First Drive: Jeep Renegade

By / 2 years ago / Road Tests / No Comments

The junior Jeep is taking a step towards a diesel-free future, explains Alex Grant.

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Jeep might once have looked like an odd fit under Fiat ownership, but the Renegade is a brilliant meeting of automotive cultures. A chic, Italian re-imagining of classic American off-road styling, it’s taken at least three quarters of Jeep’s European volume every year since launch and given the brand its first foothold in fleet.

Mid-life upgrades align Renegade with the new Wrangler, of which it is essentially a caricature, and follow the old car’s three-grade trim structure, but it’s only high-spec versions that get the new LED lighting or 19-inch wheels. The focus has been meeting changing market demands; diesel engines are being phased out, so the 1.6 and 2.0-litre units are almost unchanged, apart from AdBlue injection to cut harmful NOx emissions, and it’s the gasolines that have had the most attention.

The Renegade debuts two turbocharged gasoline engines; a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 120hp, and a 1.3-litre four-cylinder with 150 or 180hp, all with particulate filters and significantly lower SMR costs than their predecessors. But choose carefully; the smaller engine works well in town but quickly runs out of breath at higher speeds, and even the lower-powered 1.3-litre offers much quieter, easier progress on the motorway, potentially with little real-world economy sacrifice. The small diesel is likely to remain the best all-rounder.

Rivals are launching without four-wheel drive, but the Renegade offers genuine off-road ability for the handful of drivers who opt for it, particularly in the raucous, go-anywhere, Trailhawk spec. Instead, boxy Jeep styling provides a surprisingly spacious cabin and boot, while Android Auto and Apple CarPlay now mean the sometimes-fiddly infotainment can be bypassed. Still distinctive, even in a segment where rivals include the Hyundai Kona and Nissan Juke, sometimes odd fits work even better than they first appear.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.