You’ve seen the new Jeep Cherokee out on the roads by now. Not the Grand Cherokee. The Cherokee. That is, the smaller, sleeker new Jeep with the slit-eye lights on top of its hood and that face you may or may not approve of. This uniquely styled crossover intends to give Jeep a strong presence in the market ruled by machines like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and the like.

And it’s a bit ‘different’ looking. Like it or leave it, but as your mom told you, it’s what’s under the skin that counts. And what’s under the skin of the latest Jeep saw it beat out the competition in two rounds of voting by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada(AJAC), ultimately securing an overall win as 2014 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

That’s both a big deal, and a difficult task. The win comes entirely from a scoring process undertaken by a panel of some 80 of Canada’s top auto experts after test driving competing new models back to back, on the same day, on an identical testing route, and evaluating dozens of new models against their competition based on numerous criteria. Factors including cargo space, price, fuel economy, safety features and measured performance figures are also factored into the overall scores for each competitor.

In last year’s round of testing, Cherokee’s winning scores saw it beat out other new-this-year competitors similar in price and intention like the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Outlander. There are several reasons Cherokee pulled off the big win – and it’s all in the testing and scoring data maintained on the AJAC website.

The gist?

Cherokee boasted a five-point lead in its category over competing models, with top scores in several important areas, and near-top scores almost everywhere else.

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