2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs. 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: Compare Crossover SUVs

July 16, 2020

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport and 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk likely don’t mind being overshadowed by attention-grabbing siblings in their respective lineups. They’ll crawl into the limelight themselves.

That’s because the smaller siblings of the Bronco and Wrangler, respectively, are bona fide off-roaders in their own rights. Both feature impressive trail-ready hardware and road-friendly suspension setups that speak to our sensibilities. We’re more inclined to clamber into parking spaces than steep trails, after all.

We’re enamored by both, but without driving the Bronco Sport yet, we’re left to compare the two on paper. The 2020 Jeep Cherokee scores a 5.3 TCC Rating that’s skewed more toward base models. If rated separately, the Cherokee Trailhawk might score higher. The tale of the tape reveals a close race, and it’s a slugfest we’re ready to see soon.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2020 Jeep Cherokee

2020 Jeep Cherokee

2020 Jeep Cherokee

2020 Jeep Cherokee

The Bronco Sport and Cherokee fill similar gaps in their respective automakers’ lineups. Both seat up to five, with room in the back for gear or groceries. Both have tall ride-heights and start for less than $30,000. The Bronco Sport—for now—costs more at $28,155 and is equipped with all-wheel drive as standard equipment. The Jeep Cherokee starts for slightly less at $27,335 and is bigger inside, but that’s for a front-drive model. We’re talking Trailhawk, folks.

To ascend Mount Jeep Trailhawk takes at least $36,250, but guarantees four-wheel drive, a V-6 or turbo-4 engine with about 270 horsepower, 9-speed automatic transmission, a two-speed transfer case, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

That is close to the Bronco Sport Badlands, which costs $34,155, and adds a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 245 horsepower, an advanced all-wheel-drive system, an 8-speed automatic transmission, an off-road suspension, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone software.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

The Bronco Sport is based on the Ford Escape but eschews that model’s softer lines for boxy looks inspired by the bigger Bronco. The flat doors, round headlights, and boxy tail end were grafted on to the crossover’s skeleton with success, but we’ll reserve final judgement for when we see the cars in person, later this year.

The Cherokee skips nostalgia and borrows most of its looks from the bigger Grand Cherokee—not the Wrangler. All the Jeep hallmarks are there: seven-slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches, Easter eggs, but it’s not as boxy as the Bronco Sport.

The Bronco Sport maximizes that boxy bod, and even though it’s about a foot shorter than the Cherokee, it has more cargo space. The Bronco Sport holds up to 32.5 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row of seats, and with those seats folded down it measures up to 65.2 cubic feet of space. The Cherokee holds about 26 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row, but that seat slides fore and aft to maximize cargo or passenger room. With the rear seats folded forward, the Cherokee holds 54.7 cubic feet of cargo—less than the Bronco Sport, although most of that difference is in vertical space, which isn’t used as often.

2020 Jeep Cherokee

2020 Jeep Cherokee

Jeep also withholds some active safety features from the Cherokee Trailhawk’s standard set. Blind-spot monitors are standard on the Cherokee Trailhawk, but adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking are tucked into an extra-cost package. Active lane control isn’t on the menu.

The Bronco Sport is equipped with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control as standard equipment. Adaptive cruise control is an option, too.

That’s likely to give the Bronco Sport a small lead on paper, although we’ll have to wait until we hit the trails in both to make that final determination.

Summary

5.5
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee cashes in on off-road prowess and luxury features but comes up short elsewhere.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport carves out a new all-terrain niche for one of the most beloved off-road names in auto history.

Styling

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee is altogether better-looking than ever, but also less interesting.
Read More

Performance

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee is comfortable and competent on-road and capable off-road.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee is plenty comfortable but not particularly practical compared to rivals.
Read More

Safety

4.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee has mixed crash test results and offers expanded safety tech this year, but still doesn’t make it standard.
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee is available in nearly any option combination you could want, but gets very expensive at the top of the range.
Read More

Fuel Economy

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee is behind the pack of compact crossover SUVs in terms of fuel economy.
Read More

MSRP

from $25,840
from $26,660

Invoice

from $25,651
from $26,260

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

25
- TBD -

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.4 L
Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-3, 1.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Four Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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