The Most Expensive 2021 Compact SUV Consumer Reports Test Wasn’t the Best

Buying a new vehicle is a big investment for most people. Still, buyers are loyal to brands and nameplates. For example, some will spend extra to get a Jeep, Dodge, or Ford. There are many Jeep Cherokee enthusiasts out there willing to pay top dollar for the iconic compact SUV.

But should they? If you look at the overall score the 2021 Jeep Cherokee earned from Consumer Reports, you’ll find it’s not as high as some of its more affordable peers. Why didn’t the 2021 Jeep Cherokee earn the top overall rating to go with the highest price in the class?

What you need to know about the 2021 Jeep Cherokee

RELATED: Most Unreliable 2021 Compact SUVs According to Consumer Reports

Jeep is a revered brand and has been for many decades. Fans love Jeep Cherokees, Gladiators, Renegades, and Wranglers and they are very loyal.

The latest Jeep Cherokee leads the compact SUV class when it comes to off-roading chops and towing capabilities.

The team at Car and Driver explains that Jeep’s lineage is always a draw for those who love off-road adventures. The Trailhawk models feature more visual pizzazz and a more exciting driving experience. This trim offers an enhanced drivetrain along with a lot of model-specific equipment sure to appeal to road warriors.

In 2021, you can get all-wheel drive with all Cherokee models and there’s a nice selection of engines to choose from. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a 3.2-liter V6 and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder as options. The turbo puts out 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque which, according to Car and Driver, is 56 lb-ft more than the V6. 

While the turbo engine is the most powerful engine, the team favored the performance of the V6. They didn’t like the turbo’s sluggish response to throttle inputs. The V6 also gives Cherokee its biggest towing capacity at 4,500 pounds.

A lower overall score compared to other 2021 compact SUVs

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee is the most expensive in its class according to Consumer Reports’ data. So it’s on the buyer to decide that they’re getting a good SUV for the money. Those doing their homework might have spotted the overall score of 54 out of 100 the latest Cherokee earned from Consumer Reports.

They might also notice for a starting price that’s $1,500 less, they could get the 2021 Subaru Forester. The Forester is recommended by Consumer Reports, earned an 89 out of 100, and took the top spot on the list.

So what made the 2021 Cherokee score so low? A lot of mediocre scores in categories like transmission, fuel economy, emergency handling, and ride quality didn’t do the Cherokee any favors.

Lower scores in really important categories like predicted reliability rating and predicted owner satisfaction hurt. Though to be fair, its predicted reliability rating is better than it has been in past years.

Despite a minor face-lift, some new comfort features, and the optional new turbo engine, the new Cherokee falls short where it counts. According to the review, there’s little to like about the SUV in a highly competitive class. 

They found the ride to be stiff, the handling mediocre, and the transmission to be unaccommodating. They explain that not only did the turbo engine not improve the situation but made the SUV sound like farming equipment.

The Jeep Cherokee wasn’t the only compact SUV to catch a little shade

While looking at the assessment of the 2021 compact SUV category from Consumer Reports, it’s hard not to notice the 2021 Toyota RAV4 earned an overall score of 69 out of 100. Like the Cherokee, it’s starting price sits above $26,000. 

The RAV4 had slightly better predicted reliability and predicted owner satisfaction ratings than the Cherokee. But it lacks cargo space, it’s noisy, and it’s no longer one of the best-in-class when it comes to Consumer Reports’ road tests. 

Recent dimension changes that made the RAV4 lower, wider, and shorter helped shave off available cargo and passenger space. The RAV4 also got more power for the 2021 model year but it resulted in a rough-shifting, noisy ride. The review team explained that its ride really took a step back from previous generations of the popular SUV.

With other 2021 compact SUVs getting better ratings at a lower sticker price, perhaps Jeep needs to revisit the Cherokee next year. The most expensive compact SUV in the class should be the best vehicle in the class. The 2021 models, at best, are mediocre according to some respected critics.