Jeep is freshening up its compact Cherokee SUV, replacing the controversial headlights and adding a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

The thin-lined headlights have had Jeep loyalists, known for their reverence of classic round lamps, scratching their heads since this the 2014 Cherokee was launched. For 2019, the revised Cherokee face includes a more traditional headlight shape. The front, hood, and fog light designs also change, edging the SUV closer to the appearance of its bigger brother, the Grand Cherokee.

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In the back, a new liftgate and taillights complete the cosmetic update. The Cherokee now offers the convenience feature seen on other SUVs, including the Ford Escape, where you can open the rear hatch by swiping your foot under the bumper. A new dual-pane sunroof with a motorized shade brings a more open feel, one often associated with Jeeps.

Engine choices continue to include a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.2-liter V6, with the base engine down to 180 horsepower from 184. The 2.4-liter Cherokee we tested was anemic and not very fuel efficient.

A 270-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that was introduced on the all-new Jeep Wrangler becomes the third option. This turbo engine is a near match for the V6 horsepower at 270, but it has a distinct torque advantage at 295 lb.-ft. versus 239 lb.-ft. The nine-speed automatic transmission has been tuned specially for this potent new engine. We found the previous version neither responsive nor smooth. We hope the additional tuning improves the shifting.

The cabin ambience is elevated with more premium materials and additional trim accent pieces. A change to the center console opens up more storage space for a smartphone and other travel essentials.

The Cherokee features the latest version of the Uconnect infotainment system, offered with 7- and 8.4-inch screen configurations, the latter available with navigation. All versions include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.

A capless fuel filler is also new, removing a step for drivers when they refuel.

2019 Jeep Cherokee interior

Available safety tech includes forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. These are now available on more versions of the Cherokee, but shoppers still need to invest in an option package or step up a couple trim levels in order to get this important protection. 

Ultimately, this means the Cherokee is more expensive than it first appears when popularly equipped, especially because most Jeep buyers will want to upgrade to four-wheel drive. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but it has previously positioned the Cherokee above its primary, compact SUV competitors.

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee goes on sale this winter.

Read the current Jeep Cherokee road test.

2019 Jeep Cherokee rear