Overall rating: 4/5
After a few quiet years, Jeep is stirring once more and following last year's Cherokee is now set to make a bigger splash with its new, smaller SUV. The Renegade is dripping with 'Tonka truck' appeal, but can it walk the walk when it comes to driving performance?
In the Metal:
To some it may look almost like a caricature Jeep or something created by Pixar, but I love the chunky look of the Renegade - especially in the more vivid hues in which Jeep offers. Aesthetically there is no mistaking that this is a Jeep (in the literal sense of the word), thanks to its chunky look and trademark seven-slot grille.
There's plenty of other neat features dotted throughout the design of the Renegade, from the three-dimensional rear light units to the rounded square wheel arches. Look a little closer and you'll notice a few Easter eggs too, like the miniature Jeep silhouette driving up the frit band on the windscreen.
The rest of the cabin is roomy with what could easily be the best headroom in its class. It comfortably seats four and five isn't all that tight a squeeze. Up front, there is a solid look and feel to the dashboard and centre console layout, the latter of which is proudly embossed with 'Since 1941'. Our 'Longitude' spec test car also features a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and satellite navigation along with a DAB radio all as standard. Storage-wise there are a few practically-sized storage bins dotted throughout the cabin and the boot offers a respectable 351 litres of volume that can be expanded to 1,297 litres by dropping the rear seats down.
Jeep will offer a range of engines with the new Renegade, from a 110hp 1.6-litre E-torQ petrol to a more powerful 170hp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit. However, it is diesel power that is likely to pique most potential buyer's interests and the 1.6-litre MultiJet II unit in our test car could prove most popular. With 120hp and, more importantly, 320Nm of torque, it makes decent progress.
The steering is well weighted and suspension is just on the firm side, making it feel composed on the road. Generally, there's enough torque to pull the baby Jeep along but let the revs drop down a touch too far on inclines and you will need to drop a gear to keep the momentum up. The front-wheel drive transmission offers enough grip to make the Renegade feel sure-footed enough that most won't feel the need to have the all-wheel drive system that is also available.
What you get for your Money:
Across the Renegade range, Jeep is offering four distinct specification levels. The entry-level 'Sport', which begins at €22,950 is only available with the least powerful 110hp petrol engine and is more about offering an attractive entry price than anything else. The 'Longitude' specification, priced from €24,950, provides enough equipment to satisfy most buyers including the aforementioned infotainment systems as well as air conditioning, interior ambiente LED lighting, cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel.
A higher grade 'Limited' specification pitches the Renegade more into the realm of the MINI Countryman, offering 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable driver's seat and a larger 6.5-inch infotainment system. Jeep will have a range-topping Trailhawk specification but pricing has yet to be confirmed for this and it may remain available only as a special order.
The initial opinion is that the Jeep Renegade is near-bursting with character and style, but more importantly backs this up with what seems to be a well-engineered chassis and engine line-up that will work well on Irish roads. Potential buyers will need to forget about smaller Jeeps of the past and the sticker price, as what lies underneath is a genuinely fun car to drive that still manages to hold on to a practical side.