2015 Jeep Renegade Review

Jeep’s cute ute is no hipster special
Imthishan Giado

 2015 Jeep Renegade

Jeep’s push away from tree-stump-chewing traditionalists towards urban acceptance has not been met with, shall we say, uniform, approval. Why has Jeep abandoned us, they cry? Why is Jeep making cars for plaid-encrusted hipsters to cruise to their coffee mornings and leech off the free Wi-fi? Why can’t we have a real Jeep again?

You do, hidebound luddites – it’s called the Wrangler, and long may it continue. Still, the Wrangler has become a victim of its own existence. Today it sells in such vast numbers that its middling fuel economy drags down the rest of the seven-slot range. Jeep needs another vehicle, a smaller vehicle that fits into other global markets and can bring that fuel economy average right back up.

2015 Jeep Renegade

Hence, I’m now at the Balocco Proving grounds scoping out the all new Jeep Renegade. Built in Italy’s Melfi plant but designed and engineered by the hometown boys from Auburn Hills, based on a vastly-modified Fiat 500L platform, this is CEO Mike Manley’s great gamble: a Jeep you can sell to Europe, and beyond.

2015 Jeep Renegade

Boxier than a Volvo

Crossover Pentastar design language has come an awful long way since the days of the Compass and Patriot. In person, the Renegade’s squared edge profile make it impossibly cute, while the butched-up Trailhawk version stands pugnaciously defiant on big-brother Rubicon replica rims. There’s copious references to the Willys original’s spare petrol jerrycan, with a similar ‘X’ pattern found in the headlights, repeated in the  taillights and elements of the interior.

2015 Jeep Renegade

The Trailhawk gets one-inch taller Koni springs and shocks to give that extra fillip of clearance and restyled bumpers to improve approach and departure angles. Regular cars get a variety of Active Drive four wheel drive systems ranging in severity from a fairly basic part-time slip-detection base version to the full-on Active Drive Low available only on Trailhawk, adding a lower crawl ratio and a Rock mode.

On offer is a veritable smorgasbord of four-cylinder engines to suit the huge global market; base is a petrol 110bhp 1.6-litre, rising to an Abarth-sourced 1.4-litre Turbo available in 140bhp/170bhp tunes, while on the diesel side, there’s 120bhp 1.6-litre MultiJet and 2.0-litre 140/170bhp mills, available with both 6-speed manuals and the 9-speed automatics.

Don’t bother trying to remember all of that because in the GCC we’re only getting one choice. Thankfully, it’s the most powerful of them all: a 185bhp 2.4-litre TigerShark motor mated exclusively to the nine-speed ZF auto found also in the bigger Cherokee, though here with some new tweaks to the software.

2015 Jeep Renegade

Interior by Gucci

If not those lofty heights of Italian couture, well certainly much closer than an American car has ever been before. Interior design of the Renegade was handed to the younger members of team and it shows. Broadly, it’s a 6/10ths Cherokee interior but the devil is in the details, like the insouciant splash of graphic mud on tachometer, or the bulging steroid infused shapes that will remind you of Nike trail runner shoes and neon outdoor jackets, the result of an errant Renegade crashing through a Columbia store.

2015 Jeep Renegade

Copiously styled it may be, but it’s also a practical proposition, with plenty of elbow and knee for passengers front and rear, and excellent visibility from the large greenhouse. All the major controls fall easily to hand, the 6.5” UConnect touchscreen panel is the easiest in the business to operate and there aren’t any rattles or obvious quality niggles to nitpick.

Even hipsters would be impressed, though the only-average boot space will mean the fixie bike is going on the roof. Via the optional Mopar bike rack, of course. Speaking of accessories, the aftermarket will be hard pressed to beat Mopar’s offerings; there’s roof top tents, ski racks and even a canoe carrier!

2015 Jeep Renegade

By the way, that roof’s pretty clever. You can opt for a boring standard fixed roof, but there’s also an optional My Sky roof allowing for the upper panels to be lifted out, Wrangler style. Very clever indeed, and they tilt/slide too.

2015 Jeep Renegade

Drives like an Alfa, offroads like a Jeep

Our press launch was so early in the Renegade production cycle that there simply wasn’t any 2.4s available for us to test, so we made do with the various petrols and diesels on offer. Those powertrains don’t really matter to you, though I’ll give you brief impressions: the 1.6 is surprisingly peppy with the manual gearbox, the 1.6 and 2.0-liter diesels work well with the nine speed auto which feels considerably upgraded from the Cherokee box.

On the bitumen, the Renegade is tidy and the most car-like crossover to drive, yet. If not for the raised seating position, you’d think you were in a Jeep saloon. No complaints about the ride, which soaked up the bumps around Balocco easily, or the handling, which defaults to understeer if pushed too hard. The electric steering is a highlight – OK, no feel as usual but it’s undemanding, weights up nicely at speed and can go fingertip light at parking speeds.

I sampled the regular Renegade on some rough woodland tracks and found it surprisingly good. The independent suspension soaks the ruts effortlessly, much better than my Wrangler would and even with some serious speed, the suspension remained nonplussed.

2015 Jeep Renegade

So tell us about the Trailhawk, why don’t you

The ultimate Renegade got a workout on Balocco’s tough offroad track. With its axle twisters, water traps, and steep grades, it’s a serious proposition and I’m pleased to announce that the diesel/9speed Trailhawk performed flawlessly, which bodes well for our region.

Much of this ability can be chalked up to the Renegade’s superb offroad software calibration. In the old days, you had to rely on your instincts to find traction; with the Renegade, it’s merely a question of pointing the wheel, stomping the accelerator and letting it figure out where to send the power to the wheel with the grip.

2015 Jeep Renegade

Tottering in the air, two wheels dangling on opposite axles? In another age, you’d have been stuck, all the power blasting to the useless dangling wheels. Renegade’s ESP can effectively mimic a diff lock, brakes the spinning wheel and getting you over the obstacle. No matter how muddy the surface or how treacherous the climb, Active Drive Low always had a solution at hand, allowing this pint-sized pugilist to punch way above its weight class.

This thing’s going to be a blast on sand. I can’t wait.

2015 Jeep Renegade

A Hipster Jeep that you just can’t help but Love

This is the first car I’ve driven in years which actually makes sense with those descriptions. Tomorrow’s buyer isn’t always looking for ultimate offroad ability and the compromises that demands, but they are looking for a thoroughly-modern, well engineered crossover that isn’t expensive to run, expensive to buy and can still handle itself when the going gets tough.

I’ll withhold a final verdict for when we drive the GCC-spec petrol car, but I’ll tell you this much – if you’re thinking about buying a Kia Soul, Sportage, Ford EcoSport or any of that cheap crossover lot – the Renegade absolutely deserves your test drive.

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2015 Jeep Renegade Review – The Specs

Prices:
Renegade Sport (4×2 FWD): AED85,700 ($23,330)

Renegade Latitude (4×4 AWD): AED99,900 ($27,196)

Renegade Trailhawk  (4×4 AWD): AED110,900 ($30,190)

Renegade Limited (4×4 AWD): AED119,000 ($32,640)

Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder, 184bhp @ 6400rpm, 177lb ft @ 4400rpm
Transmission: Nine speed auto, four-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 11.4 L/100km (estimated)
Performance: 0-100kph 8.8 seconds (est), Top speed N/A
Gross Weight: 1502kg

 

 

5 responses to “2015 Jeep Renegade Review”

  1. Marc says:

    Hard to imagine an uglier car than this..

  2. Marc says:

    True, the aztek was almost as ugly..

    Buuuut, pontiac ceased to exist in 2010….!! 😉

  3. Nauman says:

    Although its not attractive, but I wont call it ugly either. Its a cute, small and funky looking jeep.

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