Ten years later, when the second generation appeared with a few alterations, it spawned a whole new category in the automotive world. The ’84 Cherokee was (unofficially) the first SUV.
Competitors sat up and took notice. People were ditching their station wagons (Google it) and opting for this new thing. An entire segment was born and quickly flourished.
Thirty-five years later the roads are filled with SUVs and their offshoot, the crossover. And the venerable ol’ Cherokee is still going strong.
With a few cosmetic changes and a new 2.0-liter turbo engine as an option, the 2019 Cherokee offers five trim levels to choose from, starting with the base model, called the Latitude.
There are variations, too. For instance, I drove the Limited, which has a High Altitude option that bumps the wheels up to 19 inches, throws in some accent and exterior trim adjustments, and adds navigation.
There’s also a model promoted for its off-road theme, the Trailhawk and Trailhawk Elite.
For a week I drove the Limited.
Most people I’ve talked to have given a big thumbs up to the fresh look that engineers gave to the Cherokee’s exterior. And I agree; it looks good, and comes across (to me) as sleeker and a bit sportier.
While the Cherokee is classified as a smaller crossover/SUV, I have to say that I thought its size was just about perfect. It has enough heft to instill confidence in your drive, but modest in size to the point that it’s nimble around town.
I’m six-feet tall and felt completely comfortable with the space, and even the rear seat has good legroom.
Jeep hasn’t skimped with materials, either. For the most part they’re good, although in some places you’ll get hard plastic. Hey, it’s not a luxury SUV.
The layout of the dash is good, and — hallelujah — Jeep believes in knobs and buttons.
Storage space up front is about average, but more than adequate. The center bin has a couple of levels, and I appreciated the phone storage spots.
Cargo space in the wayback comes up short compared to competitors, so you wouldn’t buy the Cherokee if you plan on hauling often. But it also has an adjustable floor, either to remain level with the folded rear seat or to drop down just a bit more to squeeze in a few more things.
During my test week I had to haul lots of boxes, and I had no complaints with storage space.
Overall the ride, powered by the V6 in my Limited, was pretty good. The only issue I experienced was a somewhat-sluggish start when the light turned green.
Once up to speed, things were good. This Cherokee comes with a 9-speed transmission that just doesn’t seem to be the best in the segment.
Keeping in mind that Jeep cut its teeth with off-road capabilities, it does well driving on pavement with the 9-to-5ers. I was impressed with its handling. I expected to sway more than I did, and sometimes forgot I was in an SUV.
Steering and braking are about average. Noise? Well, again, this is not a luxury sedan, but wind/road noise wasn’t bad. Hey, turn up the radio just a tad more, right?
My Cherokee had an 8.4-inch touchscreen, and I found it simple to use. That’s not a given these days, you know.
Climate and audio are controlled by knobs, which I personally love. You can also use the touchscreen, and I thought the combination worked well in tandem.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, which is appreciated. I had no issues with connectivity. (Again, not always a given.)
You get a couple of USB ports up front and two more in the back for your passengers. You’ll also find an aux input and two 12-volt sockets.
You’re dealing with the original SUV, so it’s easy to perhaps show it a bit more love just for the heritage.
But the Cherokee — while it may languish somewhat in the shadows of its more popular cousin, the Grand Cherokee — is a solid choice for budget-conscious buyers.
The ride is solid, the materials are good, and you can find most of the tech toys you crave these days. That includes a rearview camera that you can engage manually, which is cool.
Sure, you can take it off-road if you must. But even around town and on the occasional dirt road it performs admirably.
2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited
3.2-liter V6 (turbo available)
9-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 19/27/22 combined
As tested: $41,620
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer