee – The Pros
1. Well-weighted Steering
Driving is where the 2021 Jeep Cherokee really hits the mark. Jeep knows that Cherokee buyers want something that is both powerful and efficient. While the standard engine (a 2.4-L 4-cylinder that makes 180 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque) is nothing to write home about, the 3.2-L V6 (which generates 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque) and the 2.0-L turbo 4-cylinder (which puts forth 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque) are - and they both come on the new Latitude Lux Edition. The V6 and turbo 4-cylinder both offer well-weighted steering that creates a lot of precision. The on-center feel is strong from the balanced wheel.
2. The Turbo 2.0-L Engine
Speaking of the engine options, the 2.0-L turbo 4-cylinder is a standout performer this year. While it is optional on the Latitude Lux, it is an addition we recommend making (unless you are exclusively going for a Trailhawk, which is V6-only). This engine outperforms the V6, both in terms of performance and fuel economy. Its fuel economy comes closer to matching the base 2.4-L's 25 mpg combined EPA rating and holds up well in real-world testing. Spend the extra $695 for this engine; it is the best option in the line-up.
3. An Excellent Off-roader
Trailhawk or not, any of the Cherokee trims is a decent off-roader. With plenty of ground clearance and all-wheel drive, the Cherokee can manage many road surfaces and weather conditions. The Trailhawk does add a lot of off-roading essentials, such as the all-terrain tires and Jeep Active Drive Lock (JADL). JADL gives the Trailhawk a locking rear axle and rock mode, which is super handy when you are really taking it off the beaten path.
4. Comfortable Seats
Jeep does not sacrifice comfort for power, not in the least. The seats might not have a massive amount of lateral support, but they are still padded for comfort and hold up well on long journeys. The leather upholstery is another reason to buy the new Latitude Lux, as this fabric is incredibly breathable in hot weather and just looks downright chic.
5. A Quick-to-act Automatic Climate Control System
The automatic climate control system works exceedingly well. Simply reach your hand forth a short distance and operate the controls from the touchscreen display. Everything is clearly labeled so that you will not get confused, and once you give your command, the system will start pumping out air at just the right temperature. The cabin needs almost no time to heat up or cool down. If you get a trim level with the seated seats, you will be delighted to learn that the seats quickly warm up - perfect for a cool winter day.
6. An Expansive Outward View
The external view from the cockpit is immense due to the Cherokee's design. The rear is straight, and the roof pillars are slender. This means you get a lot of glass all around. Along with good-sized side mirrors and a blind spot monitoring system, you can keep a good eye on everything. The blind spots themselves are quite small in size, so you should not even need to rely much on the vehicle's sensors and cameras.
7. Plenty of Space in the Cabin
The cabin is one of the most spacious in its segment. Even the second row passengers get an enjoyable amount of legroom. Just sit back and stretch. The front seat occupants get a lot of seat adjustability too, which helps create space and comfort. The seats offer a lot of height adjustability, which is helpful for taller folks.
8. The Uconnect Infotainment System
The 2021 Jeep Cherokee has the Uconnect infotainment system, which functions as a great hub for data and entertainment. The icons might be small-ish, but they are still easy enough to interpret. Just touch an icon once, and your input will be quickly interpreted. Even voice command is easy to use and does a good job of understanding natural speech patterns.
9. A Max Towing Capacity of 4,500 Pounds
Max your towing capacity out to 4,500 pounds with the optional towing package. Sure, you will have to pay extra, but for those who need to tow moderate loads, the addition will be worth it. The Cherokee, when properly equipped, has no problem pulling that extra weight.
10. Plenty of Small Item Storage Areas
While the cargo area is a bit disappointing, the spaces you get for stashing small items inside of the cabin should be satisfying enough. Pack your smartphone or tablet securely away in the locking glove box and leave your water bottles in one of the bottle holders on the doors. There is space for it all.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Jeep Cherokee – The Cons
1. The Base Engine
As we have already mentioned, the base 2.4-L 4-cylinder engine is underwhelming. It does not put forth much of a power output, and with the slow-to-shift 9-speed automatic transmission equipped, the base feels pretty weak. The fuel economy it gets is decent, sure, but the turbo 4-cylinder has a much better power output and gets almost the same fuel efficiency numbers.
2. Some Road Noise
There is some road noise that will seep in once you go out on the highway. The Cherokee's build is to blame, really. The amount of noise from the wind and road that comes in isn't exactly alarming, but it makes itself known. If anything, it is just a minor annoyance.
3. Lower Trim Levels Lack Some Driver Aids
Some of the lower trim levels feel like they only have the absolute basics when it comes to safety features. The Latitude does get a blind spot monitoring system, forward collision warning, and lane keep assist, but that's it for driver aids. You have to upgrade all the way to the Limited to get adaptive cruise control. Also, the built-in navigation system is relegated to a package (the Elite Package).
4. Not a Lot of Cargo Space
24.6 cubic feet of cargo space is not a lot for a vehicle in this class. Most of the Cherokee's competitors can best this by at least a few cubes. While the layout of the cargo area is at least pretty useful, the amount of space you get is very conservative. This isn't what you should expect from a Jeep.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Jeep Cherokee vs. 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee
If you want to shell out about $10,000 more for the big sister, the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee does offer more space and versatility. The V8 engines that are available offer a ton of power, and the Grand Cherokee is absolutely meant for off-roading. However, the base V6 is dull at best, and the cabin has materials that seem somewhat cheap. There are simply too many hard surfaces to justify the price tag.
2021 Jeep Cherokee vs. 2021 Honda CR-V
The 2021 Honda CR-V is bound to be a tough competitor in the small SUV segment. While the touchscreen system is a bit too touchy, you do get a nice blend of strong performance and fuel economy from the engine. The CR-V can quickly accelerate and is incredibly nimble in its handling capabilities. You also get a better-than-average cargo capacity and interior space.
The 2021 Jeep Cherokee is certainly meant to be taken off of the beaten path, especially if you get the Trailhawk. However, the new turbo engine on the Latitude Lux is really the best option since it has plenty of power and does not guzzle gas. Still, it will be stiff competition this year from the other small SUVs on the market.
• Why buy a 2020 Jeep Cherokee? w/ pros vs cons