First Drive

2015 Jeep Renegade review

The Jeep Renegade is the brand's first foray into the small SUV market. Prices aren't confirmed, but the Skoda Yeti has been earmarked as its closest rival.

Words ByRory White

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The Jeep Renegade is based on Fiat's 500L and will be built alongside Fiat's own new small SUV, the 500X, in Italy. However, the Renegade gets a taller ride height and Jeep's trademark grille and butch off-road looks.

A grand total of six different engines are available. Petrol-wise there's an entry-level 108bhp 1.6-litre and 138bhp and 169bhp versions of the same turbocharged 1.4-litre unit. The diesel line-up consists of a 118bhp 1.6 and 138bhp and 169bhp 2.0-litre motors.

The most powerful 1.4 petrol gets a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and the lesser 2.0-litre diesel has the option of a nine-speed automatic, which the higher-powered version gets as standard. All the other choices are manual-only.

Four-wheel drive is available on the high-powered 1.4 petrol and 2.0 diesels, but it’s only the range-topping Trailhawk version that’s marketed as a genuine off-roader. This is because it adds extra body protection with metal skid plates, a 15mm increase in ride height, plus standard four-wheel drive with a low-ratio mode and hill descent control.

UK pricing is yet to be revealed, but Jeep believes the Renegade will start at around Β£17,000 and go up to around Β£28,000. That means it's up against small SUVs such as the Mini Countryman, Skoda Yeti and even the Nissan Qashqai.

What’s the 2014 Jeep Renegade like to drive?

We tried the lesser of the the two 1.4 petrols, with a six-speed manual gearbox, which has a reasonable amount of pull when accelerating, and actually feels pretty sprightly when revved hard.

The 1.6 diesel has more grunt lower down in its rev range, meaning you don't have to change gear quite as often around town. The trade off is that its useable power band is relatively narrow, so it runs out of puff a lot quicker than the petrol.

The 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel is considerably more flexible, and punchier at the low-end, making it easier to drive, both in and out of town. That said, the 1.6 diesel will feel just about urgent enough for most, and will be the cheaper option, both to buy and to run.

That 2.0-litre diesel also falls down on refinement, because it's the noisiest of the engines we tried, even at medium revs, and sends the most vibration back through the wheel and pedals. The 1.6 diesel is more hushed, but still becomes noisy past 3000rpm. The 1.4 petrol remains smoother at all times, though does become boomy when worked hard - most of the Renegade's rivals are more refined.

The manual gearbox has a tight action and relatively short throw, yet can be frustratingly notchy, especially when having to make quick changes. Our 2.0 diesel test car was fitted with the nine-speed auto. It's one of the best automatics in this class, offering quick changes, and never dropping down too many gears when accelerating hard.

Dynamically, the Renegade is less impressive. The steering offers little feedback to the driver, and is artificially and inconsistently weighted much of the time. The body also leans over heavily in tight bends, putting it some way behind a Skoda Yeti, both in terms of its agility and outright grip.

That said, the four-wheel drive models feel more planted when cornering, and also ride better over potted surfaces, remaining slightly more settled thanks to their extra weight - the two-wheel drive models we tried thudded harder over sharp-edged bumps. However, all Renegades tend to bob around constantly at faster speeds, so aren't as planted at speed as, say, a Nissan Qashqai.

The Renegade's upright windscreen and large door mirrors also mean considerable wind noise can be heard in the cabin on the motorway, even if road and engine noise isn't such a major issue.

Our brief time spent off-road in the Trailhawk model proved that the Renegade is easily the most capable car in its class over rough terrain - but this version is also likely to be seriously pricey.

What’s the 2014 Jeep Renegade like inside?

Those sitting in the front of the Renegade's cabin benefit from generous headroom and plenty of space for their shoulders. The high driving position gives a good view out over the bonnet, but the front pillars are quite thick and the rear view is obscured by even wider rear pillars.

Passengers travelling in the back get just as much headroom, thanks to the Renegade's tall and boxy silhouette, and enough room for two to stretch out comfortably. However, the bench is better suited to two adults or three children, because the middle seat is narrow. Legroom isn't that generous, either; adults will find their knees rubbing against the front seatbacks, especially with a tall driver up front.

The Renegade's boot is 351 litres, which is 65 litres smaller than a Yeti's. It does have a removable floor than can be set at two different levels, but is quite narrow in shape. At least in its higher position, the adjustable floor helps eliminate any step up when folding down the 60:40 split seatbacks.

Interior quality is also a several rungs below what you'd find in a Yeti or Qashqai. There are soft-touch areas on the dash and doors, but elsewhere in the cabin the plastics feel cheaper, and none of the switchgear feels substantial or particularly robust.

Every Renegade comes with a 5.0-inch touch-screen system as standard, which you use to control the radio, Bluetooth and general settings. It's a good system, with large, easy to hit shortcuts at its base and on-screen menus that are easy to navigate. Models higher up the range get the option of a 6.5-inch screen running the same system that includes sat-nav, too.

Entry-level Sport models get 16-inch wheels, Bluetooth, USB and aux connections, a multifunction steering wheel, and air-con. Longitude cars then add cruise control, more speakers and fog lamps.

Limited Renegades have larger 17-inch alloys, active safety systems; such as lane departure and front collision warning, climate control, rear parking sensors and a 7.0-inch full-colour instrument panel.

Finally the top-spec Trailhawk gets the off-road modifications already mentioned, plus special off-road wheels and tinted rear glass.

Should I buy one?

Jeep is intent on marketing the Renegade as being unique for its off-road ability, and it's right to do so: the Renegade is the most capable small SUV on the rough stuff in its 4x4 guises.

We feel Jeep might have missed the point, though. Small SUV's are so popular because they offer people the looks, practicality, and comfort of an SUV, combined with the cheap running costs of a normal front-wheel drive hatch.

If the Renegade is priced as predicted, then in front-wheel drive form it's neither as good to drive as a Skoda Yeti, nor as comfortable or refined as a Nissan Qashqai. Furthermore, it isn't as spacious, or practical, or efficient as either of those rivals.

Until we've tried the rest of the range - or if Jeep can match the price of the Renegade against some more affordable competition - then it's difficult to recommend before the established class leaders.

What Car? says…

Rivals

Skoda Yeti

Nissan Qashqai

Jeep Renegade 1.4 MultiAir 140

Engine size 1.4-litre petrol

Price from TBA

Power 138bhp

Torque 170lb ft

0-62mph 10.9 seconds

Top speed 112mph

Fuel economy 39.2mpg

CO2 140g/km

Jeep Renegade 1.6 diesel

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

Price from TBA

Power 118bhp

Torque 236lb ft

0-62mph 10.2 seconds

Top speed 111mph

Fuel economy 42.0mpg

CO2 120g/km

Jeep Renegade 2.0 diesel 140 2WD

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from TBA

Power 138bhp

Torque 258lb ft

0-62mph 9.5 seconds

Top speed 113mph

Fuel economy 46.1mpg

CO2 134g/km

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Jeep Renegade

What Car? SaysRated 3 out of 5
Owners sayNot yet rated

The Jeep Renegade offers distinctive styling and decent practicality, but most rivals make it feel agricultural.