Jeep has conceded that the cars upon which it built its reputation just don’t have enough mainstream appeal, which is where the idea for the incredibly popular Renegade came from. Fitting snugly into the fastest-growing sector of the new car market, this compact SUV with more heritage than most is Jeep’s first foray into popular motoring, and the company has done a solid job.
|Body Style: SUV||Seats: 5||MRP from £18,195 - £29,495|
Did you know? Jeep put together an unusually young design team on the Renegade project, and the end result is more than 30 intriguing design ‘Easter eggs’.
Jeep is developing its cars to be better on the road, and taking a platform from sister company Fiat was a sensible thing to do. With a sound base taken care of, Jeep has added its own identity to create a product that looks and feels very different from the cars with which it shares its greasy bits. The ride quality could be better and the engine bay needs more soundproofing, but the Renegade captures a unique likeability that encourages you to look past its flaws. Even so, with pricing putting it up against the likes of the Skoda Karoq, Seat Ateca, VW T-Roc, Audi Q2 and Mini Countryman, it's outclassed on performance, refinement, practicality and perceived interior quality.
Butch Jeep looks
High driving position
Credible off-road ability
We Don't Like
Noisy diesel engines
High-spec models are expensive
Interior plastics can’t match class leaders
Jeep has penned a simple, boxy shape instantly recognisable as belonging to its long line of off-roaders, yet it looks very different to any other Jeep there has ever been. It shares design cues like the seven-spar grille, squared-off wheelarches and straight-ish lines, but this is very clearly a departure from the Jeep norm.
It also looks much bigger than it is. It feels that way from the driver’s seat, too, but in reality some very clever design work has emphasised the stark blockiness of the finished article. It helps give the car an authentic off-road flavour that is missing from most other compact SUVs. It’s all about maximum showroom appeal, like a poseur on California’s Muscle Beach.
Jeep’s image is a mixed one, but from the sales figures so far, it seems clear that the American off-roader image outweighs the question marks over past build quality. Of the 14,000 cars Jeep sold in the UK in 2016, 11,000 were Renegades.
The Renegade’s interior makes a joke of its off-road ability, but on the rough stuff the baby Jeep is deadly serious. The cabin is playful and innovative, with cute reminders everywhere that you’re driving a proper off-roader. Little Willys Jeeps, mock relief maps and multiple appearances from the ‘Sergeant’s Grill’, to use the American spelling, all add a light-hearted ambience to an otherwise chunky and purposeful dashboard and centre console.
However, the plastics that Jeep has used to put the package together are well below the standard set elsewhere amongst the Renegade’s rivals. Hard, scratchy, thin and generally insubstantial-feeling surfaces are compounded by trim rattles, even on low-mileage cars.
From the driver’s seat the dashboard seems high and broad until you raise the seat right up. Some people will like the sense of size it offers, others might not.
One element of practicality very much in the Jeep’s favour is its off-road ability, which eclipses that of just about any similarly-sized vehicle on sale in the UK. Only 20 percent of Renegades sold in the UK are actually four-wheel drive, but the point stands that the platform can tackle serious off-roading.
Four-wheel-drive versions come with the Active Drive System, allowing the driver to either leave the car to its own devices in Auto mode or specify a type of terrain, which then adjusts the throttle response and traction control settings to better cope with that specific surface. A ‘Low’ ratio is actually first gear among the nine ratios. On the road, it pulls away in second.
The interior itself is actually no more or less practical than any other small SUVs. Two cupholders sit nice and low between the front seats, but the door pockets are short. High-end models add leather seats, which wipe clean easier than cloth but fare much less well with scratches. It’s also worth noting that the boot is smaller than those in most Volkswagen Golf-sized hatchbacks, and is certainly smaller and less useful than the big boots you get in the Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca.
|Min: 351 litres|
|Max: 1,189 litres|
Standardising Bluetooth connectivity across the range is a commendable touch that comes courtesy of the Uconnect five-inch touchscreen unit. It also brings DAB radio, USB and Aux connections. Six speakers are standard. Between the Uconnect device and a separate 3.5-inch display ahead of the driver, the four-wheel-drive Renegade in particular can show a huge range of useful and fun readouts, but ultimately this infotainment system is way behind the bigger, more responsive and better-equipped screens that you'll enjoy in a Mini Countryman, VW T-Roc, or Skoda Karoq et al.
A fairly typical selection of driver aids further up the range covers cruise control, rear parking sensors, electric mirrors and so on, but arriving at Limited spec finds luxuries like a heated steering wheel, front parking sensors and a fully digital instrument cluster.
The Trailhawk model, built to tackle tough off-road terrain and exhaustively tested by Jeep itself in various remote locations, offers a larger touchscreen, satellite navigation, a tow hook and useful mud-plugging features like a higher ride height, off-road tyres and hill descent control.
The Renegade looks the part of the traditional Jeep off-roader, and it hasn’t completely adapted to life on the road. The diesel engines, although blessed with adequate pulling power and a pleasantly relaxed demeanour, are coarse and not well sound-insulated. Around town they are almost always audible, grumbling away as if annoyed by traffic. These are not especially refined drivetrains.
Alternatively, the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol is quieter and smoother, but lacks sufficient bicep to hustle the Renegade along quite as well as the diesels.
In terms of handling, the Renegade’s steering is vague and uncommunicative upon turning into a corner, and a slightly faster rack-ratio wouldn’t go amiss. The ride isn’t as comfortable as you might hope – it’s especially jiggly on the Trailhawk – and all models hit sharper bumps hard.
Recommended engine: 1.6 MultiJet II 120hp FWD
Occupants of the Renegade will find themselves very safely protected, according to the official crash tests carried out by Euro NCAP. It scored five stars, with excellent showings in adult and child occupant protection, as well as active safety-assist systems. Pedestrians aren’t so well catered for, thanks to the car’s boxy and tall front end.
Stability and traction control are standard across the range, along with an electronic parking brake, hill-start assist, electronic roll mitigation to prevent rolling over under most circumstances, plus trailer sway damping to ensure that caravans and trailers don’t get too out of shape. The latter is an uncommon feature on cars of this price.
Passive safety is looked after by the general industry-standard six airbags: two at the front, two at the side and two curtain airbags. There's no driver's knee airbag, though, and no autonomous emergency braking, which puts it on the back foot next to many newer rivals.
The Renegade is available in an absolutely fantastic range of colours, from muted and sober options to bright and bold ones. Not every shade of the 21 single- and dual-colour options is available on every model, though, and choosing any one of them is expensive. Charges range from £600 to an eye-watering £1,100 for certain colours in conjunction with a black roof – hence the four-star rating when it could have been five.
To be fair, so many of the Renegade’s colour options look fantastic that it must be very difficult for buyers to resist. Omaha Orange, Hyper Green, Solar Yellow, Jetset Blue, Colorado Red and Anvil (a grey) all look spectacular on it, and that’s before even considering the combinations with black roofs.
Starting, unusually, with Sport, the range moves up through the Jeep-traditional Longitude and luxurious Limited, the two of which are split by the Night Eagle special edition with its black or black and silver wheels, plus unique exterior specification.
Sport features two 12-volt power sockets, 16-inch wheels, DAB radio, all-round electric windows and reach/rake steering wheel adjustment. Uconnect live services are available when a compatible smartphone is connected.
Longitude brings larger wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control and more, while Night Eagle takes the Longitude spec and adds exterior upgrades for a more upmarket look. Limited highlights are even larger wheels, at 18-inch this time, LED ambient lighting, a digital instrument cluster and heating for the front seats and steering wheel.
The automatic-only range-topping Desert Hawk and Trailhawk are built to higher standards of capability than the rest of the range. Tested to their limits over the rocky trails and passes of the American desert, among other places, these two are the models that are equipped to tackle truly Jeep-worthy terrain. As such, they have more ground clearance and stronger suspension and chassis components. That’s why they are so much more expensive.
They are only offered as automatics because torque-converter transmissions make lighter work of slow-paced mountain climbing. The nine-speed unit is designed to only use its first ratio in ‘Off-Road Low’ mode, where it mimics a low-range gearbox for super-slow, careful crawling over larger rocks, for example. Owners of either of these two cars know that they will probably never get stuck anywhere, on the road or off it.
The Renegade is on the wide side, but it’s not so wide that it will present problems. Some of the wheel styles are vulnerable to kerb damage, so care should be taken when parallel parking, but it’s really not as big as it looks.
|Width||1,805mm (without mirrors) 2,023mm (with mirrors)|
|Height||1,667mm (Trailhawk and Desert Hawk 1,697mm)|
|Max Towing weight without brake||From 400kg to 600kg depending on engine and trim grade|
On paper, the Renegade records seriously impressive fuel economy in 1.6-litre diesel guise. However, its realistic everyday average drops around 20mpg off the official figure. A long drive will see the mid-to-high 50s.
The 2.0-litre diesel and 1.4 petrol fare worse and worst, respectively. It would be ambitious to expect much more than 35mpg on average from the petrol.
Running costs depend on the exact model in question. Four-wheel-drive versions have extra mechanical parts that need to be looked after with inspections and lubricant changes, adding to the the cost of ownership in exchange for the superb off-road capability the car offers.
Reliability and servicing
Jeep has not had to recall the Renegade in the UK yet, and the drivetrains are mostly proven units from pre-existing car models across the Fiat-Chrysler group. Apart from some rattly trim plastics there’s not much to worry about.
|Minor: 12 months or up to 12,500 miles – £140 est.|
|Major: 24 months or up to 25,000 miles – £220 est.|
The cheapest Renegade is Sport trim with the 1.6-litre petrol engine, which lacks the necessary guts for this car. At £18,195, it’s designed to give the range an attractive price for billboards, but the models people actually buy are considerably more expensive.
Longitude spec starts from £20,395, with the 1.6 diesel priced at £22,095. That’s no bargain: in fact it’s on the expensive side of things, but it’s still within the ball-park for this class of car. Jeep seems to have opted for a strategy of including lots of equipment but charging top dollar for the privilege.
Things look very expensive at the top of the range, with the Desert Hawk and Trailhawk hovering around £30,000, but for an off-road vehicle as capable as they are, they are actually quite good value.
Company Car Buyer
1.6 MultiJet II Longitude – navigation and the most economical engine define this trim as the best for business
1.4 MultiAir Night Eagle – the most affordable style-focused Renegade will get you noticed
2.0 MultiJet II Trailhawk – there is huge enjoyment to be had in taking the Trailhawk for some serious off-roading
Much cheaper faux-4x4 gives a raised driving position and good value for money.
Style-led compact VW SUV has slick on-road manners and top-notch interior and infotainment, but it can be pricey.
Cute and cheap to run, the Mokka is more spacious than it looks.
Decent little SUV has some style swagger and is honest and affordable. Better to drive on road than the Jeep.
No real off-road ability, but majors on style and quirky design features. Loved by its owners.