Jeep Renegade long-term test review: safety, but it comes at a price
Our Jeep’s automatic braking technology is a welcome system, but when damaged, can lead to a hefty repair bill
After my most recent report about the disabled Forward Collision Warning (FCW) system needing repairs following an impact with a pheasant, our Renegade has been back to Jeep HQ to be fixed. The autonomous emergency braking sensor was replaced at a cost of £526.23, not including a day’s labour.
I must correct something that I was told by a Jeep dealer representative: there isn’t just one ‘master’ technician in the UK with the training to repair FCW systems. It is, though, a more niche repair, but only because the technical kit needed to calibrate the system is very specialised.
There’s no doubt that safety is paramount and any technology that can prevent collisions or injuries should certainly be fitted to as many cars as possible – and not just as optional extras. However, the cost of repairs can be extremely high.
The likelihood of such a situation arising is that your insurer would foot the bill and your premium might be affected come renewal time. The true cost of repairs becomes difficult to ascertain, because what insurers are charged and what they pass on to you will differ.
These advanced systems are double-edged swords. They are reassuring, of course, but the cost of such technology is no doubt one reason car insurance bills are rising.
JEEP RENEGADE 2.0 MULTIJET II 140HP 75TH ANNIVERSARY
Price £28,595 Price as tested £30,460 Economy 38.4mpg Faults Forward Collision Warning system (now fixed) Expenses None Mileage 11,450
The other day I was driving along the A33 in the Renegade when a pheasant ran out of a roadside bush and into the road. I tried to dodge the bird but we collided. I pulled over to check for damage to the car, but there was nothing, not even a feather. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Then, as I turned the car back on, a heard a ‘bing’ and the warning light for the Forward Collision Warning (FCW) system came on. I dug through the handbook, which redirected me to the infotainment menu. After a deep dive of the vehicle settings, I discovered that I couldn’t turn the warning off.
So I rang a helpline that put me through to Italy, from where I was redirected to my local Jeep dealership, three miles away. They booked me in the following day to have the issue looked at.
After an inspection, the service assistant presented me with an estimate that amounted to almost £900. My jaw hit the floor.
I couldn’t believe how this had escalated so quickly from a warning light that seemingly needed just a software reset to actually needing a full day’s worth of labour and special parts that would have to be ordered from Italy.
Considering that, from the outside, there wasn’t a scratch in sight, I questioned what exactly the problem was. The service assistant told me that the sensor behind the plastic bumper had shattered and that the corresponding unit in the windscreen above the rearview mirror would also have to be replaced because they are apparently “calibrated together”, but the kicker is that Jeep currently has only one technician in the UK who can fix FCW systems.
The Jeep is fully driveable with the FCW system disabled, so long as you can ignore the chimes and warning messages every time you start up.
Technology such as FCW is obviously great for safety and Euro NCAP ratings, but I’m stunned that a fairly innocuous bird strike can inflict almost a grand’s worth of damage and require specialist calibration to remedy it.
JEEP RENEGADE 2.0 MULTIJET II 140HP 75TH ANNIVERSARY
Price £28,595 Price as tested £30,460 Economy 36.9mpg Faults Forward Collision Warning system disabled Expenses None Mileage 10,158
The Jeep’s steering continues to impress. It has a reassuring weight at all speeds, there’s hardly any dead band on the straight-ahead and subtle adjustments keep you nicely in check on the motorway. What’s more, the 11 metre turning circle and 2.7 turns lock to lock are on a par with its rivals, so multi-storeys are a doddle to navigate, too.
I was filming at a Tesla dealership the other day and was struck by how Tesla’s product specialist keenly pointed out that you could always leave your driveway with a “full tank” – well, a full battery – because you can conveniently charge it at home.
He claimed this gives you precious minutes of your life back, freeing you from the burden of fuel stations and the chore of filling up your tank.
That final point got me thinking – funnily enough, while filling up my Renegade for the umpteenth time. It takes about 40 litres of diesel to fill the Renegade to the brim once the low-fuel warning light shows and this then lasts about 350-375 miles. The fuel tank, officially 48 litres, seems a little small. Ten-ish gallons just isn’t big enough for me, frankly. The Nectar points I earn with each fill are great but, like that Tesla expert said, I’m not getting back those minutes spent at the pump.
My Renegade is averaging 36.9mpg. Is that good enough for a modern vehicle? Especially one with a modestly tuned 2.0-litre diesel mated to a nine-speed automatic that’s designed to enhance fuel economy? It’s some way below the claimed 48.7mpg average.
So what’s to blame? Maybe it’s the all-wheel drive system, but realistically this runs on two-wheel drive 90% of the time anyway. Maybe it’s the gearbox, which keeps holding seventh gear at 50mph, even though there are two more gears ready and waiting. Maybe it’s the 1548kg kerb weight. Or maybe it’s the Renegade’s brick-like drag coefficient.
So the Renegade is not the mile-munching tourer my wallet desires. But the trade-off is that it is a funky, relatively spacious crossover that stands out from the usual suburb-dwelling flock of Volkswagen Golfs.
JEEP RENEGADE 2.0 MULTIJET II 140 75TH ANNIVERSARY
Price £28,595 Price as tested £30,460 Economy 36.9mpg Faults Forward collision warning disabled Expenses None Mileage 8558
I’m somewhere in Wales and I want to go home, but the sat-nav won’t take me. It’ll accept the postcode but not my house number. The same happens for my nan’s address, presumably because it has a house name and number, which is too much of a challenge for the sat-nav. Still, it’s not all bad, because apparently Autocar’s office doesn’t exist…
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