Should I Buy the Jeep Grand Cherokee or the Hyundai Santa Fe?

QUESTION: Hi John, in relation to your post on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Territory and Land Rover Discovery, I love the Jeep, the ride, the size, the look, the price etc.

But after doing a bit of internet searching I am not seeing too many kind comments from Jeep owners. Not sure if the number of complaints is due to a Jeep support issue when it comes to parts and the amount of time vehicles are off road awaiting parts and repair. (Noisy minority principle.) I am now hesitant and am starting to lean toward the Santa Fe as I don't want to spend time without a vehicle.

I guess my question is, from your experience, are the reports of the Jeep unreliability just another Internet myth? Ron


Certainly all the happy Jeep customers don't spend their spare time expressing their happiness online... (It's the same as being a journo - you meet a lot of vocal people who either hate your work, or who love to hate your work. The happy ones are less motivated to express themselves, though there are exceptions.) You are quite correct that minorities are noisy.

Reliability is the hardest thing to measure objectively. We do it very badly in Australia. They are much more objective about it in the USA, thanks mainly to JD Power and Associates.

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JD Power's 2014 US Vehicle Dependability Study measured the dependability of 2011 models at three years of age. Basically Jeep and Hyundai were pretty much neck and neck in the bottom quarter of the field. (Note the results, right - click to enlarge.)

It's not a stellar performance for either brand. (And it's important to bear that in mind - there's a range of products in each brand, and some are more reliable than others, most probably.)

This does not necessarily hurt sales. (In May 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee was the market's number 10 seller, behind the Mazda CX-5 in ninth and the incredibly outdated Mitsubishi Triton in eighth. It's basically a photo finish for first in the large SUV segment with Prado (8774 sales YTD, June) narrowly edging out the Grand Cherokee (8610). There is daylight back to the Santa Fe (3179). The market clearly has very poor taste, seeing as two of the vehicles widely renowned as quality basket cases - the Ford Territory and Holden Captiva 7 - both sold 5000+ in the same time...


JD Power's latest Initial Quality Survey, which measures the quality of new vehicles after the first 90 days of ownership paints a vastly different picture (see right). Hyundai is just behind Lexus. Jeep is second from the bottom. Both these surveys map faults - and there's a big difference between (say) the catastrophic failure of a driveshaft, and a leaking windscreen washer bottle (yet they are both classed as faults).

I think it's a case of smoke = fire. There's a lot of Jeep 'horror' reliability stories. There are plenty of Hyundai ones as well. It's easy to see both brands improving significantly in a short timeframe. Grand Cherokee and Santa Fe are both examples of their respective makers' best work. I'd stand firmly behind the claim that the Santa Fe would be superior to (say) and i20, and a Grand Cherokee would beat a Wrangler in a similar way, on the reliability front.

US News used JD Power data to specify the reliability of both vehicles in its recent assessments of both vehicles. There is a snapshot of each result below (click to enlarge). The US News conclusion on reliability is both Santa Fe and Grand Cherokee earned equal reliability rankings of "about average".

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US News reliability rankings - Grand Cherokee

US News reliability rankings - Hyundai Santa Fe

RRP: $55,000 + on-road costs

Seats: Five

L x W x H:  4828 x 1943 x 1802

Kerb weight: 2267kg

3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel

  • 184kW @ 4000rpm
  • 570Nm @ 2000rpm

Transmission: 8sp auto

Fuel: 7.5L/100km

Warranty: 3yr/100,000 km + roadside assist

  • 18-inch alloys
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Seven-inch LCD multimedia display
  • -
  • -
  • Proximity key with start/stop button
  • Climate control air conditioning
  • 6 speakers 
  • Reversing camera
  • Four-star ANCAP safety

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RRP: $47,990 + on-road costs

Seats: Seven

L x W x H:  4690 x 1880 x 1690

Kerb weight: 1968kg

2.2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder

  • 145kW @ 3800rpm
  • 436Nm @ 1800-2500rpm

Transmission: 6sp auto

Fuel: 7.9L/100km

Warranty: 5yr/unlimited km

  • 18-inch alloys
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Seven-inch LCD multimedia display
  • Sat-nav
  • Part leather trim
  • Proximity key with start/stop button
  • Climate control air conditioning
  • 8 speakers + subwoofer & amplifier
  • Reversing camera
  • Five-star ANCAP safety

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Obviously the big differences are: 

  • PERFORMANCE - The Jeep weighs about 10 per cent more but the engine outputs are much greater than that, proportionately. So you can expect superior driveline performance from the Jeep.
  • TOWING - the Jeep at 3500kg murders the Santa Fe at 2000kg maximum tow capacity.
  • SEATING - You can fit more people in the Santa Fe (there's no seven-seat option on the Jeep, perversely.
  • SIZE - The Jeep is bigger, especially in the cargo bay.
  • SAFETY - Five-star is the gold standard; Jeep has only just achieved that on Cherokee - a first for the brand.

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