Jeep Renegade long-term test review: charming, yet lacking refinement
It’s easy to be charmed by it, despite the engine-induced seat massage function
As I moved from my previous long-term test car, the large and rugged Nissan Navara pick-up, to this smaller SUV, I was looking forward to it being a more comfortable, and easy-going affair. So now its odometer has nudged past 5000 miles, how is the Renegade doing?
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel strikes a good balance between performance and economy. The 138bhp unit feels nippy and fun around town and is happy to cruise on a motorway, although it is less comfortable when pushed hard.
It’s clear that this is not a refined motor. It’s as noisy as the Navara’s and emits an agricultural rumble. At idle, the vibration in the cabin gives you an unwanted seat massage.
For the most part, the nine-speed automatic gearbox is well suited to this engine and the shifts are seamless except in stop-start traffic, when there is a bit of a jolt.
I’m impressed by how comfortable it is to drive, though. The chunky steering wheel feels great and the seating position is ideal. I feel very centred and there’s plenty of room between the driver and the door. It makes the cabin feel spacious and suited to all sizes of occupant.
The dashboard is minimalist and the buttons and switches that remain are well positioned. The 6.5in touchscreen takes pride of place on the dash and I’ve been impressed by how fluidly the car connects to my smartphone via Bluetooth.
I’ve been won over by the Renegade’s charm. I love all the quirky touches dotted around the cabin, such as outlines of maps carved into the rubber mats in the cubbyholes, and the Willy’s Jeep graphics in the corner of the windscreen. Other manufacturers could learn a lot by offering such details on their models.
JEEP RENEGADE 2.0 MULTIJET II 140HP 75TH ANNIVERSARY 4WD
Price £28,595 Price as tested £30,460 Economy 37.6mpg Faults None Expenses None Last seen 15.2.17
You need only glance at our 66-plate Jeep Renegade’s dashboard to see how proud Jeep is of its military heritage.
Embossed in a prominent position just above the central infotainment screen is the legend ‘Since 1941’. It is just one of the Renegade’s many subtle salutes to the original Willys MB that was created in response to a commission from the US government for a four-wheeldrive military vehicle during WW2.
The Willys MB is the vehicle from which all subsequent Jeeps have spawned. Over the three-quarters of a century since, the brand’s offerings have shifted a long way from those utilitarian ideals, although Jeep prides itself on imbuing its modern vehicles with elements of the same authentic go-anywhere capability.
With the square-jawed Renegade crossover, Jeep has arguably moved further from its ideals than ever before. It’s the smallest model the company has yet made and the first to be built exclusively outside of the US, with Fiat’s Melfi factory in Italy building it.
Is it still a ‘proper’ Jeep? It will take more than a bright green paint job and some retro badges to convince us that the Renegade is an adept all-rounder capable of conquering the urban jungle as well as the rural one.
Our range-topping Renegade 75th Anniversary is one of only 400 such examples in the UK. Even with that paintwork (a £700 option), it looks good to my eyes. Jeep’s designers have successfully given the Renegade a rugged, adventurous look that is synonymous with its roots. Other features, such as sunroof panels that can be removed completely, pay homage to that, too.
Our Renegade is fitted with a 138bhp 2.0 diesel engine mated to a nine-speed ZF automatic gearbox. It is also four-wheel drive which should make it one of the most capable crossovers in the class. There is a raft of driver assist technology for challenging situations. For example, the Active Drive Low 4×4 system features a low range for a more measured throttle response at slower speeds. There’s also the Selec-Terrain traction management system that lets the driver toggle between various modes to suit the terrain, and hill descent control, too.
Renegades in Trailhawk spec also get an extra 20mm of ride height and additional underbody protection, neither of which our 75th Anniversary version has. Nevertheless, it is going to be fun finding out just what it can get up to on green lanes.
It will also need to perform well on long road journeys, so we specified optional front seats that have eightway electrical adjustment, including lumbar support. From behind the wheel, the Renegade feels like a much bigger SUV and its boxy shape and upright windscreen provide good straight-ahead visibility. The A-pillars, though, are some of the thickest I’ve seen and may inflict a big blind spot.
I really like the feel of the chunky steering wheel and the fact it’s heated, as are those seats. There’s a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, sat-nav and smartphone pairing. Elsewhere in the cabin, however, there are buttons that look like they come straight from a Fiat parts bin.
It’s imperative that I can recharge my video equipment while I’m out on shoots and so it’s welcome that the Renegade has two USB ports and a 12V charger. There’s a 230V auxiliary charging port in the back as part of the Function Pack 2 (£500), which would be fantastic but for the fact that it has a European two-pin socket. The Function Pack 2 also includes electric folding mirrors, keyless entry, a reversible, height adjustable boot floor and a rear bench that splits 40/20/40.
One quirk I’ve already found is the positioning of the boot release button, which is right on the bottom of the lip of the rear door, lower than you might instinctively expect. Inside the boot, though, the space seems decent enough. It will get a serious test in the coming months as I cram it with camera gear and, on occasion, clamber in there myself with my video camera.
The Renegade is already big news for Jeep, accounting for 75% of its business last year and tempting scores of new buyers to the brand. Although our car commemorates 75 years of Jeep heritage, it also represents a bold future for the US company, one in which it hopes to establish a foothold as a global player in the car industry.
JEEP RENEGADE 2.0 MULTIJET II 140HP 75TH ANNIVERSARY 4WD
Price £28,595 Price as tested £30,460 Options 75th Anniversary Jungle Green metallic paint (£700), eight-way powered front seats (£465), spare tyre (£200), Function Pack 2 (£500) Economy 48.7mpg Faults None Expenses None
Source: Autocar Online