What stands out?

The Cherokee is a comfortable and powerful mid-sized SUV from Jeep that drives very nicely. The Cherokee Trailhawk – which has dual-range 4WD – will go much further off-road than most cars of this type. Auto braking is available.

What might bug me?

Babysitting the cabin’s climate control on a cold day. The automated heating and cooling is prone to wild swings, pumping out plenty of heat but then switching to cold, or vice versa.

Getting your Cherokee serviced every six months. Most new cars can go nine or 12 months between services, but the Cherokee needs checking at least twice a year.

Finding somewhere for your left foot, because there’s no driver’s footrest.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

The Cherokee is available in front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and dual-range four-wheel drive.

All-wheel drive Cherokees drive only their front wheels most of the time, but engage the rear wheels automatically should a front tyre start to slip – an on-demand system that saves fuel. For tackling difficult conditions off-road, you can set them to drive all four wheels permanently.

On Cherokees with dual-range 4WD you can select a second set of much lower gear ratios, which allow you to drive comfortably off-road at very slow speeds.

The Cherokee is classed as a mid-sized SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Cherokees have?

Automatic transmission, cruise control, and a reversing camera.

A sound system with an AM/FM radio and at least six speakers, operated from a 5.0-inch or bigger colour touchscreen with an SD-card slot, Bluetooth audio connectivity and voice control.

Buttons on the steering wheel for operating the audio system, the cruise control and your phone.

Wheels made from an alloy of aluminium, and a full-sized spare tyre. There are also tyre pressure sensors, which warn of a flat tyre and display the pressures in each tyre.

Seven airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid and is mandatory on new cars. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Cherokee safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The Cherokee is covered by a five-year, 100,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel is by far the most frugal of the three engines offered with the Cherokee, consuming 5.8 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). In real-world country cruising you may match or even better that figure, but expect to use 8 litres/100km around town.

A reason you might not buy the diesel could be that you can’t get one: Jeep has ceased to import diesel Cherokees (but in July 2017, some remained on sale new). Another is that the diesel was available only in one of the more expensive Cherokees, the leather-trimmed Cherokee Limited.

The most widely available engine in a Cherokee is a 3.2-litre petrol V6, which has become the only engine choice in the 2017 Limited, and which also powers the similarly luxurious but more off-road oriented Cherokee Trailhawk, and the less well equipped Cherokee Longitude.

The petrol V6 is significantly more responsive and powerful than the diesel, but it also uses a lot more fuel – about 9.5 litres/100km on the official test. (In practice it will use nearly that much even on the freeway, while slurping up 13 litres/100km or more around town.)

The least costly Cherokee, the front-wheel drive Cherokee Sport, has a smaller and less powerful petrol engine, a 2.4-litre four-cylinder. It uses 8.3 litres/100km on the official test but can easily dip into double digits in typical use.

All Cherokees come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Cherokee, the Sport, comes with cloth-covered seats, a 5.0-inch touchscreen, 17-inch wheels, and the features in every Cherokee. It drives its front wheels only, with the less powerful, 2.4-litre, petrol engine.

Spending more for a Cherokee Longitude brings you the 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine and all-wheel drive (which Jeep calls Active Drive). Headlamps switch themselves on in low light, and wipers operate automatically when it rains. There are rear parking sensors. Both front seats are power-adjustable, and include adjustable lumbar (lower back) support. The tailgate power-opens. Dual-zone climate control lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin. Ambient lighting generates a soft glow in the cabin when driving at night, and the steering wheel is wrapped in leather.

There’s also Selec-Terrain, which allows you to adjust the way the car responds to you for different conditions – such as snow, sand, or sporty on-road driving. It affects when the auto gearbox shifts, how abruptly the car responds to the accelerator, and the behaviour of features such as traction control.

Choose the Limited, the most luxurious Cherokee, and in addition to the Longitude features you get leather seats, with heating for the front seats. There is satellite navigation, and a better sound system with more speakers and digital radio, controlled from a much bigger touchscreen at 8.4 inches. Very bright bi-Xenon headlights dip automatically for oncoming vehicles, and front parking sensors are added.

Wheel diameter increases an inch on the Limited, to 18 inches, and tyres are lower in profile for a racier look. A diesel engine has been available, but now all Limiteds use the petrol V6.

If you want to tackle very steep, rough or boggy off-road tracks in your Cherokee, you can spend a bit more again for a Cherokee Trailhawk. It has the petrol V6 engine and most of the Limited’s equipment – leather trim and the bigger touchscreen, for example – but with more hardware for driving off-road. The wheel diameter returns to 17 inches and there are unique bumpers and other styling tweaks, including hooks for extracting your Trailhawk if it gets stuck.

The Trailhawk gets better ground clearance (it rides higher, so that it is less susceptible to damage on rough ground), and its bumpers are better for off-road use. It also has a dual-range four-wheel drive system called Active Drive Lock. The Lock refers to the locking rear differential employed by this system, which helps the Trailhawk maintain drive even if only one wheel has grip. Metal skid plates protect its underside if you hit a rock or stump.

The Limited and Trailhawk are available with an optional Technology pack, which includes several sensor-based driver-assistance and safety features. There is Adaptive cruise control, which will match the speed of a slower car in front automatically. Among the active safety features are a forward collision warning, autonomous braking that works at city and highway speeds, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, and a rear cross-traffic alert. (For more on these systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Unlike petrol Limiteds, the previously offered Limited diesel came with a dual-range four-wheel drive system that Jeep called Active Drive II. It was much like the system on the Trailhawk, but it did not lock the rear diff.

(The former Cherokee Blackhawk is a Longitude with cosmetic changes, plus bigger wheels and touchscreen like the more expensive Limited. The Cherokee 75th Anniversary is a similar remake of the Longitude, but with a cosmetically different theme.)

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Tyres on the Trailhawk are better suited to driving off road, but have slightly less grip on bitumen than the tyres on other Cherokees.

White is the only standard colour, with the other nine costing extra.

How comfortable is the Cherokee?

The Cherokee is spacious, and it is easy to find a comfortable driving position. It also has clear, legible instruments, including a fantastic trip computer with multiple menu screens.

The big, colour touchscreen on Limited and Trailhawk models is very easy to use on the move, with logical menus and large icons.

Seats on all Cherokees are broad and comfortable, with good support.

However there is no rest for the driver’s left foot, which detracts from comfort on long journeys.

The Cherokee is fairly quiet inside, with passengers well shielded from tyre and wind noise. The suspension is well controlled and provides a comfortable and compliant ride.

The V6 engine is energetic and punchy. (The diesel engine feels sluggish when you take off from a standstill but has strong pulling power once moving.)

The 2.4-litre engine in the Sport needs to be worked hard for respectable performance, and therefore gets noisy.

When cruising on a freeway or country road, the nine-speed automatic gearbox is busy shifting between sixth, seventh and eighth gears, but it is smooth and shifts quickly. Ninth gear is not used below 100km/h: it is there for higher speed cruising (in the Northern Territory, for example).

What about safety in a Jeep Cherokee?

All Cherokees have a full complement of airbags, the mandatory stability control, and a reversing camera.

There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; airbags outside each front occupant to protect from side impacts at chest level; and curtain airbags that protect front and rear occupants from side impacts at head level.

The auto headlights and wipers on all but the Sport models enhance safety further, because they may activate sooner than the driver reacts.

The optional Technology pack raises safety levels on the Cherokee Limited and Trailhawk. As well as adaptive cruise control, it supplies autonomous braking, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot detection and a rear cross-traffic alert.

The autonomous braking works with a forward collision alert and operates at city and highway speeds – Jeep calls it Full speed forward collision warning plus. It uses camera and radar sensors to scan for obstacles ahead – typically another car that has slowed suddenly. If it determines that a collision is likely, it warns you to brake. If you ignore the warning, it will pulse the brakes to wake you up. If you fail to react, it will apply partial braking to bring down your collision speed. At speeds under about 40km/h, it will apply enough brake pressure to stop the car, Jeep says.

Lane departure warning plus monitors road markings and warns if you seem to be drifting wide of your lane on the highway – perhaps from distraction or fatigue. It will warn you and can apply gentle steering assistance to help bring you back on course.

Blind spot and cross-path detection look rearwards. The former alerts you to nearby cars that might not appear in your mirrors. The latter works when reversing, checking for vehicles crossing behind you.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not rated for safety current Cherokees with the V6 engine – which is most Cherokees.

However, ANCAP has rated Cherokees with four-cylinder engines – the Sport and the former diesel-powered Limited – at its maximum five stars for safety, most recently in July 2016.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Cherokee’s V6 engine is a standout for those who enjoy good performance. It is very powerful, and brings you effortless overtaking and hill climbing.

The 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is short on grunt up hills and when overtaking.

Steering in the Cherokee is light but well weighted and accurate. It adds to the competent cornering ability and makes for a fun SUV through bends.

The 18-inch tyres on the Limited provide slightly better steering accuracy and grip, translating to more confident cornering.

The Sport is designed purely for on-road driving, while the Longitude and Limited can handle light duty tracks or slippery surfaces, such as snow and gravel.

Even with its more advanced four-wheel drive system, the Trailhawk does not have the ability of a dedicated off-roader. That’s mainly because its car-derived suspension (it shares its architecture with an Alfa Romeo) is not as effective for handling very rough or rocky tracks.

That said, its dual-range gearing (also fitted to the former diesel Longitude) helps in tricky conditions.

In addition, the Trailhawk’s taller suspension and solid underbody protection adds ground clearance and confidence. And its smart traction control system and locking rear differential controls wheelspin, delivering drive to the wheels with most grip. While the Trailhawk won’t match the likes of a Toyota Prado or Jeep Wrangler off road, it is surprisingly capable across a broad range of surfaces and will easily out-perform key alternatives such as the Nissan X-Trail, Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson.

How is life in the rear seats?

The Cherokee has good head and leg room in the back, with decent space for big feet under the front seats. The central rear passenger sits slightly higher than those outside. If there are only two rear passengers, they can benefit from a fold-down arm rest with integrated cupholders.

There are rear air-conditioning vents, and it is easy to get in and out through the big rear doors.

How is it for carrying stuff?

Storage is a strong suit for the Cherokee, starting with various binnacles and cupholders in the front centre console. Door pockets are short but useful.

All Cherokees except for the Sport get a handy storage binnacle under the front passenger’s seat. You get to it by lifting the seat base.

The boot is short but relatively wide. It has cubby holes in each corner for small items, and a retractable luggage blind.

The rear seats fold in a 60/40 configuration and create an almost flat floor.

Those looking to tow may lug up to 2000kg in the Cherokee Sport 2WD, while AWD and 4WD Cherokees can legally tow 2200kg.

Where does Jeep make the Cherokee?

All Cherokees are made in the USA.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

The ability to display some apps from your phone on the touchscreen and control them from there, via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The Ford Escape and Volkswagen Tiguan offer this, for example..

Seven seats: the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-Trail each offer the option of a third row.

Smart key entry, which unlocks the car when the key is nearby and someone grabs a door handle. It is available as an option on the Cherokee, but is fitted as standard to some CX-5s, Honda CR-Vs, X-Trails, Outlanders, and Subaru Foresters, for example.

Other cars you might consider include the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The Cherokee Limited. The additional features and larger screen on the Limited make it good buying, the V6 petrol engine is fun and powerful, and you can add advanced crash-avoidance features from the Technology pack.

Are there plans to update the Cherokee soon?

The Cherokee went on sale in Australia in 2014. By 2017 Jeep had dropped diesel versions of the leather-trimmed Cherokee Limited (although dealers continued to offer new Cherokee diesels from earlier years). About July 2017 Jeep lowered Trailhawk and Limited prices by $2000 and $3000, respectively. A facelift and update is likely for the 2018 model year.