Consumer Reports slammed the Jeep Cherokee as “half-baked” on Tuesday. The magazine’s editors knocked the new model for several of the same reasons they criticized its outdated predecessor.
The publication took issue with the Cherokee’s fuel economy, transmission, overall handling, and ride, saying the small sport utility vehicle was “underdeveloped and unrefined.”
“It just doesn't get the fundamentals right for everyday use,” the magazine said in its review.
The poor ranking puts the Cherokee near the bottom of Consumer Reports’ list with scores too low to be recommended.
The Toledo-built Cherokee, new for the 2014 model year, replaced the Liberty in Jeep’s lineup. It is an important vehicle for Chrysler Group LLC both in the United States and abroad, figuring to play a big role in the company’s goal of selling one million Jeeps worldwide in this year.
Cherokees rolled into U.S. dealerships in late October and have sold well through the first three full months. The model has generally gotten good reviews from a variety of publications.
This is certainly not the first time Consumer Reports has given Jeep poor reviews.
The Jeep Wrangler is perennially near or at the bottom of the magazine’s road test results, but sales continue at a record pace.
Analysts have said before that Wrangler buyers typically know what they’re getting into when they’re buying a Jeep — a vehicle that’s good off-road and has panache and style, but isn’t going to return 30 miles per gallon or provide a super quiet ride.
In the case of the Cherokee, which replaced the Liberty, Chrysler was going for a different buyer — someone more concerned with on-road manners, fuel economy, and comfort.
Consumer Reports apparently thinks Chrysler missed the mark.
The magazine's reviewers said the new nine-speed transmission felt “clunky and uncoordinated,” and recorded just 22 mpg out of the four-cylinder and 21 mpg out of the V-6 engine. The publication called the numbers lousy for its class.
In a November road test of the Cherokee, The Blade recorded 23.5 mpg in the V-6, and observed mostly smooth shifts. The Blade found the Cherokee’s ride smooth and handling solid, if not sporty.
What effect a poor review in Consumer Reports has on future sales is difficult to determine.
Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of the Web site Cars.com, said reviews still matter and are something consumers want.
“I think they’re important. I suspect what happens is people get a really good idea of what they want and then go check reviews to just kind of solidify it,” he said. “In some cases they can be deterred by a review. One of the things we try and do is give other ideas of similar vehicles, and I think that’s helpful.”
Cars.com gave the Cherokee a generally positive review in August, saying it was “one of the most competitive crossovers on the market in terms of price and features.”
The National Automobile Dealers Association said consumers should make their own decisions.
“While awards can create a positive first impression of a new vehicle and independent car reviews are a good place to start, it’s important for car buyers to take test drives to find out firsthand how a vehicle performs on the road and meets their transportation and budgetary needs,” the association said in an email to The Blade.
Consumer Reports did praise the Cherokee for its quiet ride, comfortable back seat, offroad-tailored Trailhawk package, and luxury and technology options.
Still, the magazine scored the four-cylinder Cherokee at 56 out of 100. That made it the third-worst small SUV ranked, ahead of only the Jeep Compass at 49 and Jeep Patriot at 52.
The V-6 Cherokee was ranked at 70. Consumer Reports ranked the Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium tops in the class at 88.