Jeep is one of those brands that everyone knows. The Jeep of the 1940s was one of the most famous sights of WWII, but things haven’t quite hit such an iconic status since. Now, of course, they are a division of FIAT Chrysler – a strange mix of car manufacturers if ever there was one.
While you can see a lot of similarities between Chrysler and Jeep – the ruggedness – it’s a different story with FIAT. The Italian brand is more recognised for its dinky city cars more than anything else – think the Punto, Panda, and Pop. The idea that such an iconic and powerful vehicle such as a Jeep is now made by a compact specialist is strange, to say the least.
That said, who am I to judge? Preconceptions can often be wrong – so let’s take a closer look at the Jeep Renegade.
Design and build
There’s no doubt about it; the Renegade definitely looks like a Jeep. It’s a more modern, more easy-on-the-eye version, but it’s a Jeep all the same. Whether this 21st-century version work or not is going to be a matter of opinion. I like it – but I do know others that aren’t too fussed. That said, it’s nice to see the brand back on the road after more than a decade, and there are plenty of throwbacks to previous, classic models. It’s decent size – particularly in the width department – and distinctive enough to appeal to a wide spectrum of people. The Renegade is chunky, square, and chiselled – and, therefore, rather aptly named.
A peek inside
There’s lots of legroom in the Renegade, especially in the front. The back seats are, of course, a little tighter, but can squeeze in three adults for a mid-length journey. There is plenty of head space, too, for all you tall folks out there, and a good amount of storage in the boot. That said, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for its class.
Taking a seat
Whenever I used to look at Jeeps I always knew they would be a bit of a bone shaking experience – they are that type of vehicle. And, you would take that without any questions asked – it’s a Jeep, after all. But this new, modern look promises something a little more comfortable – and it doesn’t quite deliver. It’s tough to find a decent driving position, despite the adjustable seats and steering wheel. It’s got something to do with the seats, too – they have an awkward-feeling bump in the lower back that irritates after a while. You should be fine for short journeys, though, and I’m not going to complain too much.
Moving on the dash and control section, I have to say that I like it. It’s got that old-school vibe with a modern edge that can sometimes go awry, but in this case looks stunning. It’s not the greatest quality – but more than good enough for the majority of tastes. You can also choose between a standard 5-inch touchscreen or upgrade to a 6.5-inch version – I would definitely plump for the latter.
OK, so once you are on the road with the Renegade you’ll notice a few things: some good, some bad. Let’s take the positives first. I love the high driving position, and despite the slight seat discomfort, it’s a lot of fun up there. The steering is solid, and if you plump for the 2.0 diesel version, you get a healthy kick of power that feels great. Taking corners is OK. There’s a little amount of ‘gulp’ involved on sharper bends when you first start driving the car, due the high seating position. But the lean is more than manageable once you get to know the vehicle.
The biggest problem with the Jeep Renegade is that it doesn’t guarantee you off-roading abilities. It’s a strange move, but a clear sign of things to come. There’s no doubt that when you bought a Jeep in the past, off roading was the very next thing you did. But the Renegade only comes in one version – the Trailhawk – that can handle bumpy dirt tracks and countryside. It’s a shame, in my opinion. After all, many people would say if you can’t be off-roading in a Jeep, what’s the point in having one? That said, there’s plenty here to enjoy for more sensible drivers, which is clearly the new marketing target for FIAT – Chrysler.
Engine, performance and sound
I like a loud car, but I have to say, I’m finding the Renegade’s volume a little odd. If the mainstream market is the target, it makes a fair old racket – and the two don’t normally go hand in hand. If you have passengers in the vehicle – particularly in the back – there’s going to be shouting. It’s harder to hear each other in a Renegade than any other mainstream vehicle I can think of.
With regards to speed and acceleration, things tick over nicely. It doesn’t dazzle, but it’s spritely and light on its feet. The main pickup point I noticed is the acceleration in fourth gear. It gets you up to 70 mph in no time at all from 30 mph, and will see off the average car on the road. As with all motor vehicles, brakes are a vital component – and it’s fair to say that some do ‘stopping’ a lot better than others. I’m happy to report that braking in the Jeep Renegade stops just as fast – and smooth – as it speeds up.
At first glance, the Renegade Jeep appears as if it is at an excellent price point. You can pick it up from approved dealers like Thames Motor Group for less than £18,000 for the basic model. And, you get a fair amount of that money. 18-inch alloys, climate control and sat-nav are all on board the standard Jeep – as well as the leather seats. Jeep is also offering finance deals on the Renegade which seem more than fair. Especially when you compare with other – shall we say ‘more ruthless’ – manufacturers.
But, let’s not forget, this is supposed to be a Jeep. The name brings power, speed and technology to mind – and it just isn’t quite there for the hardcore fans of the brand. But, with motors like the Qashqai and the latest Peugeot 308 on the market right now, there’s clearly a thirst for these things. And, if you want anything even close to approaching the old school Jeep, it’s going to cost you a lot more than £18K.
There are four different types to choose from – the entry level Sports go up to around £19,000. The next level up is the Longitude, which includes six-speaker audio, roof rails, cruise control and fog lights. It also costs you up to £23,000 for the pleasure. There is a Limited version, too, which takes you up to the £26K mark. With that outlay, you get bigger alloys and a chrome exhaust along with collision technology and privacy glass.
It’s the Trailhawk you will want if you are an off-roader, though. It’s almost £28,000 and comes equipped with a more rugged look that you associate with the Jeep brand. It runs on a 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine and has the all-wheel drive you need to negotiate all terrains. But is it worth the money? Time will tell, of course – but whatever happens with the Renegade, it’s great to see a Jeep on – and off – the road again. It is a little on the pricey side – but not enough to complain too much.