Priced from £tbc Release date September
Despite inventing the ‘gas guzzling’ SUV – well, at least as we know it – Jeep certainly isn’t a manufacturer that’s afraid of change. With a new range of electrified drivetrains currently in development and an all-new small SUV set for production in 2022, the American manufacturer looks perfectly poised to respond to a sector that’s rapidly backing away from diesel engines.
Case in point, the 2018 Jeep Renegade. With another four more years of life left in it (until it’s replaced by a hybrid equipped second generation model) Jeep has treated the Renegade to a comprehensive mid-life facelift – and we mean comprehensive. Yes, there are the usual exterior tweaks - LED headlights and tail-lights, new 19in wheels and more aggressive bumpers - but more importantly, Jeep has chosen to introduce two new all-aluminium turbocharged petrol engines.
These engines are a big deal for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Jeep’s parent company), as they will see use in a number of other FCA products. But of course, the Renegade is the car chosen to debut them, and that’s no accident. The outgoing 118bhp 1.0-litre petrol was a gutless thing, so the new 118bhp 1.0-litre petrol that replaces it is very welcome indeed. And while we had time for the more powerful 138bhp 1.4-litre, the new turbocharged 1.3-litre (available in both 148bhp and 169bhp configurations) promises greater driveability and better fuel economy – exactly what buyers of a small SUV crave.
2018 Jeep, Renegade on the road
On paper, opting for Jeep’s diddiest petrol engine makes a lot of sense. Not only does it offer buyers the cheapest entry point into Renegade ownership, but it also promises to return a respectable 46mpg while delivering a decent amount of low-down power.
However, it doesn’t take long behind the wheel to realise that this engine, despite being turbocharged, just doesn’t have enough guts to shove the Renegade along with any kind of conviction. The slug of torque that should arrive at 1750rpm never really announces itself, and even if you decide to rev the engine towards its redline, progress never feels anything other than sedate.
Mercifully, the 148bhp 1.3-litre unit feels far stronger, endowing the Renegade with the kind of performance you expect from a small SUV. Overtakes are relatively stressless affairs, and despite having the drag coefficient of a Georgian house, the Renegade is capable of venturing above 80mph with minimal fuss – just be prepared for a cacophony of wind noise generated by that bluff front end and huge door mirrors.
But don’t go thinking that the new 1.3 is faultless. Oh no. Despite offering up quite a bit more punch than the 1.0-litre, it gets let down by a jerky and surprisingly dim-witted dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Around town, the six-speed unit has a tendency to hesitate when trying to find the correct ratio, and then when you finally get moving and want to modulate the throttle, the engine often holds onto turbo boost for a fraction longer than you’d like resulting in a very brief moment of unintended acceleration.
The end result is a car that's very difficult to drive smoothly, which is a shame because there’s nothing wrong with its objective straight-line performance. We suspect that the range-topping 178bhp 1.3 that comes with a more suitable nine-speed automatic gearbox will deliver a more refined experience, however, it wasn’t available to test at launch.
As for chassis changes, aside from a new set of 19in wheels, there aren’t any. The Renegade is therefore still plagued with the slightly sticky, over-assisted steering that we’ve encountered on other cars based on its platform (namely the Fiat 500X), while the 19in wheels result in a bit of jostling and shimming over the kind of broken surfaces that dominate urban environments. Ultimately, it’s not an unpleasant car to drive, but if you want a small SUV that offers something approaching hatchback-like fluency and precision, you’ll want to take a look at the Volkswagen T-Roc or Seat Arona.
2018 Jeep, Renegade interior
Inside, Jeep claims that the Renegade benefits from ‘increased functionality and greater comfort’. In reality, it’s hard to detect any changes from the outgoing model. Interior quality is still several rungs below what you'll find in the Mini Countryman or Nissan Qashqai, with hard plastics littering most of the interior.
It’s not all bad news, though, because the optional range-topping Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system (as fitted to our test car) with its huge 8.4in screen, is genuinely impressive. It has logical menus, sharp graphics and handy shortcut buttons, and, better yet, it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can use apps from your smartphone (such as Google Maps and Waze) while driving.
You can read more about outright practicality in the space and practicality section of our full Jeep Renegade review here.
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