Jeep’s urban warrior Renegade likes to play rough

Small but not soft: Funky Jeep Renegade is happy on road and surprisingly capable when the going get

Small but not soft: Funky Jeep Renegade is happy on road and surprisingly capable when the going gets tough. - Credit: Jeep

Jeep is expecting big thinks of its first small SUV and the Renegade doesn't disappoint, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

FIRSTS FOR JEEP

The Renegade, Jeep's first entry into the small sport utility vehicle market, has a huge part to play in building on more than 70 years of heritage.

Jeep may be an American dream but the Renegade is the first built exclusively in Europe, alongside owner Fiat's new 500X crossover in Italy, but sold in America.

And, riding on 19 months of year-on-year UK sales growth making it the fastest growing car brand this year, the Renegade aims to do two-thirds of Jeep's 10,000 sales target this year. This small SUV is going to be big business.


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STANDOUT STYLING

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The chunky, funky styling, shown off best in bright colours, stands out in a sector dominated by curvy crossovers with its rugged Wrangler-inspired design with classic styling cues such as the seven-slot grille and round headlamps.

In homage to its heritage, and a sense of fun, the Renegade' X design theme, inspired by jerry cans on the back of the wartime Willys Jeep, features on the Wrangler-like square tail lamps, optional My Sky twin removable lightweight roof panels and even the cup-holders.

UNDER THE BONNET

There are 110hp 1.6-litre petrol and 140 and 170hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol and 120hp 1.6-litre and 140 and 170hp 2.0-litre turbo diesels.

Four-wheel drive is standard on 2.0-litre diesel and available with the turbo petrol engine which are also offered with a nine-speed automatic gearbox – another segment first.

Most owners will go for front-wheel drive 140hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol and 120hp 1.6-litre turbo diesel models.

The peppy petrol pulls from low revs but comes alive higher up the range, when you make use of the light, slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox but if you do higher mileage, the 1.6-litre turbo diesel hits the spot with strong low and mid-range urgency but runs out of puff higher up the range.

ON THE ROAD

The Renegade shares its running gear with the 500X so benefits from Fiat's expertise at building small cars. It's little urban warrior designed to switch from city slicker to getting to grips off the beaten track.

Jeep has aimed to make it as well mannered off road as it is on road. For a compact SUV the ride is good and, while a little sensitive on scarred surfaces, it improves with speed.

It feels well planted, given the higher ground clearance and long-travel suspension, so you can corner with confidence and passengers won't feel as though they are on a rollercoaster despite some body roll.

AND OFF ROAD

Don't think this compact SUV doesn't live up to Jeep's heritage. It's just as capable off road with the launch road including some soft-sand beach driving and a testing off-road section with sticky mud to highlight the four-wheel drive versions' ability to shift traction front to rear and keep the Renegade moving even with one wheel off the ground over rough and tumble terrain.

A flagship 170hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel Trailhawk version gets low-ratio crawl gearing, more ground clearance, all-terrain tyres and a rock mode on top of 4x4 models' auto, snow, sand and mud off-road settings.

It's unlikely any owner would be so demanding of their Renegade but it's good to know it can do it.

INSIDE STORY

The Renegade is also rather roomy given its compact size. The tall body means generous headroom and most adults will be happy with legroom in the back provided those up front aren't greedy.

It hasn't been at the expense of boot space with 351 litres, rising to 1,297 litres with the 60/40 rear seat backs folded flat. For added versatility a removable, reversible and height-adjustable cargo floor panel is an option.

The interior has a higher quality feel than Jeeps of old and the fascia is nicely finished with soft-touch materials where you come into contact with them.

It also has funky feel with an interesting 'mudsplat' red zone on the rev counter – it's all about being Renegade.

Connectivity is an important aspect of any modern car and all models get a Uconnect touchscreen to control functions such as Bluetooth and audio while top models get a bigger screen and integrated sat-nav.

WHAT IT OFFERS

Available in Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk versions, the Renegade looks expensive compared to some rivals but, with Jeep aiming to move upmarket with a more premium feel and equipment, it brings serious off-road ability to the sector and the Jeep name has kudos so it's a price many people will pay with early orders almost double the forecast.

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