There is very little you can do to get away from the fact that the Jeep Renegade is an important car for the American manufacturer. Firstly, it’s the first ever Jeep to be made and partly designed outside of the USA (in collaboration with Fiat Group’s takeover of Chrysler which was recently completed) and it is Jeep’s first all new model in a decade. Based on the Fiat 500L, the Renegade looks to be an exciting development in a developing and evolving part of the market.
Here is my full review after 800 miles, 22 hours of driving and a good deal of North Wales in January….
You may be forgiven for thinking the world hardly needs another small 4×4 in the Crossover segment, but upon first impressions Jeep have made a valiant effort here to ensure its off road credentials are as valid as possible. It looks the part, and has the right advertising campaign to go with it.
My activity with the Jeep Renegade started last year, when the Girl Outdoors and I headed to the Isles of Scilly to take part in Jeep’s ‘Renegades Wanted’ outreach programme. Keen to emphasise its ‘weekend adventure’ approach to life, we snorkeled with seals with Scilly Seal Snorkelling and got more than a bit involved in the amazing beauty and variety on these islands. Although you can’t take cars here, it’s obvious that Jeep are more than happy to promote the fact that the Isles of Scilly is the sort of place owners of the Jeep Renegade would want to explore.
You can view Sian’s article here.
With the idea of having an adventurous trip away to follow up on our activity with Jeep last year, I reviewed the top of the range Trailhawk model for a fantastic weekend of adventure in North Wales.
Here’s how it stacked up.
First impressions of the car, despite what many say about where it places itself within the Jeep range, were very positive. It will divide opinion, but I think Jeep have got the styling spot on, it looks far less like a shrunken Hummer than pictures appear and it has a great stance on the road. The Renegade doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, and this is confirmed by the wipe-down approach to the interior, clunky buttons and little nods to the company’s history throughout. I especially liked the ‘Since 1941’ embossed on the facade, the camo imprint inside the armrest cubby hole and the Jeep ‘jerrycan’ cross on the rear lights. Gimmicky, but nice touches nonetheless from a car that doesn’t pretend to be anything else. There are some genuinely nice features inside the cabin too – an excellent touchscreen system that works well, an ‘oh sh*t’ grab handle and plenty in the way of tough plastics that are well screwed together.
There is definitely nothing particularly gimmicky however about the Renegade’s willingness to tackle the rough stuff, and for the most part you can be pretty confident it’ll do it very well indeed. The ride can be firm, and the diesel engine rattly, but it’s what you expect and the car’s eagerness to pull forward and take you into unknown territory is easy to spot. It’s got a personality, and it’s immediately apparent that the personality it has is akin to a small dog. Keen, eager, and not too afraid to go places you probably think it shouldn’t. Or can’t, for that matter.
The Trailhawk model has some good features that you won’t get on some of the rest of the models, and I must admit they’d be worth going for. 210mm of extra ground clearance, new front and rear bumpers tuned for steep angles, skid plates and fuel tank shields and a great nine-speed auto with a crawler ratio and torque multiplication. All the stuff you’d genuinely want from a Jeep you’d take into the wilderness, in other words.
There are a good range of engines – from a fairly peppy 1.4 petrol to a 1.6 and two 2.0 diesels. For the best in off-road capability, the 2.0 138bhp or 168bhp, twinned the excellent nine speed auto gearbox, is the best way to go. Running and emissions concerns in Europe mean the 2.4 petrol won’t be coming to this country – but that’s no big deal – the 1.6 diesel is the best place to head for a good combination of refinement and excellent mpg on the road, but some may find it a little pedestrian in a relatively large car.
On the Road
The Jeep Renegade’s on-road ability isn’t compromised by it’s eagerness for adventure, and the wider tyres and firmer ride on the Trailhawk model I tested ensured it’s probably the best handling of the bunch. It has some body roll on the twisty stuff, but it isn’t offensive, and the steering is weighted very well, meaning it can be thrown around. Unlike other big cars of this nature, it doesn’t feel like it’s getting away from you. There is competition in this sector however, and if off-roading isn’t your priority you may get a better on road feel from the likes more mainstream crossovers like the Nissan Juke or Mazda CX-5.
Interior & Space
Refined as it might be from the driver’s seat, rear passengers suffer a little and although height isn’t a factor, rear legroom and visibility could be much improved. Boot space feels limited but is actually quite good when pitted against the competition, and the rough and ready, wipe-down approach to the interior means you won’t worry too much about getting it more than a bit muddy. For our shoot in North Wales, the interior actually took a bit of a battering, but it continued to be a very pleasant place to be. Optional extras that come on the Trailhawk model such as heated seats and a heated steering wheel will genuinely appease people whose priority is weekend adventures in inclement weather. For the most part, I loved the cabin, it’s quirky while at same time self assured and confident – although the car feels big, visibility from the front is great and you’ll never wonder where the corners are in small spaces. The soft feel dashboard, clear instruments and a great range of adjustable driving positions make the cabin a perfectly enjoyable place to be for long distances.
Does it Go Anywhere?
There is no denying there is a confusing range of power train options. If ‘going anywhere’ is important to you, a 2.0 engine is a must, but it must not be forgotten that the majority of Renegade’s will ship with a front wheel drive system.
Driving from Bristol to North Wales, around North Wales, to Chester and then back to Bristol, it’s suffice to say that in the week I had the Jeep Renegade we covered a fair distance. Along with a full film crew and countless jumping in and out, I only warmed to the car more and more and was charmed at its willingness to accommodate us.
The Renegade puts other cars of this nature to shame. The fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously is a major bonus in this area, it simply charms you and surprises you with its go-anywhere approach, and will undoubtedly beat most landscapes the majority of owners wouldn’t dare take it near.
There is a case to suggest here that this is where the definite argument for the Jeep Renegade runs out. Size, on road capability and build quality would suggest pricing somewhere on par with the Skoda Yeti 4×4 or Fiat Panda 4×4, but instead the Trailhawk model starts at a shade more than £28,000, which is dangerous territory. I still don’t think however you’ll find a better alternative in this sector if heading for the rough stuff is your game.
There are some small gripes with the on road handling, space and comfort and the agricultural feel of the diesel engines in the Jeep Renegade, but these are minor and actually in many ways absolutely purposeful.
The best thing about the Renegade is the fact that it references so cleverly Jeep’s heritage – from the clattery diesel engines and agricultural feel to the fact you’ll never doubt its willingness to jump the nearest fence and go charging down a muddy lane. I warmed to this car so much that after our little adventure to North Wales in it, I was genuinely sad when my week was up. It’s fun, it has a carefree attitude and given its Fiat 500L underpinnings (which is a car that hardly sets the world on fire) it is pitched exactly right for those who would be willing to drive up a steep muddy hill at the weekend and then take it to work on Monday morning.
The best bits are what Jeep have sought to carry over from their cars of the past – not in how it stacks up against the competition. Yes, it’s quite expensive, and probably too expensive for where Jeep wanted the car to sit in the market. In the sector it inevitably now sits in, against full size crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai, it ends up looking like a charming and left field alternative, but that is absolutely the best thing about it and why it shouldn’t be discredited.
It won’t come as any surprise to say that Jeep are looking at younger buyers who want an entry into the off-roading market. I don’t think they’ll have any problems shifting numbers – and who cares if it doesn’t quite stack up against its direct competition. Surely rough and ready is the new cool – and who wants a car with off road capability that you can also wear a suit in?
Get it muddy, treat it with a pinch of salt, be charmed by its quirks and smile and its willingness to have some fun. If you can manage to do all of that, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest.