The Jeep Cherokee performs quite well in on-road handling. Image Credit: Supplied

The facial droop design and the slightly disproportionate rear end seem to suggest the car will drive like a sedan off-road and a 4x4 on-road. But the new Jeep Cherokee (or Jeep Liberty to our Stateside readers), is nothing like its first cousin the Nitro.

Although built on the same platform as the Nitro, the Cherokee has low-range gearing which gives it an edge when off-road. The Cherokee has an overall stance and road presence quite similar to the Nitro, but a five-second inspection can make the minor differences, especially in the frontal design, quite obvious.

I've always admired the Cherokee's appeal, especially the XJ series that was around from the mid-1980s to around 2001. The design had character and appealed to a significant segment of 4x4 lovers and off-road enthusiasts.

Sadly, however, as with most brands, the reality is that future generations don't hold the same kind of appeal for the same fan base as they did earlier. Sure, the technology gets better, but design changes can affect the overall appeal of a car, which in my opinion holds true for the new Cherokee.

One of the main characteristics that sets the new Cherokee apart from its predecessors is the deviation from the rugged off-road look for some obvious dipping into the luxury arena where many of today's SUV buyers prefer to shop. Most brands now offer multi-function vehicles that appeal to both off-roaders and to those who limit SUV usage to the road.

For off-roaders, plenty of modification options are available, especially with the wide range of after-market parts and accessories dedicated to Jeep lovers.

The Cherokee comes with a 3.7 litre V6 engine that generates 210hp @ 5,200rpm and 319Nm of torque @ 4,000rpm. On-road acceleration seems a tad slow, probably because of the heavy build of the Cherokee's body, but it's quite acceptable forits segment. These figures are quite sufficient off-road and there's nothing that an air intake, exhaust and headers modification can't fix if you want more power and growl.

The Cherokee's independent front suspension and five-link rear suspension are also quite suitable for off-road use and provide a comfortable on-road ride as well. Again, the option to upgrade to a heavy duty or taller suspension is always available to the ownerand such changes to Jeeps are a common sight in this region.

The front bumper is quite low compared with its predecessors' and, therefore, frequent off-road usage might require some modification.

Other off-roading features include the Selec-TRAC II four-wheel-drive system and a now-standard Hill Descent Control system which could be of use while descending tall sand dunes, although generally an ‘electronics-free' system makes more sense in the desert.

On-road handling is just as I expected it to be and the Cherokee performs quite well in this department considering its size. The relatively shorter stance of the Cherokee enables a more stable curve-handling capability over its taller rivals and the new Electronic Roll Mitigation feature, combined with all the other regular safety features like ABS, Electronic Stability Programme, Brake Assist and an All-Speed Traction Control, ensure the best possible on-road stability for the reasonable driver.

The interiors, in my opinion, are average in terms of looks and build quality, without any compromise on functionality. All controls are laid out quite ergonomically.

The multimedia console, in addition to the regular features, includes a 20GB hard disk that can store a lot of music and photos. The user interface is quite user-friendly and responsive, unlike the many other touch-screen interfaces available today. Audio quality is also pretty average, but it gets the job done.

The seats are sturdy and comfortable at the same time. They are also suitable for long-distance travel with the right kind of support. Rear legroom is quite ample as is the luggage capacity and - as Jeep claims - the vehicle enables you to be prepared to "go anywhere anddo anything".

The Jeep's heritage, military history and its rugged appeal are what attract most people to it.

Jeeps, especially Wranglers,are very popular in the region asoff-road vehicles, especially because of the wide range of modifications available. In addition, the relatively simpler design and construction makeit easier to modify without toomany interferences.

Most of the modified Jeeps thatI see around look very different from each other since every owner chooses their modifications based on the kind of performance and looks they want, giving their vehicle a custom look without having to spend too much compared with other brands.

Overall, I think the Cherokee is a sensible option for those who need their 4x4s to double as family and off-road vehicles at a reasonable cost - which I think is the main attraction of the Cherokee.

At the price of Dh119,000 it offers quite a lot of value, especially in terms of safety features, with relatively few compromises.

It may not be the ultimate off-roader but you could modify it to become whatever you want. It may not be the ultimate road-going SUV either in terms of luxury and sophisticated gadgetry, but it offers quite a few useful features from both worlds at a reasonable price.

Although I personally prefer the earlier XJ series of Cherokees, these newer-generation models don't fall short in any respect, except maybe in terms of exterior design - but that's something you can easily live with, given the price.