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2021 Jeep Cherokee Review

Despite its great off-roading ability, the 2021 Jeep Cherokee sits in the bottom half of the compact SUV class because of its mixed on-road performance, subpar predicted reliability rating, and unimpressive cabin materials.

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent off-road capability
  • Powerful optional turbocharged engine
  • Straightforward infotainment system
  • Below-average predicted reliability
  • Dull handling and meek base engine
  • Subpar cargo space
  • Interior a mixed bag compared to rivals

New for 2021

  • Numerous driver assistance features now standard
  • Latitude LUX and 80th Anniversary Edition models debut
  • Overland trim discontinued

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee's #12 ranking is based on its score within the Compact SUVs category. Currently the Jeep Cherokee has a score of 7.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 46 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.2

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.1
Performance: 7.0
Interior: 7.0
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.0 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Jeep Cherokee a Good SUV?

The Jeep Cherokee is an OK compact SUV. It’s one of the most capable off-roading SUVs, but it also offers a relaxing ride on road. It comes with a user-friendly infotainment system and is available with a potent turbocharged engine. However, it lags behind most rivals in terms of cargo space, rear-seat room, and interior quality. A weak base engine and below-average predicted reliability also hurt the Cherokee's case.

Why You Can Trust Us: 46 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 46 Jeep Cherokee reviews – along with reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2021 Cherokee is the right new car for you.

This 2021 Cherokee full review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2014.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Jeep Cherokee?

The Cherokee is a smaller SUV with decent on-road chops and excellent off-roading capability, but it’s tough to recommend. It has a high base price and falls short of many rivals in most areas. If you'll never see more than a gravel trail, go with a more well-rounded all-wheel-drive (AWD) SUV. A class rival like the Mazda CX-5 has one of the nicest interiors in the segment and delivers sportier handling than the Cherokee. It's also worth considering the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee for extra space, but only if you have the room in your budget.

Compare the Cherokee, CX-5, and Grand Cherokee »

2020 vs. 2021 Jeep Cherokee: What's the Difference?

For 2021, the Cherokee now has several newly standard active safety features, including automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane keep assist. Most other trims throughout the lineup gain more standard features. Also, Jeep debuts the Latitude LUX trim, as well as a special 80th Anniversary Edition. Lastly, the Cherokee Overland trim is no longer available.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Cherokee »

Here are the key changes for the Jeep Cherokee over the last few years:

  • 2017: Cherokee Trailhawk gained several standard features; HID headlights became standard in more trims
  • 2018: revamped trim lineup
  • 2019: refreshed exterior; a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay added to standard features list; turbocharged four-cylinder engine and hands-free liftgate became available
  • 2020: driver assistance features became available in more trims
  • 2021: more features now standard; Latitude LUX and 80th Anniversary Edition models debut; Overland trim discontinued

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Cherokee, 2019 Cherokee, and 2020 Cherokee reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Jeep Cherokee Cost?

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee starts at $26,290, making it one of the most expensive base SUVs in its class. There are several higher trim levels, with the Cherokee Trailhawk ($35,330) and High Altitude ($36,025) being the most expensive models in the lineup.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great deals at your local Jeep dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Jeep deals page.

Jeep Cherokee Versus the Competition

Jeep Cherokee vs. Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 challenges for a top spot in our compact SUV rankings on the strength of its agile on-road handling. This Mazda's base engine is stronger than the Jeep's standard fare, but both vehicles have lively turbocharged options. The CX-5 boasts an opulent interior that makes it feel more like a luxury crossover, and it also has several more cubic feet of cargo space than the Cherokee. You'll get a longer list of standard driver assistance equipment, as well as a cool 10.25-inch infotainment system in the CX-5. It's a smarter pick than the Cherokee.

Compare the Cherokee and CX-5 »

Jeep Cherokee vs. Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a midsize SUV that offers a roomier second row and a more spacious cargo area than the smaller Cherokee. The larger Jeep also has a nicer interior, especially in higher trims. However, that added utility and luxury comes at a cost. The Grand Cherokee has a starting price that’s about $8,000 more than the Cherokee, and prices in the higher trims are much more expensive. The Grand Cherokee’s engine lineup is more powerful than the Cherokee’s and includes some insanely powered V8 variants. It’s also a more capable off-roader.

Compare the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee »

Compare the Cherokee, CX-5, and Grand Cherokee »

Cherokee Interior: A Little Good, A Little Bad

Cherokee Cargo Space

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee has 25.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats. You can lower the adjustable cargo floor to increase capacity to 27.6 cubic feet. Those figures are a little below average for a compact SUV, but it's still enough room for several suitcases or pieces of luggage. Folding down the second row opens up 54.7 cubic feet of space, which is one of the lowest maximum volumes in the class.

How Many People Does the Cherokee Seat?

This crossover seats five people. Up front, accommodations are mostly good, but you may have trouble finding an agreeable driving position. Adults of average height will have a good amount of space in the Cherokee's second row. However, taller people may wish for a little more head- and legroom.

Cherokee and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats. The middle seat has a tether anchor and one lower anchor, and it can borrow the lower anchor from the driver-side seat. This LATCH system is very easy to use.

Cherokee Interior Quality

While the Cherokee has some pleasant, soft-touch surfaces and a smattering of higher-quality materials, noticeable harder surfaces keep it a step behind class leaders.

Cherokee Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Cherokee comes standard with a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, and an 8.4-inch touch screen is optional. Both run the Uconnect interface, consistently praised for its straightforward operation and clean menu structure. The larger touch screen and its improved graphics are worth the upgrade.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, voice recognition, Bluetooth, a USB port, and a six-speaker stereo
  • Available infotainment features: an 8.4-inch touch screen, a Wi-Fi hot spot, navigation, satellite radio, HD Radio, an additional front USB port, two rear USB ports, and a nine-speaker Alpine premium stereo
  • Other available features: proximity keyless entry, remote start, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, a household-style power outlet, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a universal garage door opener

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Cherokee Performance: At Home Off Road

Cherokee Engine

The Cherokee's standard engine is a naturally aspirated four-cylinder that puts out a meager 180 horsepower. In nearly any driving situation, this powertrain feels weak and slow. Slightly better is a 271-horsepower V6 that gives you stronger off-the-line acceleration and more passing power at higher speeds. The available turbocharged four-cylinder puts out 270 horsepower and serves up a lot more torque for quicker acceleration from a stop. Each engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission that can hesitate to shift and changes gears imprecisely at times.

Cherokee Gas Mileage

The 2021 Cherokee gets up to an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway when equipped with its base engine. The turbo-four engine contributes to fuel economy of up to 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The best gas mileage estimates from the V6 Cherokee are 20/29 mpg city/highway. These are slightly below-average figures for a compact SUV. Adding four-wheel drive lowers these estimates by about 1 to 2 mpg.

Cherokee Ride and Handling

The Cherokee has an amiable ride, but you'll likely notice some body lean around turns. Steering is dull and unresponsive.

Cherokee Off-Road Performance

Along with its Jeep Wrangler cousin, the Cherokee is one of the best off-roaders in this class. Jeep offers three different four-wheel-drive setups for the Cherokee, all of which include a five-mode Selec-Terrain traction management system.

Jeep Active Drive I has automatic 4WD engagement, while Active Drive II features hill descent control and low-range gearing. The Cherokee Trailhawk is the most capable off-roader, with its Active Drive Lock four-wheel-drive system, all-terrain tires, off-road suspension, and mechanical locking differential.

Cherokee Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, the Cherokee can tow up to 4,500 pounds. That's the highest capacity in the compact SUV class. Standard models can only tow up to 2,000 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Cherokee Reliability

Is the Jeep Cherokee Reliable?

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee has a below-average predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five.

Jeep Cherokee Warranty

Jeep covers the Cherokee with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Cherokee Safety

Cherokee Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Jeep Cherokee an overall safety rating of four out of five stars, with four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests and five stars in the side crash test.

At the time of writing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 Cherokee. However, the organization gave the similar 2020 Cherokee the highest rating of Good in all six crash tests.

Cherokee Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Rearview camera

Available advanced safety features:

  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Automatic parking assist
  • Front and rear parking sensors

Read more about safety »

Cherokee Dimensions and Weight

The Cherokee is 15.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,590 to 4,260 pounds, and its gross vehicle weight rating is between 5,050 and 5,500 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Jeep Cherokee Built?

Jeep builds the 2021 Cherokee in Illinois.

Which Jeep Cherokee Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee comes in five trims: Latitude, Latitude Plus, Latitude LUX, Limited, and Trailhawk. There are also Altitude, 80th Anniversary Edition, and High Altitude subtrims available. Engine options include a naturally aspirated four-cylinder, a V6, and a turbocharged four-cylinder, and each is mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and there are three available four-wheel-drive systems: Jeep Active Drive I, Jeep Active Drive II, and Jeep Active Drive Lock.

For those looking to do serious off-roading, the Trailhawk is the clear choice. It's the only model to feature the formidable Active Drive Lock four-wheel-drive system, along with off-road tires and suspension.

Most other shoppers should consider spending a few thousand dollars over the base model to get the new-for-2021 Latitude LUX trim. It comes with a satisfying V6 engine, leather seats, and features that can be added to the lower Latitude trim, such as heated front seats, satellite radio, and multiple USB ports. The Latitude LUX is also available with the four-cylinder turbocharged engine, a midlevel 4WD system, and several other comfort and convenience features.

Jeep Cherokee Latitude

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee Latitude starts at $26,290. It comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, cloth upholstery, six-way manually adjustable front seats, and a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, voice recognition, Bluetooth, a USB port, and a six-speaker stereo.

Standard driver assistance features include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a rearview camera.

The Jeep Active Drive I four-wheel-drive system is optional for $1,500.

Jeep Cherokee Latitude Plus

The Jeep Cherokee Latitude Plus retails for $28,605 and adds fog lights, cloth and vinyl upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a heated steering wheel, satellite radio, an additional front USB port, two rear USB ports, proximity keyless entry, and remote start.

In addition to optional four-wheel drive, the Sun and Sound Group is available. It adds a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a nine-speaker Alpine premium stereo for $1,995.

Based on the Latitude Plus trim, the Jeep Cherokee Altitude ($29,800) features black accent stitching and gloss black exterior upgrades on the grille and wheels.

Jeep Cherokee Latitude LUX

The Jeep Cherokee Latitude LUX is new for 2021. Starting at $30,125, the Latitude LUX comes standard with the V6 engine, Nappa leather upholstery, and a power-adjustable passenger seat.

The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is available for $695. Jeep Active Drive I is optional for $1,500, and another $1,195 on top of that will get you Jeep Active Drive II.

The Sun and Sound Group remains available in this trim, and there's also the $995 Comfort and Convenience Group. That package includes a household-style power outlet, an 8.4-inch touch screen, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display, a power liftgate, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a universal garage door opener.

Based on the LUX trim, the Cherokee 80th Anniversary Edition ($32,305) includes a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, the 8.4-inch touch screen, dual-zone automatic climate control, and unique interior and exterior styling appointments.

Jeep Cherokee Limited

With a base price of $34,030, the Jeep Cherokee Limited gains a standard power liftgate, automatic high-beam headlights, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display, driver's seat and outside mirror memory settings, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, a nine-speaker Alpine premium stereo, an 8.4-inch touch screen, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist, front and rear parking sensors, and a universal garage door opener are also included.

The Limited has the same engine options and four-wheel-drive upgrades as the Latitude LUX. You can also opt for the $1,295 Elite package, which adds a Wi-Fi hot spot, a sliding second row, navigation, a hands-free liftgate, HD Radio, heated second-row seats, ventilated front seats, and an 8.4-inch touch screen.

The Cherokee High Altitude retails for $36,025 and upgrades the Limited trim with unique black and gray-colored interior and exterior trimmings.

Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk comes standard with the Jeep Active Drive Lock 4WD system and is only available with the V6 engine. Starting at $35,330, the Trailhawk also features exclusive design elements, an off-road suspension, a rear skid plate, and all-terrain tires.

The Trailhawk lacks some of the standard features found in lower trims, but you can add them via a variety of option packages.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Jeep dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Jeep deals page.

See 2021 Jeep Cherokee specs and trims »

The Final Call

For the majority of shoppers who won't base their compact SUV purchase on pure off-road prowess, the Jeep Cherokee doesn't move the needle. Its notable strengths – intuitive features, a comfortable ride, and potent engine options – can be found in any number of class rivals that also eclipse this Jeep in passenger and cargo space, cabin quality, and reliability.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "This Jeep occupies a unique place in the market. It provides more off-road capability than probably any of its primary rivals, yet it's still decent to drive on pavement, mostly comfortable and has a reasonably sized cargo hold. Despite its benefits, the Cherokee, unfortunately, just isn't one of those vehicles that excites me in any palpable way." -- CNET (2020)
  • "Our time with the Cherokee proved that it's still competitive, offering comfortable and quiet cruising, strong engines, and available off-road ability that's unmatched. But we'd only say it's competitive, not class-leading, in most areas. Its old-school, truck-like tendencies in handling, fuel economy and interior space hurt it when compared to more civilized compact crossovers." -- Autoblog (2019)
  • "The Cherokee still doesn't offer as much cargo capacity as rivals, and even with the new 2.0-liter engine, fuel economy falls a little short of class leaders." -- Edmunds (2019)
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