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Jeep Renegade: First drive review

The Good

  • Bold, cheeky styling
  • Off-roads like a boss
  • Competent on flat roads

The Bad

  • Interior looks dated
  • Could be cheaper
3.5

Jeep is going after younger, adventurous types with a funky new off-roader that’s a bit of a Renegade by name as well as by nature.  

The Renegade promises a choice of funky interior and exterior colours, customisation options galore, brash styling and serious off-roading credentials. But should anyone of sane mind rebel against established European or Japanese rivals for a slice of the American dream? We headed to the beautiful city of Edinburgh in Scotland to find out.

Design

The new Renegade is the smallest Jeep ever but it is anything but pokey. Six-footers are easily accommodated thanks to its boxy proportions that lie somewhere between the smaller Mini Countryman and the larger Nissan Qashqai.

“You can, in fact, choose to have a US Army Star on the side if you so desire…”

You have to hand it to Jeep, the Renegade has a certain charm about it. The louder orange, blue and yellow paintjobs are hard to miss, for starters, while the chunky grille, round headlights and boxy proprtions make it look somewhere between a toy and a military vehicle.

You can, in fact, choose to have a US Army Star on the side if you so desire, in addition to a choice of 11 paint finishes, six wheel designs and more than 110 accessories, all designed to make your Renegade more personal. 

Inside is rugged plastic aplenty. It looks cheap and dated but somehow feels appropriate in a car designed to conquer the mucky outdoors. We particularly like the big handle above the glove box, which is presumably there for nervous passengers to steady themselves if you go off the beaten track.

Practicality

The Renegade has plenty of interior space, including a 351-litre boot that’s on par with a Fiat 500X (which shares the same underyling platform but little else), Countryman and Juke. A Qashqai has 80 litres more boot space, mind you.

Fold down the rear seats and there is 1,297 litres of boot to play with, which is competitive. The door bins are on the small side because of the speaker positioning, but cup holders and a multitude of storage areas help make up for that.

The middle seat is usable as it has a seatbelt and is flat, adding to the practicality, while the doors can open wide at the front and rear so getting in and out is a doddle, despite the extra ground clearance putting the Renegade further away from terra firma.

Performance & handling

Even at motorway speeds, the Renegade is surprisingly quiet, with wind noise and the diesel rumbles kept to a minimum. The nine-speed automatic seen in the 500X is a treat, but the six-speed manual is a very worth consideration as it lends itself to the rugged, hands-on nature of the car. 

The ride quality is good, for the most part, with just the right amount of firmness to make cornering fun. There is a bit of body roll but it’s nothing alarming. 

“Four-wheel drive is available and is certainly very capable of getting you over obstacles most cars would weep at.”The Renegade’s diesel and petrol engines provide enough performance to deal with overtaking. The 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel in particular offers a hefty 320Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm, allowing a 0-62mph sprint in 10.2 seconds. 

Jeep has plenty of experience building off-roaders and that shows with the Renegade. The cheapest cars are two-wheel-drive, but even those aren’t shy across rough terrain. Four-wheel drive is available as an option as part of Jeep’s ‘Jeep Active Drive’ system.

Jeep Active Drive – available on Longitude and Limited models – can switch between two- and four-wheel drive as the driving conditions dictate, meaning fuel is never wasted driving all four wheels unnecessarily, while low-traction moments are dealt with seamlessly.

The top-spec Trailhawk and Limited models benefit from Jeep Active Drive Low, which has a 20:1 low range ratio for especially challenging terrain. Both 4×4 systems let you switch between various modes (snow, sand, mud and auto) using Jeep’s Selec-Terrain.

We put it through its paces on a difficult off-road course comprising steep muddy hills, tree logs and angled banks, none of which were a match. Nor was the sea, slippery rocks and relatively deep sand. Slip it into first gear, steer towards your target and the Renegade will do its thing like a seasoned veteran.

Economy & environment

The 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel offers a great balance of performance and penny-saving, thanks to a fuel economy figure of 51.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 120g/km. The more powerful 2.0-litre MultiJet 4WD diesel manages 40.9mpg and 151g/km. 

In the petrol camp are three petrol options of varying horsepower, including a 1.4-litre MultiAir II 4WD that boasts a 0 to 62mph time of 8.8 seconds while drinking fuel to the tune of 32.1mpg. CO2 emisisons, meanwhile, are 160g/km. 

Given the 4×4 nature of the Renegade, we favoured the 1.6-litre diesel as it gives the best mix of eco-credentials and thrills without being too noisy. The petrols are quieter, admittedly, but that generous dollop of diesel torque inspires confidence when the going gets tough.

Equipment & value

There are four trim levels to choose between: Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk. A fifth, known as Opening Edition, will be available for early customers who want a bit of extra luxury.

Standard equipment on the Renegade Sport includes a 5-inch Uconnect touchscreen display, DAB digital radio, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, air-conditioning, electric parking brake, 16-inch aluminium alloy wheels and a 3.5-inch digital dashboard display. 

Longitude adds optional four-wheel drive to the mix in addition to standard cruise control, ambient LED lighting, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloys.

“The Renegade is as happy on roads as it is tearing up sand dunes and ploughing through rivers.”Limited ups the alloys to 18-inch, while the display becomes a 6.5-inch touchscreen with in-built navigation. It also gets rear parking sensors, silver roof rails, privacy glass, heated front seats and a heater steering wheel among a few other bits and bobs.

Atop the range is Trailhawk. As the name suggests, this is the most off-road focussed model, bringing with it an extra 30mm of ride height over the 4×2 model, tow hook, hill descent control, chunky mud and snow tyres, and skid plates for the transmission and fuel tank. 

Prices start from £18,640 for the 1.6 MultiJet II 120hp six-speed manual, making it more expensive than a 500X or Juke, which start from £14,595 and £13,420, respectively, both of which are nearly as well-specced.

Factor in four-wheel drive and the Renegade is, however, a couple of grand cheaper than the cheapest equivalent Qashqai, priced at £22,610 for the 140hp 2.0 MultiJet II Longitude diesel.

Safety

There are so many safety systems available on the Renegade you will have a hard time hurting it or yourself. There’s no Euro NCAP to go on, but six airbags and electronic stability control are fitted as standard, while the tough exterior should take a hit. Lane departure assist, meanwhile, keeps you from wandering into other lanes by steering you back and bleeping loudly, while automatic braking applies the brakes if you are too slow to react. 

Verdict

We like the fact the little Jeep rebels against the norm by offering excellent off-road capabilities and a hefty dose of practicality in unmistakably brash and unapologetic fashion. 

It has great on-road manners and is equally happy tearing up sand dunes and ploughing through rivers, while the bold, toy-like styling inspires confidence and brings out your inner child.

There are cheaper (albeit less versatile) alternatives, and you’ll need to justify paying a premium for off-road skills that you may never put to use, but those who do will find reward. Will you ever need to drive up a steep muddy embankment on the way to work? Probably not. But is it nice to have the option? You bet, and that only adds to the Renegade’s appeal.

Jeep Renegade pictures

Specification

Engine1.6 MultiJet II diesel
Power120hp
Torque320Nm at 1,750rpm
Acceleration0 to 62mph in 10.2 seconds
Emissions120g/km
Economy51.4mpg
Price£18,640

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