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A SLEEKER LOOK

Subtlety, it seems, is the best policy - even in the most manly part of the automotive industry.

No-nonsense, in-your-face styling that screams "I'm gonna kick your ass!" is gone forever.

Even the most testosterone-fuelled vehicles are getting a little fluffier, and Jeep is no exception.

It's almost as if being American (or, erm, Italian) is a little too crude these days.

The European look is chic, trendy and fashionable - it's akin to ditching the lime green flares on St Patrick's day.

I wasn't initially convinced, but after a week in the new Cherokee I'm starting to catch the bug.

Style-wise, less is definitely more, as the new offering isn't half as imposing as the previous generation.

It all starts with the trademark grille which retains the seven-slat format, but instead of running straight, the shortened bars curve with the bonnet and now have honeycomb inserts

RUGGED

The headlamp set-up is similar to the new Citroen Picasso with the LED daytime running lights forming an eyebrow-like feature while the main lamps are buried beneath and the fog lights lower again.

Thankfully, square wheel arches give it a more rugged look, as does the piece de resistance - highly polished chrome-effect alloy wheels.

It's a similar affair at the rear where LED lights dominate while the deep spoiler matches the detail on the diffuser and skid plates.

Climb on board and one could be forgiven for thinking one's tush was sitting in a luxury German marque.

It's literally wall-to-wall leather from the seats to the door trim to the state-of-the-art dash.

The materials and finish are second to none, and being the top of the range Limited model she was loaded with goodies including sat nav, heated seats and reversing camera.

The entry model Longitude model, though, comes with cruise control, dual zone climate control, parking sensors and a 5.0-inch colour touch-screen infotainment system in the central console for all your music, phone and car information.

Options include the full-panoramic sun roof and a charging pad that can recharge compatible smart phones without the need to plug them in.

The new Cherokee will be powered by a choice of 140bhp or 170bhp 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engines, and Jeep is boasting that its SUV is now one of the cleanest cars in its class. The front-wheel-drive 140hp manual version is capable of 5.3l/100km and with a CO2 count of only 139g/km it costs €280 in road tax while the top-of-the range 4x4 version, which is equipped with a class-first nine-speed automatic transmission, costs €390.

We tested the all-wheel drive auto which has enough torque to pull down a house and has a best-in-class towing capacity of 2.4 tonnes.

In ordinary 2-WD mode the gear ratios seem a little short which in turn makes the engine labour a little.

That said, under a heavy load I'm sure the payoff is there in spades.

Cruising around town and especially on motorways the Cherokee was a big comfort- able bus which gave a reassuring feel.

Load on the extras including auto (a whopping €4,210 more) and you'll quickly find yourself in Audi Q5 price territory.

Unfortunately, the price doesn't match the drive dynamic or the prestige.

Best stick to the bread-and-butter models like the 4x2 manual Longitude which costs a very reasonable €36,000 or the fully-fledged 4x4 which comes in at €39,000.

The new Skoda Fabia will hit Irish showrooms on December 1 - just in time for 2015 orders. Prices start at €13,895 for the 1.0-litre, 60bhp Active.


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