Jeep Renegade review
The Renegade is the smallest and cheapest Jeep, but does it still deliver on the brand's rugged image?
The Jeep Renegade is the smallest car in the Jeep range, yet it's still packed with the US company's 4x4 DNA. With adventurous names like Longitude and Trailhawk used for trim levels, and a rugged look that carries Jeep's traditional seven-bar grille and plenty of chunky styling cues, there's no mistaking the Renegade for any other small SUV for sale today.
In reality, the Renegade uses the same platform as the Fiat 500X - which can trace its roots to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta - and the Renegade was one of the first products of the partnership between Fiat and Chrysler. It first arrived at the end of 2014 for the 2015 model year, while it was given a fairly comprehensive update in 2019. It needed an update because competition in the small SUV class is fiercer than ever.
Rivals for the Renegade include its 500X sister model (which is built in the same factory in Italy), as well as the Mazda CX-3, MINI Countryman, Audi Q2, Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V. In terms of size, the Renegade falls somewhere between the smallest Nissan Juke-sized SUVs and compact models such as the Nissan Qashqai, so you could consider it over many other models, whether you need something smaller than a compact model, or slightly larger than a small car.
More reviews for Renegade SUV
Car group tests
- New Jeep Renegade 1.0 petrol 2019 review
- New Jeep Renegade 2018 facelift review
- Jeep Renegade Night Eagle 2016 review
- New Jeep Renegade 2015 review
Used car tests
Prices for the Jeep Renegade start at around £19,700, which is at the higher end of the spectrum for small SUVs, but all cars come pretty well equipped. Trim lines run through Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk, and all cars feature cruise control, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition, while a DAB Radio and Bluetooth are also included.
At the top of the range, the Trailhawk features four-wheel drive, hill descent control and off-road biased tyres to boost its ability. That 4x4 system is part-timeand features Active Drive, which transfers torque to the rear wheels only when sensors detect that the front wheels are slipping. It also has low-range ‘crawler’ gearing and diff locks, while Selec-Terrain optimises the diffs to suit snow, mud or rocky ground. This model is pretty expensive, though, nearing £31,000, so you'll really need its off-road skills to justify the outlay.
The 2019 model year update saw new engines added to the Renegade range. New 1.0 GSE 120 triple and 1.3 GSE 150 four-cylinder turbo petrols are now available (they're called Firefly in the 500X), with a six-speed manual and six-speed auto respectively, and they're both front-wheel drive.
Most of the range is diesel-powered, though. Fiat's tried and tested 1.6 and 2.0 Multijet diesels are offered in 120 and 140 guises, while the top-spec Renegade Trailhawk gets a 2.0 Multijet 170 diesel with a 9-speed auto as standard. This box is available as an option with the 140 diesel (a six-speed manual is standard), while the 1.6 has a choice of six-speed manual or auto gearboxes. The 1.6 is front-wheel drive, while both 2.0-litre diesels add 4WD.
The looks won't be to all tastes, but in a class of curvy crossovers, the square-edged Jeep Renegade certainly stands out. It's also one of the few cars in the class that offers genuine off-road ability, although it comes at a slight expense to on-road performance.
That's not to say it's completely inept on the road. But if you’re merely after extra space and a commanding driving position, rather than exceptional mud-plugging prowess, there’s a sense that the Rengade is just a little too focused on the rough stuff compared to what UK buyers will actually use it for. It also gets rather pricey the further up the range you go.
Overall, there's no doubt that the Renegade drips with character and appeal all on its own, but it’s not the greenest, best value or nicest-driving choice in its class. So while it’s sure to be a stronger seller than bigger models in the Jeep range, it's not destined to set the SUV/crossover sales charts alight.
Engines, performance and drive
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 mean 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, but a Suzuki Jimny is just that little bit too small, look no further than the Renegade, which is excellent off-piste. Whether on or off-road, the six-speed gearbox provides positive and enjoyable shifts, while the smooth nine-speed automatic is a real winner, too.
The Jeep isn’t badly compromised on the road by how capable it is off it. In fact, the Renegade Trailhawk, with its chunkier tyres, has the best ride in the range. Plus, the car doesn’t lean too much in corners and grip remains superb. However, the steering is numb, the gearbox is notchy and the engines are unremarkable. So while the Renegade is competent overall, it can't match the MINI Countryman, Mazda CX-3 or Nissan Juke for driving fun, nor the Nissan Qashqai for refinement.
As drivers spend most of their time on the road, rather than mud-plugging, it feels as if Jeep has lost sight a little of what most customers actually want from this type of car.
The Jeep Renegade comes with a range of two petrol engines and three diesels, and for typical buyers wanting a combination of strong performance and decent fuel economy, the diesels will be of most interest.
The torquey 168bhp 2.0-litre MultiJet helps make the Trailhawk model especially potent off-road; coupled with the nine-speed auto box and low-ratio 4x4, it ensures this version of the Renegade feels unstoppable.
However, the less powerful 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel is likely to be all you need most of the time. It takes 10.2 seconds to cover 0-62mph, compared to 8.9 seconds for the 2.0-litre in the Trailhawk. The smaller 1.6-litre diesel isn’t as powerful or smooth, and completes the benchmark sprint in the same 10.2 seconds as the 2.0, highlighting the extra weight and transmission losses of the 4WD 2.0 Mulitjet.
The petrol models have less power than the older engine range, so the 1.0 GSE petrol model has a 0-62mph time of 11.2 seconds, while the 1.3 GSE manages the sprint in 9.4 seconds.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
While a large-capacity petrol version of the Jeep Renegade is available in some markets, the UK gets the more efficient petrol and diesel engine options, and there is anough of a variety to cater for most needs.
The cheapest Renegade to run will be the 1.6 Multijet diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox. This has quoted fuel economy of 48.7mpg on the WLTP test cycle, while adding the six-speed auto sees this figure reduce slightly to 47.1mpg.
Go for the larger 2.0-litre diesel, and the manual version returns a claimed 40.4mpg, but the 9-speed auto-equipped version improves on this at 49.6mpg, which is even better than the 1.6. This also demonstrates the effectiveness of Jeep's Active Drive 4WD system, which effectively decouples the rear transmission to deliver the most efficient drive.
Choose a Trailhawk, and these figures deteriorate significantly. It doesn't have Active Drive, and when you factor in its higher power output and less efficient all-terrain tyres, a return of 35.8mpg is the end result.
The petrol models are actually more efficient than the Trailhawk. The 1.0 GSE manages 38.2mpg WLTP, while the auto-equipped 1.3 GSE has a better claimed economy of 39.8mpg.
Emissions range from 126g/km to 173g/km, so company car costs will be a little higher than they are for some rivals, but at least road tax is the same for all models.
The Jeep Renegade range isn’t too badly hit on the insurance front, with entry-level two-wheel-drive cars sitting in group 10, and the top-spec Trailhawk in group 15. For comparison, the Nissan Juke line-up ranges from insurance group eight to a hefty group 21. The Fiat 500X falls into groups seven to 16.
The depreciation curve doesn't look too bad for the Renegade. Our experts predict that it'll retain 38-43 per cent of its new value after three years, which is better than the mechanically identical Fiat 500X, but falls behind cars such as the Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V.
Interior, design and technology
While the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X share a platform and running gear, the Jeep brand characteristics come through strongly on the Renegade. The design has been conceived to invoke plenty of heritage from iconic Wrangler models, as well as the styling themes of the premium Grand Cherokee SUV.
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 car apart from some of its ‘cuter’ rivals in the crossover class – hence the bluff ‘seven-slot’ nose, squared-off wheelarches and bulbous tail-lights inspired by old US 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 looks quite purposeful. However, the standard versions are a bit dumpy, although the 2018 update has helped this a little.
Inside, Jeep squeezes in even more character touches. The Jeep ‘face’ of round headlights and the seven-slot grille is embossed 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.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Renegade’s funky cabin was given an update in 2018, so it now gets the same hi-tech features as the Cherokee. As standard there's a 5-inch screen, but an 8.4-inch interface is offered on Longitude models and above.
Standard kit includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although built-in sat-nav is also included. You get the usual array of connectivity, including USB sockets, 12v charging and Bluetooth phone connections.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The upright, boxy body means the Renegade offers a decent amount of space for five people. But in spite of some very obvious ‘design’, the interior can feel a little low-rent, with an all-black dash and some less-than-appealing plastics. Still, there are some colourful trim options available to brighten things up.
Standard equipment on basic cars includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a five-inch touchscreen and electric mirrors, plus air-con and electric windows. If you go for the Limited version, you get useful touches like automatic wipers and lights as well.
This model also brings parking sensors – almost a necessity in a car that’s surprisingly difficult to park considering its compact dimensions, as the thick front and rear pillars make vision awkward at times. Otherwise the Renegade is reasonably practical, with useful storage in the glovebox and a couple of cup-holders between the front seats.
Trailhawk models are designed with a more utilitarian feel inside and out; they’re set apart by details like rubber mats instead of carpets in the footwells and rugged exterior trim.
Backing up these tough looks are a number of other useful changes such as reshaped bumpers and a 20mm increase in ride height, giving the Renegade Trailhawk better off-road clearance. There are also underbody skid plates to protect vital parts should you bash a rock. This model benefits from improved fording ability, and – perhaps surprisingly – has the best ride quality on the road due to its chunky tyres, which absorb bumps.
Jeep has cannily designed the Renegade with dimensions to sit between supermini-sized compact crossovers and larger cars such as the Ford Kuga and new Hyundai Tucson. That, along with its boxy shape, means interior space is a relatively strong suit.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The doors open outwards by 70 degrees at the front and 80 degrees at the rear, aiding access, while the raised ride height means the Renegade isn’t difficult to climb into.
While there are three seatbelts in the back, the middle seat is quite narrow and knee room is in short supply for all rear passengers. Head and shoulder room is better, though, and Isofix child seat mountings are standard.
The boot offers a competitive 351 litres of space with the seats in place, and up to 1,297 litres when they’re folded. This is similar to rivals like the Nissan Juke and the MINI Countryman – the latter has an impressive 450-litre boot capacity, but only 1,170 litres with the seats folded.
Only top-spec Renegade models are available with 40:20:20 split folding seats as an option, and the load space isn’t the easiest to use, as the boot lip can be awkward. On the plus side, there’s a reversible floor, giving you a ‘wipe clean’ option.
The 2.0-litre diesel Renegade is a decent tow car, with a 1,500kg towing capacity. However, that drops to a weedy 960kg if you opt for the 1.6 MultiJet with an auto gearbox.
Reliability and Safety
With products like the Renegade, Jeep is looking to improve on its patchy reliability record. The brand ranked a disappointing 26th out of 32 in the manufacturers’ chart of the Auto Express Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey. It came 25th in the build quality category (Land Rover was only four places higher up the list), and 29th for reliability (two above Land Rover; four behind Fiat).
The Renegade is based on the Fiat 500X crossover, and given the parts sharing between the two brands, we’re not reassured by the ownership satisfaction potential. So while we look forward to seeing the car make an appearance in future Driver Power charts, we don’t hold out too much hope for a strong showing.
Still, the smallest Jeep scores well on safety, with the range offering up to 60 distinctive safety features as the brand set out its stall to produce the safest car in the class. This investment has paid off, as Euro NCAP awarded the Renegade the maximum five-star rating in its independent crash tests in 2014. The car scored 87 per cent for adult protection, 85 per cent for child protection and 65 per cent for pedestrian protection.
All models benefit from a high-strength steel body construction, as well as a multitude of airbags. Plus, automatic city braking features on the options list, so the Renegade stands every chance of living up to its tough looks in the event of an accident.
The Renegade comes with a three-year warranty as standard, although a five-year warranty is offered if you buy a Renegade on finance. Buyers can pay for extra cover, too, up to a maximum of seven years or 100,000 miles. The five-year cover also adds five years of roadside assistance, and three years' servicing, but also puts a 15,000-mile annual mileage limit in place.
Services are required annually or every 12,500 miles, which is similar to the competition. Parts for the Renegade shouldn’t be too expensive, either, given the component sharing with high-volume Fiat models.