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Driven: Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.

Driven: Jeep Renegade
Boxy appeal aplenty, courtesy of Jeep's largely excellent Renegade.

 



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Jeep Renegade

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: chunky and squared-off looks, decent and capacious interior, pleasantly refined.

Not so good: ride could be better, it's more expensive than the Fiat 500X on which it's based.

Key Facts

Model tested: Jeep Renegade 1.6 MultiJet II Limited 120
Price: from 17,295; 1.6 MultiJet II Limited 120 from 23,495; car as tested 24,695
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door compact SUV
CO2 emissions: 120g/km (VED Band C, 0 first 12 months, 20 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 61.4mpg
Top speed: 111mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Power: 120hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,750rpm

Our view:

Right now, Jeep could be said to making the most contentious range of vehicles in terms of the aesthetics. Trying to balance the brand's historic lantern-jawed styling with the European sensibilities of its overlord, Fiat, the end results are somewhat mixed. The Grand Cherokee is perhaps a little anodyne in a sector dominated by the striking likes of the Volvo XC90 and the second-generation Audi Q7, while the squinty-faced Cherokee divides opinion like no other SUV on sale today. Love it or loathe it? You bet.

That leaves the new Renegade, Jeep's entry-level vehicle, as the best-looking model of the lot. It manages to be distinctive without being startling and it has a defined identity all of its own. Although, clearly, its set-square design almost automatically invites a certain visual comparison. Because Jeep couldn't have made this look more like the sort of Royal Mail delivery vehicle that should be pootling around the lanes of Greendale, short of painting it red, stuffing a black and white cat on the dashboard, and sticking on a set of number plates reading 'PAT 1'.

Not that we dislike it, mind; its cubist architecture is appealing. And it would appear that it has already won fans with its bluff, no-nonsense approach, because we saw plenty of Renegades shuttling about during our week with this car. It is a successful piece of styling because it integrates that aforementioned Jeep heritage - such as the seven-bar front grille - with some neat and modern stylistic flourishes, like the X-shaped rear lights. Available in a selection of bright colours, like Omaha Orange, and with the option of having a contrast black roof slapped on the top, the angular Jeep stands out (for all the right reasons) in a crowd of swoopy, small crossovers.

Those external dimensions make the Jeep feel a lot larger from behind the wheel than the Fiat 500X on which is it based, however. The upright rear screen makes for a larger, 351-litre boot, but it also looks like it is a long way away when you glance in the rear-view mirror, and with the driver's seat capable of being lowered to a point that is almost hatchback-esque, the corners of the bluff, squared-off bonnet look imposing. As such, the Renegade hardly feels like it shrinks around you, and that's despite the fact it's not even 4.25 metres long.

Still, it's capacious within and the high-quality cabin is nicely rendered without being massively kitsch - and we're including a number of 'off-road' type details tucked away that are designed to remind you just what you're driving. For instance, the redline on the tacho is represented by a mud splatter. At the base of the windscreen, on the driver's side, there's a tiny graphic of a Willys Jeep climbing a rocky incline. The rubberised base of the coin tray in front of the gear lever has a contour map etched into it, there are lots of bits of body-coloured trim surrounding the gear lever, air vents and speakers and the legend 'Since 1941' is stencilled in that US Army font often seen on wooden crates in movies on top of the Uconnect screen.

This particular model is a high-spec Limited, which brings a number of creature comforts, but also places the Renegade near the upper end of the pricing structure. Jeep's own literature cites cars like the MINI Countryman and Nissan Qashqai as rivals, which is fine (it's cheaper and more powerful than equivalent specification models of either), but its Fiat 500X underpinnings means it's more a rival for things like the Vauxhall Mokka (although it's still cheaper than the 110hp diesel Mokka SE), the Nissan Juke and the, er... the Fiat 500X. Prices for the smaller Nissan crossover and the 500X start around the fourteen grand mark; and the rather well-specified Cross version of the Fiat is a useful 2,050 cheaper than this Renegade with an identical drivetrain.

So it seems to make sense to compare the Jeep to the 500X, due to their mechanical similarities. The 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel engine remains a gem in this application, quiet, torquey and even reasonably keen to rev. As a result, the Renegade does feel peppy as these c.115hp compact crossovers go, a fact evinced by the 10.2-second quoted 0-62mph time; data which, bizarrely, makes the 84kg-heavier Jeep quicker than the Fiat. The six-speed manual is one of those pleasantly chunky items, with a bit of heft, slick action and a nice gear knob.

Generally, body control is good too, and the Jeep feels reasonably controlled and resistant to understeer, which is nice, although it's not as vivacious in the handling stakes as the Fiat. And the ride isn't as good either, big vertical inputs culminating in more jerky and sudden responses from the dampers, where the 500X has longer frequency movements and therefore feels a little more fluid. So while the Jeep is just as easy to manoeuvre about town, drive along a country road or punt along a motorway on cruise control as the Fiat, it's a bit less comfortable at all times.

And that upright front end doesn't help fuel economy, as the Renegade strayed a long way from its 61.4mpg quoted number (Fiat states 68.9mpg for the 500X, although we saw more like 50mpg). With 455 miles covered, including one of our regular trips down the M1 to Heathrow and back, the Jeep turned in 43.8mpg, which might come as a disappointment if you're buying purely on the strength of the showroom literature.

The Renegade is a fine small crossover and it's got an angular sense of style that will see units shifted from Jeep dealerships in decent numbers. It's also big inside for both passengers and cargo, and it drives in a grown-up, well-rounded fashion. But for a slightly clunky ride and the presence of the cheaper, equally appealing Fiat 500X, the Renegade's path to challenging for class honours would be clear. As it is, we reckon it's a very, very strong alternative to the mainstream, but not quite the best in its segment.

Alternatives:

Fiat 500X: cheaper, more attractive, nicer to drive - the Renegade's biggest rival is the very car upon which it is based.

Nissan Juke: its appearance is similarly idiosyncratic, but the Juke's looks are more challenging. While a fine small SUV, we prefer the Jeep's larger cabin to the Nissan's.

Renault Captur: same car as the Juke underneath and it has a better after-sales warranty plus it looks a bit nicer. The interior feels cheap, though, and the 1.5 dCi model is less interesting all round than the Renegade.


Matt Robinson - 23 Dec 2015









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2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.

2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.2016 Jeep Renegade. Image by Jeep.








 

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