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Car group tests

Jeep Renegade vs SEAT Arona

Is the Jeep Renegade's funky styling and new petrol enough to conquer the SEAT Arona?

The rise in popularity of SUVs of all sizes aligns nicely with Jeep’s heritage. Even if the US brand mostly made a name for itself with real rough-tough off-roaders, the badge is synonymous with SUVs of all kinds.

Jeep’s most recent foray into the compact SUV class came in 2014 with the Renegade. Sales have been modest, but the resurgence of petrol power has given Jeep a chance to update its model with a new look and a three-cylinder petrol engine. The latter should give the car even greater efficiency without impacting too much on the Renegade’s rugged charm. 

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When the Jeep was first launched, there were few small SUVs on sale. But now at this size and price point the Renegade bhas to face all manner of competition, many of which boast deep reserves of talent. 

The SEAT Arona is one of the many competent compact crossovers now available, and with a 1.0-litre petrol unit to match the Jeep’s, and its own character dictated by the smart styling, this is one car the personality-packed Renegade should set its sights on.

Jeep Renegade

Model:Jeep Renegade 1.0 GSE T3 Limited
Price:£25,145
Engine:1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 118bhp 
0-60mph:10.4 seconds
Test economy:37.5mpg/8.3mpl 
CO2:138g/km
Annual road tax:£145

This GSE T3 120 aligns the Renegade with a group of more affordable, lower-powered petrol rivals than before – so how does the £25,145 Limited model compare with the SEAT Arona?

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Design & engineering

While the Renegade’s Fiat-derived platform is the same as before, it’s the new 118bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine – also shared with Fiat models such as the 500X – that’s important here. Alongside that power output, it produces 190Nm of torque, meaning it’s 5bhp up but 10Nm down on the SEAT. 

These two cars aren’t necessarily about total performance, though. A rounded blend of ability attracts buyers in this class, and while our test car’s six-speed manual transmission only sends power to the front wheels, the Renegade has been built with four-wheel drive in mind. As a result, it has MacPherson strut suspension at the front and rear, whereas the SEAT only gets a torsion-beam back axle.

Technically these models are similar, but it’s all in the execution, and the Renegade boasts some neat features that have captured the essence of what a Jeep should offer. These include an original grille and headlight motif on the speakers, and a small Jeep silhouette on the windscreen.

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While these points are minor, they give the Renegade a sense of personality in a class full of fairly derivative competitors. The styling, which has been sharpened up with this facelift, carves the Jeep out as something different, too. 

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Limited trim boasts all-round parking sensors, a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, heated leather seats, nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so there’s a good haul of equipment. Unfortunately, the cabin quality doesn’t match the high price. The design is fine, with chunky buttons making features easy to use on the move, but some of the plastics and finish could be better. The Arona’s quality serves to highlight this.

Driving

The experience at the wheel of the Renegade doesn’t get off to a great start. Engaging first gear with the six-speed manual points towards a less-than-precise and slightly baggy shift action, which doesn’t improve once things are under way. After some initial turbo lag, the engine delivers its power in a lazy, sluggish lump, so the Jeep can seem a bit lethargic. But it’s fairly refined, and once you get used to the power delivery and gearshift it’s easier to get a measure of the Renegade, and it becomes more enjoyable to drive.

It’s fast enough, too, despite that slight lag and lethargy while shifting the Jeep’s extra mass compared with the SEAT. The performance deficit to the Arona showed in our tests; the Jeep was 1.2 seconds slower from 0-60mph, taking 10.4 seconds, for example, while the Arona comfortably beat it by half a second or more in each of our in-gear assessments. Still, the Renegade never feels too slow.

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You can almost forgive it, because it delivers appeal in other areas. The steering is slow and mushy, and the car needs subtle correction on the motorway to keep it on line, but it’s quick enough to keep pace with motorway traffic. And while the Renegade is slower than the Arona and nowhere near as agile, it rides well and is relatively agreeable to travel in. It’s refreshing to feel a set-up that sacrifices a bit of dynamism to focus on comfort, and it’s this element that adds to the Jeep’s personality.

Practicality

Thanks to its high driving position, the Renegade offers pretty decent visibility. This is helped by big mirrors, although they do create a lot of wind noise. The Jeep feels deceptively like a big SUV, and gives the commanding, safe sensation many buyers are looking for. That’s backed up by plenty of safety tech, too.

The bluff, boxy styling means there’s loads of head and legroom inside – more than in the Arona, in fact – but although the Renegade’s dimensions are larger than the SEAT’s, the Spanish SUV is better packaged when it comes to boot space. The Renegade offers only 351 litres with the rear seats in place, while the Arona boasts 400 litres. This much luggage room offsets the SEAT’s only slightly smaller back seats.

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Ownership

The Jeep gets a good level of safety technology, with autonomous braking, collision warning and lane-keep assist fitted as standard. You can add blind-spot warning for £750 as part of an option pack that also features rear cross-traffic alert. While the Renegade scored a five-star Euro NCAP rating, it was tested in 2014, and standards are tougher now, so you can’t compare it to the Arona directly. However, the extra safety tech means the Renegade still offers good protection.

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It’s also worth mentioning Jeep’s 5-3-5 package, with its five-year warranty, three years of free servicing and five-year breakdown cover. SEAT offers three years’ warranty cover and breakdown, while two years’ servicing costs £384.

Running costs

The Renegade loses out elsewhere for running costs, because the heavier Jeep was less efficient on our test, returning 37.5mpg to the SEAT’s 41.2mpg. This means you’ll spend an extra £169 on fuel per year based on these figures, at £1,879 in total.

If you’re a business user, the less efficient Renegade with its 138g/km of CO2 emissions sits in the 31 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax bracket, compared with the 26 per cent group for the 114g/km Arona. It means the same driver paying tax at the lower rate will have to make contributions of £1,543 a year to run the Jeep and just £1,196 for the SEAT.

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Testers' notes

“Jeep’s heritage is in off-roading, so if you plan to stray away from the tarmac, it's reassuring to know the Renegade is capable off-road."

SEAT Arona 

Model:SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI 115 Xcellence Lux
Price:£23,230
Engine:1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 113bhp 
0-60mph:9.2 seconds
Test economy:41.2mpg/9.1mpl 
CO2:114g/km 
Annual road tax:£145

The Arona is one of the best crossovers currently on sale, with the packaging and personality – not to mention the powertrain – to match those of the Renegade. While our pictures show an FR, we’re testing a top-spec £23,230 Xcellence Lux with the 1.0 TSI 115 engine.

Design & engineering

We’ve previously tested the Renegade against larger cars such as the Nissan Qashqai, but with the recent swing away from diesel towards petrol power, the addition of the 118bhp three-cylinder Jeep means it now has to fight off competition from smaller crossovers boasting similar power, such as the Arona.

In fact, while the engines make similar outputs, the dimensions are also incredibly close. The SEAT is only 25mm narrower than the Renegade, and the wheelbase is just 4mm shorter, which means a similar level of overall cabin space, as we’ll see. The Arona is based on SEAT’s MQB A0 platform that it inherited from the VW Group, with the 1.0-litre triple under the bonnet being a known quantity, too. This produces 113bhp and 200Nm of torque.

Style is very important to buyers of compact SUVs. With that in mind, SEAT has created a funky, fresh look, as has Jeep. The Arona has just a little more personalisation potential, though, because although with the Renegade you can choose a black-painted roof and different-coloured wheels, SEAT offers contrasting body and roof colours with a silver finisher, plus metallic paint is included.

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Build quality is better than in the Jeep, because the SEAT’s cabin feels better screwed together and, in places, the materials are also plusher, despite the price gap between the two cars. There are nicer surfaces wherever it matters, while the infotainment system is great.

Xcellence Lux comes with metallic paint, an eight-inch touchscreen complete with satellite navigation, CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, plus a digital dashboard, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, heated seats, keyless operation and a good level of safety equipment. The only thing the Arona really misses out on compared with the Jeep is leather upholstery – but then, the SEAT is £1,915 cheaper to buy.

Driving

The Arona is undoubtedly a much more capable car than the Renegade. The steering is both quicker and more precise, which means the SEAT is a little more relaxing than the Jeep on the motorway because it doesn’t require constant attention to keep the car on your chosen path.

The ride is also more settled and better resolved, absorbing bumps with some compliance. However, very sharp imperfections do send the wheels rebounding aggressively. Despite this mostly comfortable side to the Arona’s ride, there’s also more grip, and it feels direct and corners harder.

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It’s more refined, too, helped by the three-cylinder engine. The 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit isn’t exactly full of character, but it certainly delivers the performance required. On test, the 0-60mph sprint took 9.2 seconds, the car went from 30-70mph through the gears in 9.1 seconds, and it accelerated from 50-70mph in fifth gear in 8.7 seconds. This was 1.2, 1.2 and 1.1 seconds faster than the Jeep respectively.

While the Renegade isn’t inadequate in any given area, but merely slightly deficient in a few, the Arona is the more competent car in pretty much every aspect of dynamic ability.

Practicality

The Arona’s interior packaging is particularly impressive. The Renegade does have more overall space – particularly in headroom, thanks to its tall, square roofline – yet when it comes to legroom the advantage is not as much as you might expect.

The SEAT is spacious enough, and its boot area offers an additional 49 litres, at 400 litres. The cabin is not quite as easy to get into as the Renegade’s, but access is still good, while interior storage space is useful, too. There’s a tray in front of the gearlever for your phone – in which the device charges wirelessly – plus two cup-holders and acceptably sized door bins. The Jeep has various trays, ledges, bins, cup-holders and other cubbies as well, meaning it offers a wider range of storage options.

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Ownership

SEAT was an average performer in our most recent Driver Power owner-satisfaction survey, taking 14th spot in our study. Jeep didn’t feature in the overall table, but its dealers did rank especially well with owners, because they finished fifth. SEAT’s official network could manage only 23rd place, which was near the bottom of the table.

The Arona has enough safety tech to match the Renegade’s, with autonomous braking, adaptive cruise, all-round parking sensors and a rear-view camera, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. It scored a five-star Euro NCAP rating in 2017.

Running costs

You can check out PCP deals for the Arona on the right, and compare them with the Jeep’s, but for cash buyers the SEAT will hold on to more money after three years or 36,000 miles, according to our experts. The residual value should be around 45.6 per cent, which equates to £10,600 and depreciation of £12,630. The Jeep can’t match this; our experts predict it’ll hold on to only 38.2 per cent, which works out at £9,600 in cash terms. That means depreciation of £15,545.

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Testers' notes

“The way SEAT structures its trim range means there are very few options. It’s a shame, because adding features such as the digital dash to certain other trim levels would be appealing.”

Verdict

First place: SEAT Arona

The Arona is the better car of the two on test in pretty much every respect. It’s cheaper than the Renegade to buy (and gets only a little less kit), offers more boot space and nearly as much passenger room, it’s faster, more refined, more comfortable, better to drive and feels more hi-tech, too. It’s not quite as individual, but it does show how versatile small crossovers can be. 

Second place: Jeep Renegade

The Renegade is improved with this 1.0 engine, because there’s just enough punch, a decent level of comfort and plenty of space. The kit spec is generous, too, but it’s the way Jeep has captured real character and injected it into the car that we like. Ultimately, the Renegade is pricier and more costly to run than the Arona, and not as fast, economical or comfortable, but it’s a likeable little SUV.

Also consider...

Skoda Karoq

Model: Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE LPrice: £25,905Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 148bhp

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The Karoq shows how relatively pricey the Jeep is. For just a little more (and probably less a month) you can get a similarly specced, much more practical and more powerful family SUV with up to 588 litres of luggage room.

Mazda CX-5

Model: Mazda CX-5 2.0 SE-L Nav+Price: £24,995Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 163bhp

This budget will get you into a nearly new CX-5 in well equipped SE-L Nav+ trim. As with the Karoq, it’s more premium and practical, and for this budget it will have covered hardly any miles. It won’t be as efficient, but it drives sweetly.

Figures

 SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI 115 Xcellence Lux

Jeep Renegade 1.0 GSE T3Limited

 

On the road price/total as tested£23,230/£23,230£25,145/£28,055
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£10,600/45.6%£9,600/38.2%
Depreciation£12,630£15,545
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,196/£2,393£1,543/£3,085
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,711/£2,851£1,879/£3,132
Insurance group/quote/VED12/£345/£14511/£351/£145
Servicing options£16 per month (2yrs)3yrs free
Length/wheelbase4,138/2,566mm4,236/2,570mm
Height/width1,543/1,780mm1,667/1,805mm
Engine3cyl in-line/999cc3cyl in-line/999cc
Peak power/revs 113/5,000 bhp/rpm118/5,750 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 200/2,000 Nm/rpm190/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-speed man/fwd6-speed man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel40 litres/£11048 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)400 litres/N/A351/1,297 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,114/596/1,200kg1,320/540/1,250kg
Turning circle10.6 metres11.1 metres
Basic warranty/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs5yrs (75,000)/5yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.14th/23rdN/A/5th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars95/80/77/60/5 (17)87/85/65/74/5 (14)
0-60/30-70mph9.2/9.1 secs10.4/10.3 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th4.3/6.0 secs4.7/6.5 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th8.7/12.2 secs9.8/12.6 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 118mph/2,400rpm115mph/2,700rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 47.6/35.0/8.9m50.8/37.0/8.6m
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range41.2/9.1/363 miles37.5/8.3/396 miles
WLTP combined (mpg/mpl)43.5-47.1/9.6-10.437.2/8.2
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket158/114g/km/26%174/138g/km/31%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/F&R/yesSix/yes/F&R/yes
Auto box/lane-keep/blindspot/AEB£2,000/no/yes/yesNo/yes/£750*/yes
Clim ctrl/cruise/leather/heated seatsYes/adaptive/no/yesYes/adaptive/yes/yes
Keyless entry & go/digital dashYes/yes£700*/no
Metallic paint/LEDs/power tailgateYes/yes/no£700/yes/no
Sat-nav/DAB/connected servicesYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android AutoYes/yes/yesNo/yes/yes
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