2014 Jeep Cherokee Versus 2014 Mazda CX-5

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In our latest head-to-head comparison we pit Cars.com's long-term 2014 Jeep Cherokee against a formidable competitor: Mazda's 2015 CX-5. The CX-5 came to us in our regular rotation of press cars and was ripe for a duel with our Cherokee, which was looking for redemption after being defeated by the well-rounded 2014 Nissan Rogue.

More on Our Long-Term Test Fleet

We've had good experiences with both SUVs. The Cherokee was purchased because it's unique to an extreme and impressed our editors with its refined ride quality and class-leading technology. The CX-5 scored second place in Cars.com's $25,000 compact SUV comparison of 2012-13 models a few years ago thanks to its space-efficient design and stylish exterior.

The all-wheel-drive CX-5 Grand Touring's price of $31,760 is not too far from our Cherokee Limited's $33,375, a $1,615 difference; both prices include destination fees. Under the Mazda's hood is the more powerful of its two four-cylinder offerings while our Cherokee is equipped with the base four-cylinder engine. Both SUVs are equipped with all-wheel drive. Our Cherokee is otherwise the loaded Limited trim level and equivalent to the CX-5's Grand Touring as the premier trim. Cars.com editors Joe Wiesenfelder and Joe Bruzek put these closely matched SUVs through their paces to evaluate the pair in nine categories of driving, comfort and versatility.

Jeep's Cherokee is without a doubt the more substantially sized SUV with more length, width and height over the CX-5. As you'll read below, that doesn't necessarily mean larger on the inside. The Cherokee also has an additional 484 pounds that put the 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and nine-speed automatic transmission to work. The lighter CX-5 coincidentally makes due with an identical 184-hp, though from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a more conventional six-speed automatic transmission and a lot less weight to carry around.

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Acceleration

Winner: CX-5

The Mazda beats the pants off our acceleration-challenged Cherokee. Even though the two have the same horsepower rating, the Jeep has a bit less torque and outweighs the Mazda by nearly 500 pounds. The CX-5's transmission is also much better behaved and reactive. It doesn't have a Sport mode, but in this contest, the Jeep's Sport mode doesn't impress much anyway. The CX-5 has the larger of its two available engines, and the Cherokee the smaller of two, yet the Mazda has higher mileage by 2 mpg combined: 24/30/26 mpg city/highway/combined to the Cherokee's 21/28/24 mpg.

 

Braking

Winner: CX-5

Both do their jobs and feel strong enough. The CX-5's brakes are linear on application, but Wiesenfelder was seriously disappointed by the nonlinearity on release. The Cherokee is better on release, though its brakes are a bit grabby on initial application.

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Handling

Winner: CX-5

The Mazda has excellent balance, road-holding and overall dynamics. The steering has good weighting and directness, and just the right amount of feedback when hitting mid-corner pavement disruptions. The Cherokee's handling is composed and, in our opinion, underrated, but it is nose-heavy even with the four-cylinder and definitely less visceral than the Mazda. As important, the Cherokee's transmission doesn't like to power into corners, and the CX-5 had no such reservations.

 

Noise

Winner: Cherokee

Noise is definitely one of the CX-5's disadvantages, including road and wind noise. The engine's a bit loud at full acceleration, but it isn't otherwise objectionable. Conversely, the Jeep has one of the quietest cabins in this class. Only once did its tires sing, on a short patch of grooved pavement. The Cherokee's quiet cabin masks abnormally loud "sewing machine" noises coming from under the hood at idle, but luckily the engine is quiet once moving.

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Ride

Winner: Cherokee

The CX-5's ride quality really impressed us. For a vehicle that handles as well as this one - and had 19-inch wheels, as equipped - it rides firmly but comfortably and with definite poise over rough surfaces. The Cherokee still outdoes it for comfort and isolation, and though the Jeep was the champ as we intentionally ran the SUVs over brutal potholes, the CX-5 surprised us by sparing our spines more trauma than we had expected.

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Interior quality

Winner: Cherokee

Interior quality was another close contest that could go either way depending on consumer preference. Wiesenfelder liked the CX-5's piano-black finishes and lack of unconvincing faux metal trim, but it also has super-cheap vinyl sun visors. The multimedia display is as much a factor in interior quality as it is in multimedia performance, and the Mazda's touch-screen is small with a low resolution and generally disappointing for an extra-cost item compared with the Cherokee's (above) optional 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen. We could say the same for the moonroof comparison; the Cherokee's larger panoramic one wins - it's a $1,395 option opposed to the CX-5's smaller one included in the Grand Touring trim.

 

Seats

Winner: Cherokee

Seating dimensions are quite close, but Wiesenfelder wished he had a little more driver's legroom in the Cherokee. The Jeep gets a slight edge because its seats are otherwise wide and comfortable, and the rear seats slide forward and back; the Mazda's backseat does not. Bruzek didn't think the CX-5 was at much of a disadvantage because of the already generous rear seat room and cargo room.

 

Multimedia

Winner: Cherokee

To put things in context, the Uconnect system is one of our favorites, from its 8.4-inch touch-screen size and responsiveness to its inclusion of many features, some of which cooperate with smartphone apps. To that end, we were shocked to see a Pandora tab on the CX-5's multimedia screen, because the optional system otherwise looks like it pre-dates Pandora internet radio and possibly smartphones overall. We also find its TomTom navigation interface perplexing even after plenty of exposure and practice. Mazda is cleaning up its act in the multimedia arena; it just hasn't hit this model yet.

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Cargo

Winner: CX-5

Anyone who doesn't knock himself out on its low-hanging liftgate can see the CX-5's (above, right) cargo area is superior to that of the Cherokee (above, left), despite having an overall smaller footprint. It has more volume both behind the rear seats and when they're folded. Its load floor is a bit lower than the Cherokee's, yet the cargo area is taller overall and certainly wider. It even has a 40/20/40-split folding backseat rather than the Jeep's 60/40 split for more flexibility. The center segment even folds independently.

 

Results

Winner: Cherokee

Our lovable Cherokee eked out the win with five categories to the Mazda's four. The Mazda exhibited a more capable handling, acceleration and braking experience against the four-cylinder Cherokee that's continually battling physics. Our long-term Jeep rallied from its lacking acceleration with a more refined ride and interior experience topped with useful technology and a few standout features at its slightly higher as-tested price.

Cars.com photos by Joe Bruzek and Evan Sears

Comments 

Lance

Added categories
1. MPG
2. Price
3. Reliability
4. ReSale Value
5. Exterior Style

All CX-5 wins! CX-5 should have been the winner.

AL G.

I agree Lance. Those are the things that make it or break for me. CX-5 all the way

George

Have anyone actually seen the horrible antiquated and unsafe tail lights of the Cherokee?
or the obtusely tall gearing of the ZF 9hp transmission?
the lack of VVT on the exhaust camshaft, the lack of direct injection, the lack of dual length intake manifold on the 'multiair' engine.
The lack of AutoStick interface: it has a system which you can progressive lockout the highest gear. Better than having D9 D8 D7 D6 D5 D4 D3 D2 D1 selector.
the Cx-5 has a full interface where you command up/downshifts.

Belly

I also agree with Lance's observations. The test includes braking, noise, ride, and acceleration, but no mpg or price? Particularly when the last comparison was titled "$25,000 Compact SUV Shootout" and mpg was one of the biggest factors (and still is to many buyers).

This is a pretty sad comparison.

Skankzilla

CX-5 all the way.

Belly,
This is a head to head match not a full Challenge which include an entire day of driving just to get the mileage ratings. But yes, we'd expect the CX-5's higher EPA ratings would prove out in the real world too.

Card13

George,

I am not sure if you meant to say the Jeep has "tall" gearing. Yes, there are a lot of gears, but 2nd gear in the 9 speed is lower than 1st gear in many other vehicles. Accelerating gears should be as low as possible and cruising gears should be as high as possible, that's how you balance performance and efficiency. Plus, I don't see how your statements about its "inferior" engine technology are relevant. It makes identical peak horsepower and slightly less torque, all from a smaller engine. If anything, one could say that Mazda is the one with the underwhelming engine for its size and technical advancements.

George

The Mazda engine is a fuel economy design foremost.
While the Chrysler one is a power design firstly, relying on its MultiAir system [which can hydraulically decrease the camshaft profile-via solenoid/accumulator, allowing for less throttling losses]
It the real world, the Mazda approach works-long exhaust manifold for scavenging, high compression ratio for good thermal efficiency, and even an electric intake camshaft phaser, in addition to the hydraulic exhaust phasing.
The gearing is so tall, it is likely that 9th is never used, and 8th at only completely steadystate highway cruising (without grade and no A/C). Chrysler should have made the axle ratio much shorter, and let 1st gear be the pseudo-low range. (which is what Land Rover does)
2nd gear is shorter than first gear, when you compare it to antique vehicles with 3 speed automatics.

WTF

Or you could stop analyzing numbers and actually go drive the car as you would and see if it works for you or not.

Card13

George,

My comment about the gears was sparked by a line in Car and Driver's review comparing it to a not-quite-antique vehicle:

"Because of the wide gearing in the Cherokee’s nine-speed gearbox (both first and second in the Jeep are shorter-cogged than the CR-V’s first gear), the Cherokee comes out of the hole enthusiastically."

You can use all of the technical info you want (I am familiar with both engine families), but you still haven't indicated that Mazda's advanced engineering actually translates to real-world gains. In terms of performance and fuel-efficiency, I suspect the Jeep would be equal if it had similar weight (credit to Mazda for a much lighter vehicle). As WTF said, try driving them both because I doubt anyone is going to get in and say "this Jeep definitely needs better phasing on the exhaust valves"

Belly

Thanks Dave. But I am not sure I understand the point of a head to head comparison if it isn't more encompassing, particularly when multimedia seems to span two categories...

In any event, keep up the (nearly all) good work.

George

The Jeep doesn't have any phasing of the exhaust valves, unless you get the V6.

and considering that there is little to no real world mileage hit for the V6, get the V6.

The CR-V's engine revs higher, so it is incorrectly stated that the gearing of the Cherokee 2nd gear is shorter than 1st of the Honda.

I think most rational people will see that the Jeep is image, and the Mazda is substance.

Card13

George,

I guess this conversation is over since you've reached the point of not making any sense. There is phasing on all the valves, otherwise the vehicle would not function. The phasing however is fixed, not variable. No matter how the Honda's engine revs, the transmission is geared higher than Jeep. Period. The gear ratio affects the engine, not the other way around. With that said, I would probably buy the Mazda. Liking one brand doesn't blind me to giving credit to other brands when it's due

I prefer the grand cherokee but this time i will choose the cherokee, new improvements and good shape overall.

Mazda is one of the best Japanese cars but still i will go with the American engines.

George

No, Card13, you are technically incorrect, and are in fits of denial.

jon

Added categories
1. MPG
2. Price
3. Reliability
4. ReSale Value

Herbie

Reading this review seems out of touch. As I just convinced my better half, we eat too much organic food to just blindly pick a car. This car has excellent safely ratings. The fuel economy is great, then comes the fun stuff like multimedia and comfort.

However at the end if the day, do you like the drive! Hands down cx-5!

Steve

So now let's go head to head up Steven's Pass, WA in a "chains required" snowstorm. I did, and my Jeep Cherokee V6 was smoking EVERYTHING on the road, with 1 exception - he was lights and sirens on the way to a 5 car pile up. Was tempted to offer him a ride, because he took 10 minutes to catch up, and I was holding the speed to 9 over, could have easily done 85 and maintained control. (actually I did have it to 85 while making a pass - for a second I thought those lights were for me!) Did have the Michelin X-ice tires, but the traction control on the Jeep just let me dust the crowd.

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