Compact SUV Shootout: Jeep Cherokee Limited vs. Mazda CX-5 GT

Posted on Friday, January 23, 2015 - 13:28

The Mazda CX-5 is the diesel compact SUV by which all others judged. Rugged, luxurious and pushed by an aggressive marketing campaign – does the Cherokee live up to the hype? More importantly, can reigning monarch Mazda match it?

Jeep Cherokee:  What you’ll find

Jeep has embraced the technological age adding a wireless charging pad in the centre console, plus a 230V power point. The driver can figure out exactly what’s going on at all times with huge 7” display paired with an 8.4” infotainment centre. It toggles between radio, phone apps and satellite navigation with ease. This also controls the nine-speaker, 506-watt Alpine sound system. Ample, comfortable seats in the front are given heating and cooling options and the back seats are given their own air vents. Back seats can be split-folded for more room in the boot. If you need storage, the Jeep has it in spades. Under the bonnet rests a 2.0L 4-cylinder 9-speed auto turbo diesel 4WD with 125kW.

Mazda CX-5: What you’ll find

The Mazda’s engine specs edge out the Jeep on paper, only just. It features a 2.2L 4 cylinder 6-speed auto turbo diesel AWD producing 129kW. Inside, the Jeep stomps on the Mazda; the driver must make do with a 3.5” display and 5.8” main input touchscreen with phone access via USB. It too has nine speakers provided by Bose, albeit at 231 watts. Seats are firmer than their American counterparts and taller back seat passengers will benefit from a greater allocation of headroom. They come with a red-stitched leather trim, a minor difference from the Cherokee.

Jeep Cherokee: What to expect

Starting it up with keyless ignition, you’ll immediately notice a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, electronic handbrake and solid steering wheel. It all adds a touch of driving finesse lacking in other, lesser models. As for the drive, gears shift clumsily in built-up areas, steering remains sluggish and the chassis rolls noticeably more than the Mazda. Using a low-range 4WD plus a 2.4T towing capability and 185mm of ground clearance means the Jeep is an off-road wonder, especially in view of a cavernous 700L boot. It can almost do in one compact SUV what a full-sized 4WD may even struggle with. As for fuel economy, expect it to take 5.8L/100Km.

Mazda CX-5: What to expect

The Mazda is undoubtedly the easiest compact SUV to transition from as a car driver. A quarter ton added to the weight gives the CX-5 added stability, especially compared to the wobbly Jeep Cherokee. Steering feels direct with no second guessing the swiftness of your movements. Ratio shifts seem effortless and a boost of torque over the Cherokee (420Nm vs 350nM) is always welcome. That said, Jeep outclasses the Mazda in the off-road department; its boot is nearly half the size (400L), has a 150mm ride height and a 1.8T towing capacity. The CX-5 slightly beats the Jeep’s fuel usage at 5.7/100Km.

WHAT WE LIKED

Jeep Cherokee: Abundance of mod-cons, huge boot, excellent off-road capability

Mazda CX-5: Easy to drive and handle, good fuel economy, larger interior space

WHAT WE DIDN’T

Jeep Cherokee: Weaker on the day-to-day drive, watery engine, less comfortable

Mazda CX-5: Not enough storage space, electronics/connections are a generation behind

The Verdict

If you’re unconcerned with bells and whistles and need a solid compact SUV for the everyday, the Mazda is near-perfect. Just don’t throw it around off-road too much.

QUICK FACTS

Mazda CX-5

Engine: 2.2L 4-cylinder turbo diesel @ 129kW

Torque: 420Nm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel Economy: 5.7L/100km

Drivetrain: AWD

Jeep Cherokee

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel @ 125kW

Torque: 350Nm

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Fuel Economy: 5.8L/100Km

Drivetrain: 4WD

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