Gareth Butterfield tests the new-look Jeep Renegade
THE Jeep Renegade was launched in 2015 and has been a strong seller for the Fiat-owned American brand. Its chunky, distinctive looks are very familiar now – but it’s had a facelift.
I grant you, it’s not a comprehensive remodelling, perhaps not even a nip and tuck, but the latest renegade has smarter bumpers, more shiny bits and optional LED lights. Overall, it looks more modern, and refreshed.
The big changes in the new Renegade are actually beneath the “ain’t broke don’t fix it” exterior, and the biggest news is a new family of engines.
Jeep has gone for the down-sizing approach when it comes to the petrol engines, which are, of course, bang-on trend at the moment. There’s a 1.0 litre, three cylinder turbocharged lump with 118bhp, or two versions of a 1.3 litre four cylinder turbo unit which offer either 148bhp or 178bhp.
Despite the chunky looks, only the most powerful petrol engine gets all-wheel drive and you can have any gearbox you like as long as it’s a nine-speed automatic.
There are two diesel engines available – a 1.6 or two versions of a 2.0 litre offering either 138bhp or 170bhp. Both of these 2.0 engines can be specced with all-wheel drive and this will also come with that nine-speed automatic gearbox.
There’s also a six-speed dual-clutch auto box available on the smaller engines, which is arguably better, and a manual if you prefer.
Trim levels start with Sport, through Longitude in the middle of the road, then Limited for posh people and a beefed-up Trailhawk for those who like to ride over the rough stuff.
Despite petrol being the flavour of the month, in my book the Renegade is at its best with a diesel engine under the bonnet. Fuel economy is good and they’re not the most refined in their class, but don’t let that worry you because the Renegade isn’t a car that encourages you to drive hard.
There’s plenty of grip and the steering has a reasonably positive response, but it’s quite ungainly. The narrow profile, lofty ride height and high sides do little to inspire confidence in the bends. But, that said, is that really the sort of thing you’d be buying an SUV for?
The interior layout is similar to the old version, but it now looks smarter as it’s built around a much larger, cleverer infotainment screen. The small screen in the old Renegade has aged quickly so this is a welcome addition.
While the controls that surround it are nice and chunky and easy to use, they could be angled better. That said, it’s still the best cabin Jeep offers. The quality is surprisingly good throughout and it’s very comfortable, despite Jeep’s utilitarian origins.
Visibility isn’t a strong point, however. The A pillars are huge, which hampers your eyeline a bit at junctions. The enormous wing-mirrors help with looking back, but they also get in the way and create quite a bit of wind noise.
Interior space is respectable for such a neatly-proportioned SUV though, and there’s still a decent boot behind the usable rear seats.
Equipment levels are good with Jeeps and the Rengade is no exception. Safety kit is also a strength here, as the newcomer comes bundled with lane-departure warning alarms, road sign reading, and front collision warning with autonomous emergency braking on every model.
I’ll be honest, there are better small SUVs out there, but the trouble with small SUVs is they’re usually inherently dull. And the Renegade is far from dull.
For starters, you’ll be able to spend a quiet afternoon hunting down all the little Jeep grill motifs in the cabin – there’s quite a few – and you simply won’t find a rival with the same chunky and characterful looks.
That’s why the Renegade has done so well. It’s not just a soft-roader with big bumpers, it’s a proper SUV with proper off-road credentials and properly endearing looks.
And its revisions have only improved it, so if it’s your sort of thing, you’ll be chuffed to bits with the new Renegade.