The smallest model in Jeep’s inventory is also one of the most attractive, but don’t let the size or the looks fool you. When properly equipped, the Renegade can conquer the not-so-beaten paths as competently as any competing model.
The Renegade first put a wheel on our shores for the 2015 model year. Although it was designed in the United States, the Renegade’s home base is a Fiat plant in Italy where it shares the same basic platform and purpose with the Fiat 500X. Buyers in more than 100 countries can also take the Renegade home.
Compared to the one-size-larger Compass, the Renegade is 15-plus centimetres shorter, but has five more centimetres of body height and nearly identical passenger volume. It’s only in cargo space behind the rear seat where the Compass clearly dominates, but those who haven’t sat in a Renegade might be pleasantly surprised by just how much head, elbow and legroom there really is.
For 2019, the Renegade receives a number of updates. There’s a new hood and a grille with active shutters that close at higher speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag. There are also new wheel designs and now-optional LED headlights and tail lamps. In reality, these changes are barely discernible from the previous edition.
It’s a similar story inside. There are slight adjustments to the instrument panel, an added smartphone holder and a new-look infotainment system.
Of greater significance are the revisions to the Renegade’s drivetrain lineup. The turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder base engine, which generated 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, has been replaced by the previously optional non-turbo 2.4-litre four-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet. It’s rated at 10.8 l/100 km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.5 combined.
The new optional engine is a turbocharged 1.3-litre four-cylinder that puts out 177 horses and 200 pound-feet of torque.
The deletion of the 1.4-litre turbo also means the cancellation of the six-speed manual transmission. A nine-speed automatic is now mandatory across the line.
Four-wheel-drive is optional on the Renegade Sport and North variations, but is included with the Limited Trim. The off-road-specialist Trailhawk’s 4x4 system comes with low-range 20:1 crawl-ratio gearing, underbody skid-plate protection, a 22-centimetre increase in ride height, plus unique wheels that are fitted with all-terrain tires.
Trailhawks also get hill-descent control and Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock traction settings (the Active Drive 4x4 system in other trims lack the low-range Rock setting).
Note that the Renegade’s 910-kilogram maximum towing capacity requires the 4x4 option.
Pricing starts at $30,450 (including destination fees) for the base Sport 4x2. It comes with minimal power-operated content and only a small 12.5-centimetre touch screen, and has no air conditioning or speed control.
The North adds those items along with fog lights, an 18-centimetre touch screen, and the steel wheels are upgraded to 16-inch aluminum alloys.
Along with the off-road components, the Trailhawk also gets a blacked-out grille, hood decal and front and rear tow hooks.
Positioned atop the Renegade rung, the Limited includes the turbocharged engine, leather-covered seats (heated in front), six-way power driver’s seat and 18-inch wheels.
What’s missing from the Limited and other trims are the optional sunroofs (dual-pane or removable open-air roof panels), nine-speaker Beats audio package, full-size spare tire and a range of active-safety technologies, such as emergency braking. Parallel and perpendicular parking assist can also be ordered.
It would be easy to dismiss the Renegade out of hand as a mere caricature of a true utility vehicle, but its small size and tightly drawn sheetmetal make it ideal for squeezing around tight spots, hopping over boulders and crawling through mud and muck. And it does all this while managing to look so darned cute.
What you should know: 2019 Jeep Renegade
Type Four-door, front- /four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle
Engines (h.p.) 2.4-litre SOHC I-4 (180); 1.3-litre SOHC I-4, turbocharged (177)
Transmission Nine-speed automatic
Market position The Renegade is one of a number of smaller utility vehicles, but the little Jeep is one of only a few that is both affordable and, when properly equipped, fully capable of travelling off road.
Points • Relatively spacious for people and their possessions, despite a small profile. • Base and optional four-cylinder engines deliver decent, if unspectacular power. • Lack of a manual transmission means the Wrangler is now the only Jeep to offer a stick shift. • The premium Limited trim level should include a higher degree of standard content.
Active safety Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.); lane-departure warning (opt.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 10.8/7.8 (2.4); Base price (incl. destination) $30,450
Base price: $24,300
India-built tall wagon comes with a base turbocharged three-cylinder engine.
Base price: $27,500
Small utility vehicle has a turbocharged four-cylinder and optional AWD.
Base price: $34,000
Renegade’s close relation uses the same engines, but has a sportier body.
-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media