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 2018. 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 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.
Petrol power in the Renegade range includes a 118bhp 1.0-litre, three-cylinder unit, paired with a six-speed manual transmission, and a larger capacity 1.3-litre, four-cylinder engine, mated to a six-speed DDCT auto 'box delivering 148bhp. Both of these petrol versions are front-wheel drive only.
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Jeep has also introduced the Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid model, which combines a 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine providing drive to the front wheels, with an 11.4kWh battery pack and electric motor driving the rear wheels. Two individual power outputs are available: 187bhp and 237bhp.
Prices for the Jeep Renegade start at just over £23,000, which is at the higher end of the spectrum for small SUVs, but all cars come pretty well equipped. Trim lines run through Longitude, Night Eagle and Limited, with an 80th Anniversary special edition also on the price list.
The 4xe plug-in hybrid model has a slightly different trim lineup with Limited, Longitude and TrailHawk specifications. All cars feature dual zone air-con, rear parking sensors, a lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition, while a DAB Radio and Bluetooth are also included.
Regular combustion-engined models are front-wheel drive, while the plug-in hybrid cars feature all-wheel-drive as standard, with the TrailHawk version adding a terrain select system for extra confidence off-road.
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 Renegade 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.
With certain models featuring adaptive all-wheel-drive with settings for different surfaces, plenty of ground clearance and equally good body control, the little Jeep is almost unstoppable off-road, with much of the light-on-its-feet feel that a Fiat Panda 4x4 enjoys.
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.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
Jeep offers the Renegade with a choice of two petrol options and a plug-in hybrid model with two power outputs.
Front-wheel drive variants are powered by either a 118bhp 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, or a 148bhp 1.3-litre, four-cylinder unit. The lower-powered version manages 0-62mph in 11.2s, while an extra 30bhp buys you a sprint time of 9.4s. The 4xe plug-in hybrid model is the fastest Renegade with a time of 7.5s (7.1s for the 237bhp TrailHawk version).
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The entry-level 118bhp 1.0-litre car is reasonably efficient, delivering an average of 43.5mpg on the combined cycle. CO2 emissions are a little high, though, at 147g/km, putting it in the 33% BiK tax bracket for company car users.
Moving up to the more powerful 148bhp 1.3-litre model sees a slight fall in economy to 42.8mpg, with 150g/km of CO2 and a 1% increase in the BiK rate.
Business users or those regularly undertaking shorter journeys might be swayed towards the Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid model. Starting from just under £33,000, it's more expensive to buy than the petrol-powered versions, but Jeep claims the 4xe is able to run for up to 31 miles on electric power alone. The overall fuel economy figure sits at around 112mpg - as long as you're able to keep the battery topped up. CO2 emissions of 51g/km means a 14% Benefit-in-Kind rate.
The Jeep Renegade range isn’t too badly hit on the insurance front, with entry-level 118bhp two-wheel-drive cars sitting in group 10. The 148bhp models are only a few groups higher, although there is quite a jump to insure a 4xe plug-in model, as they are in groups 22 to 25, depending on specification.
The depreciation curve doesn't look too bad for the Renegade. Our experts predict that it'll retain 40-45% of its new value after three-years/36,000-miles of ownership, which is better than the mechanically identical Fiat 500X, but falls behind cars such as the 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 tow hooks, 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 a standard 8.4-inch touchscreen interface and a 7.0-inch TFT screen.
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 electric mirrors, plus dual-zone air-con and rear parking sensors. If you go for the Limited version, you get useful touches like automatic wipers and lights as well.
The parking sensors are a definite 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, although this figure drops to 1,250kg for the 1.0-litre petrol engine.
Reliability and Safety
With products like the Renegade, Jeep is looking to improve on its patchy reliability record, but neither the Renegade model nor the Jeep brand featured in our latest Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
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.
Back in 2014, Euro NCAP awarded the Renegade a full five-star rating for safety, however as a mark of ever-improving standards in this area, Jeep's small SUV only managed a three-star rating when retested in 2019 under more stringent testing. Although adult and child protection achieved 82% and 84% scores, respectively, pedestrian safety was poor in some areas.
All models benefit from a high-strength steel body construction, a multitude of airbags and other features such as traffic sign recognition, a lane-departure warning system and rollover mitigation that helps to prevent the car tipping over during emergency manoeuvres.
Optional safety kit includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning systems and rear cross protection, which alerts you to vehicles approaching the back of the car while reversing.
Jeep offers the Renegade with a standard 36 month warranty, although Toyota provides the C-HR with five-year, unlimited mileage cover
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.