It may not be for the purists, but it’s a Jeep, through and through
I have a soft spot in my heart for Jeeps, including this one — it’s fun to bomb around in. I like this platform — Fiat-Chrysler calls it the Small-Wide 4×4 platform and it’s also under the Fiat 500 X. Solid and stiff, it makes the Renegade drive more like a hot hatch than a Jeep. Not kidding. Yeah there’s some body roll, but the structure is strong and the thing actually feels quite balanced and lively. The steering is damned good, too. I’m surprised the car weighs 3,500 pounds — it feels a lot lighter. The little four-banger provides plenty of power and the nine-speed is smooth, though why I need nine speeds, I’ll never guess.
It’s easy and fun to fling around — very forgiving. I bet it’s a hoot in the snow, and though I didn’t take it off-road, from what I’ve read it’s a “real Jeep.”
There’s plenty of interior space — at least in front, considering the Renegade’s compact size — and like other FCA cars Jeep has loaded the interior with a lot of cues paying homage to Jeeps over the decades — I think they’re cool. Outward visibility is excellent.
Being in a two and half Jeep family I’m sure I’ll be accused of being a Jeep slappy for liking the Renegade. That’s OK.
It’s early but Jeep sales are up 7,500 already this year, thanks largely to the 6,300-plus Renegades sold in January, wherein last January, it didn’t exist. The little scooter is outselling some of its competition (CX-3, HR-V, Trax), too.
One more thing: More than once this little thing attracted a few young people in various parking lots wanting to check it out, so Jeep has that going for it.
The Renegade gets heat from “real” Jeep fans — people that roll Wranglers or XJs. I don’t think that’s exactly fair.
I say that, because this thing is a blast to drive. Sure, a lifted XJ on 33s will destroy this re-skinned Fiat on a trail — that’s what a purpose-built car is supposed to do — but that doesn’t make the Renegade an inferior product.
Sure, it has its problems: the massive A-pillars impact visibility, the mud-spattered gauges are a little lame and interior packaging isn’t the best, but aside from that, the Renegade does a great job at being exactly what it was designed to be — a small SUV.
Whipping this thing around town was a pleasure. It feels quick for a 3,500-ish-pound sled with only 180 hp, and the drive modes do what they advertise. I had the opportunity to see how well snow mode works in the real world, and after flipping the dial one click clockwise, it kicked into four-wheel drive and monitored my throttle usage.
— Wesley Wren, associate editor
The brightly colored adventure egg that is the Renegade is in an interesting proposition — it’s very much a capital-J Jeep, something the innumerable historical throwbacks and Jeep badges everywhere ensure that you’ll never, ever forget.
But is it is a jeep? Is it a direct, or even spiritual, successor to the versatile, capable, mule-like 4x4s that blasted through battlefields and across farm fields and ranches?
Nah, not really. Not even with the Trailhawk package, which really does improve its overall stance and appearance. But that doesn’t mean it won’t do all of the semi-off-road things the average buyer will sometimes, rarely, call upon it to do with a suitably Jeeplike flair.
Whether or not it will prove as hard-wearing as the original jeeps, I can’t say (though I have my suspicions) — we only had it for a few weeks. Interior quality, at least, is leagues ahead of what Compass and Patriot buyers have been subjected to.
So again, when it comes to what most buyers (whatever that means) want in a capital J-Jeep, the Renegade ought to deliver. Will it ever earn the respect of hardcore wheelers? Absolutely not, but they’re too busy, and too broke, from putting winches and big tires on their skyjacked Wrangler TJs to ever contemplate buying one of these, anyway.
— Graham Kozak, associate editor
Options: Premium Trailhawk group including auto-dimming rearview mirror, lux leather-trimmed bucket seats, 40/20/40 rear seat with trunk pass-thru, A/C auto temperature control with dual zone control, heated front seats, power four-way driver lumbar adjust, power eight-way driver seat and manual four-way passenger seat, windshield wiper de-icer and heated steering wheel ($1,545); My Sky power retractable/removable panels ($1,470); safety and security group including tonneau cover, security alarm and blind spot and cross path detection ($645); passive entry keyless enter ‘n go package ($125); remote start system ($125)