Small crossover utility vehicles are ideal for driving around town, but usually aren’t designed for anything more than light-duty off-road use. The 2018 Jeep Cherokee is an exception, a five-passenger vehicle with an available Trailhawk edition, and the content to keep small and growing families happy.

Best Value

The 2018 Cherokee comes in five trims —Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk. The Limited four-wheel drive model has a starting price of $32,390 (including a $1,095 destination charge).

We see the Cherokee Limited as offering the best value because it offers such popular amenities as remote vehicle start, dual-zone climate control, and driver-assist features. We advise upgrading to the V6 if you plan to take your Cherokee off road.

  • Model:2018 Jeep Cherokee Limited 4x4
  • Engine:3.2-liter, V6
  • Output:271 hp/ 239 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Nine-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain:All-wheel drive
  • MPG:20 city / 27 highway
  • Options:V6 engine ($1,745), four-wheel drive ($1,500), Technology Group Package ($1,645, adaptive cruise control with stop and go ability, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, parallel and perpendicular park assist, automatic high beams, and advanced brake assist)
  • Base Price:$30,890 (including $1,095 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$35,780

Performance

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The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque,, while providing a failry quiet driving character. The Cherokee's 3.2-liter V6 generates 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. The added performance is welcome, although the additional weight pushes the Cherokee above two tons on some trim levels. Both engines work alongside a nine-speed automatic transmission, which is jerky at times. The best way to overcome the sensation is to shift into sport mode for sharper gear shifting.

The all-wheel drive models do an admirable job of mimicking four-wheel drive, beginning with Active Drive II, simulating low range and a decent crawl ratio. With the Selec-Terrain system, the selectable drive system handles mud, sand, rock and snow with ease. To save fuel, this system can even declutch its rear wheels. Consider the Trailhawk if you want an extra inch of ground clearance, improved approach and departure angles, and a locking rear differential.

When properly equipped, the 2018 Cherokee with the base engine can pull up to 2,000 pounds. The V6-equipped model has a best-in-class 4,500-pound tow rating.

Interior and Exterior

The 2018 Cherokee isn’t like other Jeep models. Five years after Jeep resurrected the model name, we’re still scratching our heads, not sure of the reasoning behind going with a design that’s still very controversial. From the haphazard grille to the odd-looking LED running lights and on to curiously placed headlamps, there’s more going on here than we like. The rest of the body is much less controversial, but not especially inspiring either.

The good news is that the interior largely cancels out the exterior with a design that’s pure crossover. Throughout the interior plastics are liberally applied, but the textures are pleasing and the color choices interesting.

The front seats are quite comfortable – legroom is excellent in the second row, although shoulder space is tight. The Cherokee Limited delivers the most comfortable seats as they’re sufficiently bolstered and wrapped in Nappa leather.

You’ll find ample storage space and compartments too. The front seat folds down for carrying long objects diagonally. We like the Cherokee’s cargo management system with a hanging grocery bag.

The Best and Worst Things

Its polarizing looks aside, the Cherokee does more than competing models and supplies lots of active-safety options and a good infotainment system, but its fuel economy is nothing special and the nine-speed transmission isn’t as smooth as we’d like.

Right For...

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Anyone wanting a small crossover with true off-road capabilities. The best model here is the Cherokee Trailhawk with its higher ground clearance, knobbly tires, selectable traction, and simulated low range.

Wrong For...

The Cherokee’s polarizing style is wrong for some people, but before you look beyond Jeep altogether, consider the all-new Compass, coming in slightly smaller, yet with its own off-road capabilities and a far more palatable look.

The Bottom Line

The Jeep Cherokee offers the best off-road credentials of any model in the segment. That said, it's also useful for people that will never venture off paved roads. If you fall into the latter camp, then the base engine with front-wheel drive is all you need.