Jeep Renegade review
Jeep's Renegade saunters into the compact crossover war with 60 years of heritage on its side. Is that enough?
Paul Healy
Paul Healy
Pics by Max Earey

Published on October 17, 2015

Good: spacious, 1.6 diesel has low running costs, Limited model is generously equipped.

Not so good: on-road manners overlooked for off-road ability, some cheap plastics in cabin.

Our view

Everyone knows the feeling. Your friend or work colleague raves about some new movie or TV series, making it sound like the best thing since Godfather II. Intrigued, you pull up the sofa, cuddle up with a bucket of popcorn only to emerge two hours later thinking it is time to find some new friends. If something has been hyped up it rarely lives up to expectations.

That is exactly the problem I faced with the Jeep Renegade. Ordinarily, before I drive a car, I try to avoid other people's opinions of it. Not because I see myself as some sort of motoring doyen, but I don't want my opinion pre-corrupted, my expectations raised ready for a fall. Unfortunately, that was not possible with the Renegade. Everyone ahead of me on the press drive rotation took to Twitter to claim it was the best thing since sliced bread, a quirky machine that brought a smile to their faces every time they drove it. The Renegade had become Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer (Hollywood's latest 'fun and quirky' starlets and that is never a good thing. Just ask Luke Wilson!).

Undeniably there is a certain sense of satisfaction derived from driving everywhere in a full-sized Tonka truck (or half-sized Hummer depending on your viewpoint), but there are some aspects of the Renegade that seem contrived, like it is trying too hard. Take the Willys Jeep 'Easter eggs' for example. The round headlight and seven bar grille motif is dotted everywhere around the cabin and while making for a fun game while stuck in traffic to find them all their entire existence seems to be as a constant reminder that the smallest member of the Jeep family is a 'proper' Jeep and not just a re-bodied Fiat 500X. And let's not even mention the mud-splatter instead of a redline on the tacho. That ranks up there with MINI's sporty 'go-kart' button...

It is a shame really as underneath all the manufactured 'fun and quirky' aspects the Renegade is a decent car. Look past Jeep's belief that it is the only 'true' SUV in the small crossover market and you find a vehicle that offers something for everybody. To cast as wide a net as possible the baby Jeep can be had with a choice of four petrol and MultiJet diesel engines, two- or four-wheel-drive, four trim levels and more transmission options than you can shake a stick at. All told there are 16 different configurations possible - and that is without getting into options such as colour and interior trim.

But, for what it's worth, we reckon the 120hp 1.6-litre MultiJet, front-wheel drive, Limited speciation that you see before you is the sweet spot in the line-up. Packing dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, cruise control, the 6.5-inch UConnect infotainment system with satellite navigation and safety systems such as lane departure warning and forward collision systems, the Limited offers the right amount of equipment for the money. The 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel engine also plays its part. Emissions of 120g/km make for an annual road tax bill of €200 while an official fuel consumption figure of 4.4 litres/100km shouldn't see you visiting the fuel station too often.

The 1.6-litre engine is the baby of the diesel line-up (there is also a 140hp 2.0-litre unit), but it is perfectly up to the job of hauling the Renegade about. Its 120hp is backed up by 320Nm of torque available from 1,750rpm meaning you are never found wanting for push. It can be a touch noisy though, especially above 3,500rpm, with the diesel rumble never really dissipating. That noise is not much of a problem on the motorway though as it is replaced by wind noise from the A-pillar and oversized wing mirrors, the downside of the Renegade's square shape and blunt front end.

That shape does mean there is more space in the cabin though, closer to that of the Qashqai than the Juke. Jeep claims that rear legroom is class leading and while we suspect the Skoda Yeti just has the edge it is still generous. As too is the space between the front seats - there will be no fighting over elbow room between driver and passenger as both are provided with ample space. There is good headroom too, especially in the back, which makes a nice change from so many rivals that can feel claustrophobic for rear seat occupants.

The cabin itself shows the advancements that Jeep has made in recent years. Yes there is an element of Fiat-parts-bin about some of the switchgear, but everything is solidly constructed and should stand up to plenty of abuse from the smaller members of the family. Some of the plastics lower down in the cabin are still of questionable tactility, but the bits you actually use are pleasing to the touch and of decent quality. Boot space falls behind that of the Yeti, but is a match for most other rivals at 351 litres, or more than is offered by the Ford Focus to put it another way.

Unfortunately for the Renegade its fun and quirky side falls apart in the handling stakes. As noted when we drove the car at its international launch, the ride is firm, which, in an Irish sense, means it struggles with rural roads - of which we have plenty. The suspension is well damped so it never crashes and bangs, but it is constantly busy, fidgety even - never really getting into its stride. This can prove tiresome on longer journeys over meandering, pothole marked rural roads with your attention constantly focused on the ride rather than the road ahead. Then again a compact crossover is an urbanite; surely that is where the Renegade excels? Unfortunately not, as the deathly slow low-speed steering, ideal for when you are crossing a fjord, makes negotiating tight city streets almost as tiresome as a rural blast - manhandling the steering wheel being the only way to make it work. It is almost as if Jeep spent more time on its off-road prowess than its on-road manners...

And therein lies the problem - what Jeep needed to compete in the fiercest segment of the market was a genuinely fun and quirky car, but by paying too much attention to its illustrious forefathers the Renegade merely wears a cloak of quirkiness over the core Jeep ideals - both the good and the bad ones.


Tech Specs

Model testedJeep Renegade Limited 1.6 MultiJet FWD
Pricingas tested €30,450; starts at €22,950
Engine1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmissionsix-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions120g/km (Band A4, €200 per annum)
Combined economy64.4mpg (4.4 litres/100km)
Top speed180km/h
0-100km/h9.9 seconds
Power120hp at 3,500- to 4,000rpm
Torque320Nm at 1,750- to 2,800rpm
Boot space351- to 1,279 litres
EuroNCAP rating5-star; 87% adult; 85% child; 65% pedestrian; 74% safety assist
Rivals to the Jeep Renegade