Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
On paper, the Jeep Renegade’s new turbocharged 118bhp 1.0 petrol engine makes a lot of sense because it seems to promise decent low-down grunt with respectable fuel economy. In practice, though, it just doesn’t have enough power to shove it along with any kind of conviction. You never feel as though you are making quick progress, even if you decide to rev the engine towards the red line.
The more powerful 148bhp 1.3 – which you'd expect to solve the lack of grunt – is let down by a surprisingly slow dual-clutch automatic gearbox that is so jerky that we cannot recommend it. The same applies to the range-topping 178bhp 1.3 because we suspect that the high sticker price and more expensive running costs will put off the majority of buyers.
One version that promises low running costs is the 4xe plug-in hybrid. It uses the 1.3-litre petrol engine that you will also find in the regular Renegade but gains a 59bhp electric motor that drives the rear axle to make it four-wheel drive. Between the two is an 11.4kWh battery that provides enough power for an official electric-only range of 26 miles.
There is a choice of two combined power outputs for the plug-in hybrid, depending on the trim level: Longitude and Limited models have 187bhp while the more off-road focused Trailhawk has 237bhp.
In electric vehicle (EV) mode, the Trailhawk model we tested certainly has enough zip for journeys in town. If you drive with a light right foot and plenty of patience, it will get up to motorway speeds on volts alone. When you wake up the petrol engine up in this particular Renegade, you’ll find it has a surprising turn of speed.
You won't want to be going fast if the road is a winding one, though. The Renegade leans over heavily in corners and the steering is very light and imprecise, which can make you doubt whether you've turned the wheel enough to get you round a bend.
The ride comfort is no better than the handling. You can feel every crease in the road surface, and the suspension doesn’t cushion you from the effects of speed bumps, potholes or expansion joints. At motorway speeds, there is ever-present wind noise from the upright front window and large door mirrors, and the engine booms at a steady cruise.
Woe betide anyone who asks for more power in a Jeep Renegade – especially one with an automatic gearbox. They all dither about what gear to be in, and the 1.3 engines they are attached to are very coarse when revved, making a sound a bit like a cat that's had its tail trodden on.
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