Jeep Renegade review
The Jeep Renegade is Jeep’s smallest ever model, and designed to bring true off-road ability to the trendy crossover class
The Jeep Renegade breaks new ground for America’s iconic 4x4-maker – it’s a downsized compact crossover designed to wade into the furiously competitive market dominated by the Nissan Qashqai and Juke, MINI Countryman and Skoda Yeti.
The Renegade’s brand heritage, genuine off-road ability and stand-out looks set it apart in such a competitive class, but if you’re merely after extra space and a commanding driving position rather than exceptional mud-plugging ability, there’s a sense the little Renegade is just a little over-endowed for what most UK drivers will throw at it.
Pricing starts at £16,995 for the 1.6 E-TorQ EVO 110hp Sport and rises to £27,995 for the 2.0 MultiJet placing the car between the Nissan Juke and top-spec MINI Countryman models.
There’s no doubt the Renegade drips with character and appeal all on its own, but it’s not the greenest or most fun to drive car in its segment, which means it’s likely to be another Jeep that remains a fringe product in the UK, albeit less so than its bigger brethrin.
Our choice: Jeep Renegade Limited 1.6 MultiJet 4x2 manual
Jeep says the Renegade’s polarising toy-like looks combine the sophistication of the Grand Cherokee with the rugged appeal of the classic Wrangler. The main challenge was to set the Renegade apart from some of its ‘cuter’ doe-eyed rivals, hence the bluff ‘seven-slot’ nose, squared-off wheelarches, and bulbous tail lights inspired by old American army petrol cans.
The eccentric bodywork and dropping beltline evoke cues of Jeep’s back catalogue, but the overall effect is very spec-sensitive. In darker, military-like colours, and especially in Trailhawk guise with more off-road friendly bumpers and coloured towhooks, the Renegade actually looks quite purposeful. However, the standard versions are far more dumpy and likely to be just as controversial as Nissan’s Juke was when it arrived on the scene.
Inside, Jeep squeezes in even more character touches. The Jeep ‘face’ of round headlights and the seven-slot grille is emobossed into the rear-view mirror, speaker surrounds, and the tailgate. The vent surrounds are apparently inspired by base-jumping equipment, the pod-like central vents by ski goggles, and you even get a mud splatter graphic instead of a redline in the rev counter.
If you’ve stepped out of a mature Qashqai or Skoda Yeti the Renegade feels like playschool, but the sense of fun of say, a MINI is here, like it or loathe it.
How impressive the Renegade is to drive depends entirely on the environment you’re in. If you dare to venture off-road, you’ll discover the most capable all-terrain vehicle in the compact crossover class. Adaptive all-wheel drive with settings for different surfaces, plenty of ground clearance and good body control means the little Jeep is almost unstoppable off-road, with much of the light-on-its-feet feel that a Fiat Panda 4x4 enjoys.
If you want a small car that can tackle fearsome terrain and are put off by the age of the Suzuki Jimny, look no further than the Renegade, which is excellent off-piste. Whether on or off-road, the six-speed gearbox is a surprisingly positive and enjoyable shift, and the smooth nine-speed automatic is a real winner too.
If you’re worried the car is massively compromised on the road by how capable is it off it, don’t worry. In fact the Renenagde Trailhawk, with its chunkier tyres, has the best ride of the bunch. Plus, the car doesn’t lean too much in corners and grip remains superb. However, the steering is totally numb, the engines unremarkable, and overall the Renegade, while competent, can't match the MINI Countryman, Mazda CX-5 or Nissan Juke for driving fun, nor the Nissan Qashqai for refinement.
Given drivers spend the majority of their time firmly on the road, rather than mud-plugging, it feels as if Jeep has lost sight of what most customers actually want from this type of car.
Jeeps’ patchy history for reliability is on the up with its recent products, as it looks to improve upon its placement of 28th out of 33 manufacturers in the 2014 Auto Express Driver Power survey. More worryingly, Fiat, which owns Jeep, came 27th. The Renegade is based on Fiat’s new 500X crossover, given the parts-sharing between these two brands, we’re not reassured by the ownership satisfaction potential.
Safety is a better bet, with Renegade’s offering up to 60 safety features in an effort to be the safest car in the class. It’s yet to be tested by EuroNCAP, but with all models getting a high-strength steel body construction, a multitude of airbags and optional automatic city braking on the options list, the Renegade stands chance of living up to its tough looks in an accident.
Jeep has cannily sized the Renegade between supermini-sized compact crossovers and larger cars from the Ford Kuga and Hyundai ix35 mould, so that tactic along with its boxy shape means interior space is a strong suit. The doors open outwards seventy degrees at the front and eighty degrees at the rear, easing access, while the car’s lofty ride height isn’t a difficult to climb into.
The boot offers a competitive 351 litres with the seats up, and up to 1297 litres with them folded. Only top-spec models get split 40:20:20 folding seats as an option, however. Trailhawk models have a more utilitarian feel inside thanks to rubber mats instead of carpets in the footwells.
It’s a pity that the Renegade’s funky cabin doesn’t enjoy the same tech features as the new Cherokee. The infotainment system centres in Limited models around a 6.5-inch touchscreen sourced from Fiat and Alfa Romeo models, rather than the impressive new 8.4-inch interface exclusive to new Jeep models. Standard on basic cars are 17-inch alloy wheels, a five-inch touchscreen and electric mirrors, plus air-con and electric windows.
Conscious of UK fuel prices, Jeep isn’t offering the 2.4-litre petrol engine to the UK. We still get a good choice of engines though: a 1.4-litre petrol, a 1.6-litre turbodiesel and two 2.0-litre turbodiesels with either 138bhp or 168bhp.
That latter is only available with the nine-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive. If off-roading isn’t your priority, the cheapest Renegade to run is the mid-range model. Jeep claims the Renegade 1.6 MultiJet diesel achieves 54mpg, yet is still good for 0-62mph in an adequate 10.2 seconds. The best petrol version, the 1.4 turbo MultiAir, is good for up to 47.1mpg.