In fact, every SUV is a copy. At least, that's how Jeep thinks about it. And for good reason, because, when speaking about a "Jeep", in many cases the speaker refers to a generic off-roader rather than a car by the American manufacturer with the same name. Until this very day, Jeep owes much of its success to its iconic name.
However... this success is diminishing. Jeep does everything it can to reinvent itself, but so far with very little result. The carmaker doesn't want to deviate too much from the original, yet to date the market for basic military vehicles is just about zero. That's why Jeep gave the smaller models a more modern look, but this affected the genuine Jeep image.
The Renegade looks more like an old-school off-roader, and it works! While other models try to impress by robust shapes and huge dimensions, the Renegade oozes lust for live. When seen straight from the front the angry look of the first Jeep is still there, while the tail lights now have a perky star shape.
The interior is almost revolutionary! The lines are playful, yet without forgetting about the original. The designers did everything they could to make the Renegade feel big, strong and indestructible. Opposite the passenger's seat there's a handrail that would even hold an elephant!
Many details show that the designers enjoyed doing their job. For example, the upholstery has the same pattern as the grille, on the dashboard it says "Since 1941", the rev counter has a mud stain print on it and the shaded edge of the windscreen has the outline of a Willys Jeep hidden in it! That's why the Renegade driver always has the privileged feeling of driving a special car.
More than that, build quality has increased as well. This is because Fiat now partly owns Jeep. And while Jeep is still an American brand, the Renegade is being build in Italy where quality standards are much higher than in the USA. The cabin certainly isn't perfect and several parts still feel cheap and shady, but overall it is much better than before.
The cabin space is average for a car in this segment, yet the Renegade feels like a giant of a car. The driver sits up high and overlooks a huge bonnet. The dashboard is deep, which makes the distance between driver and car even greater.
When it comes to standard equipment, Jeep also took a big step forward with the Renegade. Even the base model features keyless entry. The power steering can nudge the car in the right direction when the markings on the road are crossed accidentally. If an object is detected in the path of the car, a warning will be issued (however, the brakes will not be applied automatically).
The Renegade is fitted with the "U-Connect" sound, satnav and communication system. It is powerful and easy to use, but not very reliable. During the test drive the system froze and the driver had to rely on his own knowledge of the local roads.
With the Renegade, Jeep literally wants to conquer the world. The Renegade will be available in more countries than ever before. Jeep is so confident because of the engines supplied by Fiat. For example, the test vehicle was equipped with a 1.6 litre "MultiJet" diesel which can also be found in many Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia models.
The four-cylinder engine develops 120 PS / 320 Nm and that's plenty to power the Renegade. Thanks to well chosen gearbox ratios the diesel often runs at its optimum engine speed. This base diesel engine doesn't exactly turn the Renegade into a fast car, yet because it performs with so much ease that even this compact Jeep feels like a mighty vehicle.
Despite a very calm driving style, the Renegade isn't as frugal as Jeep promises. According to the brochure it should be able to do 62 mpg, yet the test car guzzled as much as 41 mpg.
Roadholding of the Renegade can be summarised as "average". The Renegade doesn't have the crisp handling of a regular car, but for an SUV it's okay.
Optionally, the Renegade is available with four-wheel drive. This isn't just an extra safety feature: the so-called "Trailhawk" version owes its name to the fact that it completed a test route that only real Jeeps are said to be able to travel.
However, for this test drive the two-wheel drive version was chosen because most customers choose the Renegade for its looks and image. The most important reason to opt for the four-wheel drive version is because it can handle a much heavier trailer. The two-wheel drive Renegade is only allowed to tow a 1,000 kg (braked) trailer, while the stronger 4WD can handle 1,500 kg.
The Renegade is the new baby Jeep. And just because of its heritage it has an advantage over its competition even before driving. Compared to its rivals the Renegade looks original and fun. This doesn't just go for the outside, inside the Renegade looks just as good. Those who choose an SUV to make a statement will love the Renegade for its looks alone!
But... the Renegade offers more than just an image. When the car is judged rationally, the space, standard equipment and handling are all average for a car in this segment. The modern (diesel) engines from Fiat are even of above average quality and a real asset for Jeep. That doesn't just make this new Jeep a fresh new face, but also a worthy new member of the iconic brand.