It must be a little worrying for brands like Jeep because they were building crossovers and SUVs long before they became trendy, and before every other automaker started piling on. Let's see how one of the originators is doing today by comparing the Jeep Cherokee with the 2018 Ford Escape.
On the face of things, the Cherokee will probably have an instant advantage in the area of desirability simply because it's a Jeep and the Escape is a Ford, but there's more to being desirable than just a brand perception advantage.
The Cherokee has a very distinctive front fascia that makes it stand out more than the Ford, but not necessarily in a good way. The rest of the Cherokee is pretty standard fare so only its questionable front makes it stand out. The Escape is a more attractive, sportier and sleeker vehicle looking at it from every angle. The face of the Escape isn't as instantly recognizable as that of the Jeep, but that's not necessarily bad.
The Cherokee is longer, wider and has more interior passenger volume than the Ford Escape, but where it's hiding it is anyone's guess. The Jeep boasts 105.4 cu.-ft. of passenger volume to just 98.1 cu.-ft. in the Escape, and the Cherokee does have more rear leg room.
However, there's more leg room in the front of the Ford and more head room throughout the cabin, and there's more cargo space in all areas of the Escape too. To be fair to the Jeep, the interior is very stylish and of a high quality, but it can't match the Ford for passenger and cargo space.
If these two crossovers look different than each other, the way they perform is perhaps even more so. The Ford Escape is all about sporty, car-like performance and handling. And although it comes with optional all-wheel drive, the Escape is no hardcore off-roader. The Cherokee isn't bad on-road by any means, but when it comes to hitting the trails and dirt tracks it's in another league to the Escape altogether.
There's nothing remotely sporty or communicative about the way the Jeep drives and handles, but it does have a V-6 engine option and is capable of towing up to 4,500 pounds too. As we said, this is an area where these two compact crossovers choose to diverge from each other, but we'd give the nod here to the Jeep for all-round versatility.
Performance and fuel economy is always something of a balancing act, and that's certainly the case here. You'd probably expect the additional power and capability of the Jeep to mean the Escape is more fuel efficient than the Cherokee, and that's how it works out.
The best fuel economy available from the Ford is 23 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined. The Cherokee isn't too far behind with best ratings of 21 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined, but it still hands the advantage to the Ford.
Not only are these two very different to look at, they're very different vehicles in many other aspects. The problem for the Jeep is that its undeniable off-road prowess is something of a niche attribute compared to the sensational on-road performance and handling of the 2018 Ford Escape. And as it's on the road where crossovers will likely spend 99 percent of their lives, we have to say the Ford is the better buy.