The ads will call the 2014 Jeep Cherokee a mid-size crossover SUV--but in truth, it's not much bigger inside than some of the compact utes we know well, vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester. It is somewhat smaller outside than most mid-sizers, and lacks a third-row seat option like the new Nissan Rogue now offers--more support, we think, for comparing it to those vehicles instead of bigger utes like the Chevy Equinox.
By the numbers, the new Cherokee sits about 182 inches long, with a wheelbase of about 106.3 inches (Trailhawk models have slightly longer wheelbases due to suspension changes). It has 41.1 inches of front-seat leg room, about 38 inches of head room front and back, and 40.3 inches of rear-seat leg room. It's essentially closest to the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, in all those ways.
We like most versions of the Cherokee's front seats. It's just on the roomy side of compact, with bigger drivers making contact with the center console and the door panels, but not objectionably so. It can be tough for taller drivers to find an ideal driving position: the Cherokee's steering wheel tilt up a bit from its bottom, in what we'd call classic Fiat style, and the windshield doesn't rise very high. The seats are supportive enough in their Latitude trim, nicer with Nappa leather in Limited trim. All of the different seats have headrests that sit forward too much, though, which forces some drivers into a more laid-back driving position.
That, in turn, can cut into what should be good rear-seat leg room. On paper the Cherokee has about the same rear-seat room as the Grand Cherokee, but subjectively, they're worlds apart. In the smaller ute, tall drivers leaning back puts the front seatback into the knees of tall rear-seat passengers, an automotive domino effect that can be mitigated by sliding the second-row seat back on its track a few inches. In either row the Cherokee has good head room; those second-row seats recline to give it better long-distance comfort.
The Cherokee's high cargo floor lets four-wheel-drive components ride beneath it, but it trims down on total cargo space. The Cherokee's stow area is at most 58.9 cubic feet--with the front passenger seat folded down. The space behind the front seats totals 54.9 cubic feet; behind the rear seats, 24.6 cubic feet, or 29 cubic feet if the rear seat is folded and pushed forward. A Honda CR-V nets 37.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats, 61.4 cubes behind the front seats; a Santa Fe Sport gets 35.4 cubic feet and 71.5 cubic feet from a similar wheelbase. The Jeep does offer a cargo-management system with a hanging grocery bag.
Elsewhere, small-item storage is good. There's a bin atop the center stack for a handful or two of stuff, and a glove box that can hold an iPad. The center console has a groove that props up smartphones. There's space inside the deep console for a CD player, too--and maybe other format zombies.
We're suitably impressed with all of the Cherokee's quality measures, versus the more iffy Dart. The interior's the equal of the Santa Fe Sport and Escape, with high-quality, low-gloss, soft-touch surfaces and smooth-acting buttons and switchgear. Interior noise levels are filtered out very well, too--it's the first Chrysler four-cylinder in a long time that didn't draw our groans for its groaning.