2015 Renegade New Car Test Drive
Jeep Renegade is the newest entry in the burgeoning small compact crossover utility market. Renegade is built in Italy and comes imbued with the emotion and characteristics you might expect. It has a unique look, as do the Nissan Juke, Kia Soul, and Mini Countryman it matches up with, and infectious let's-go-for-a-drive manners. But it also has room for real people front and back, decent cargo space and attractive pricing and fuel economy.
Upright styling pays dividends in outward visibility, cargo space and ease of entry/egress, all in a footprint less than 14 feet long. And all that space is filled with shapes and features, large and small, to evoke memories of the original Jeep. It borders on getting carried away, but Mini does the same with ellipses and such.
Renegade's cabin fits four adults or a couple and three kids or midsize canines across the back. Removable roof panels cover both rows of seats and stow under the cargo floor. Luggage space compares to that behind the third row in many crossovers, while there's more than 50 cubic feet behind the front seats and the right-front folds for longer items.
Materials and finishes fit the class, except the Jeep Renegade covers the range from entry-level (cloth seats, no AC) to luxury more like a Buick Encore: heated leather seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, reconfigurable dash display, and so on. Some Renegade interiors offer multi-color leather and brightly finished trim pieces.
Electronics are up to date, the top level employing your smartphone for Yelp search, on-demand Wi-Fi and so on, in Fiat Chrysler Automobile's easy-to-use Uconnect system. Renegade also offers safety systems not available on some vehicles a class larger, including forward collision warning with automatic braking and lane-departure warning with correction. Better yet, you don't have to buy the most expensive model to have the option.
Two powertrains are offered, a 1.4-liter turbo with 6-speed manual and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a 9-speed automatic. Upper trims get the 2.4 and it's offered on lower trim, but the 1.4 manual is arguably more entertaining and quieter, and probably more efficient. Renegade isn't fast but it'll keep up with traffic, hills and on-ramps.
Ride comfort is acceptable and the handling quite good. From big heaves to hairpins the Renegade was controlled and stable during our test drives; with the right settings and buttons pushed it was downright fun on winding dirt roads and more engaging on the pavement than most. Engine, road and wind noise are quelled sufficiently for road-tripping.
The Nissan Juke in NISMO trim and Mini Countryman S may match the Renegade's driving fun, the Kia Soul its emotional and stylish appeal, the Buick Encore Limited version, and the Chevrolet Trax its value proposition or fuel economy. Also due this year are a Mazda CX-3 we anticipate will be at least as fun to pilot, the Honda HR-V undoubtedly a utilitarian and efficient contender, and the Fiat 500X derived from the same base as the Renegade. None of them will head off the beaten path as handily as a Renegade Trailhawk.
Jeep Renegade comes in four trim levels: value-oriented Sport, mainstream Latitude, luxurious Limited, and off-road biased Trailhawk. Sport and Latitude come with the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and 6-speed manual gearbox, while Limited and Trailhawk get the 2.4-liter non-turbo four-cylinder and 9-speed automatic transmission; the 2.4 is optional on Sport and Latitude. The Trailhawk is all-wheel drive only, the others are front-wheel drive (labeled 4×2) with all-wheel drive (4×4) a $2,000 upgrade.
Renegade Sport 4×2 ($17,995) comes with cloth upholstery, manual 6-way driver seat, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, power door locks, rear wipe/wash, tinted glass, dual-height cargo floor, sliding-armrest console, trip computer, reading lamps, 12-volt DC outlets, sliding visors with mirrors, AM/FM 4-speaker Uconnect 3.0 stereo, 16-inch steel wheels and tire-inflator kit. Sport 4×4 ($19,995) adds to that a fold-forward passenger seat and Active Drive all-wheel drive. Sport options include manual MySky roof, Power & Air group (air conditioning, cruise control, power heated mirrors), Uconnect 5.0 with Bluetooth and SiriusXM, rearview camera, aluminum wheels, temporary-use spare and roof rails.
Renegade Latitude 4×2 ($21,295) and 4×4 ($23,295) add air conditioning, cruise control, power heated mirrors, aluminum wheels, rearview camera, fog lamps, deep-tint glass, body-color door handles and mirrors, automatic headlamps, roof rails, ambient interior lighting, seatback pockets, 180-watt 6-speaker stereo, leather-wrapped steering wheel, illuminated visor mirrors and Uconnect 5.0. Latitude offers the most cabin colors and options. Latitude may be equipped with the Advanced Technology group with lane departure warning plus, forward collision warning plus, rear park assist; Safety and Security group with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, security alarm, Keyless Enter ‘n Go; Cold Weather group with all-season floor mats, remote start for automatics, and heated front seats, steering wheel and windshield; Popular Equipment group with dual-zone climate control, remote start, 115-volt auxiliary power, 8-way power driver's seat, 40/20/40 rear seat with pass through and armrest, Premium 9-speaker 506-w sound system; Trailer group with a Class III receiver hitch, 7- and 4-pin plugs, full-size spare; larger aluminum wheels; manual or power MySky roof; Uconnect 6.5 with navigation; SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link; SiriusXM; HD radio.
Renegade Limited 4×2 ($24,795) and 4×4 ($26,795) upgrade further with leather upholstery and upgraded trim, dual-zone climate control, heated front and power driver seats, 18-inch aluminum wheels, 7-inch configurable dash display, 40/20/40 rear seat, wiper deicer, 115-volt AC outlet, remote start, rechargeable flashlight, black roof, dual exhaust tips, signal repeaters, carpeted floor mats, auto-dimming inside mirror and body-color lower trim with bright accents. Limited options include MySky roof, active safety packages, 506-watt audio system, Uconnect 6.5/navigation, and a trailering package.
Renegade Trailhawk ($25,995) offers three distinctive paints with black roof and neutral gray trim; a matte black hood decal is optional. Trailhawk comes with unique cloth upholstery and color scheme with red stitching, Active Drive Low, skid plates, higher ride height, 215/65R17 all-terrain tires, three tow hooks, full-size spare, removable cargo floor panel, 7-inch display, all-season mats. Most features, options and groups parallel Latitude trim, except you can not get the Advanced Technology pack and a Premium group adds leather, 40/20/40 rear seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and some other conveniences that bring the interior close to Limited standards.
Safety features standard on all Renegades include front, front side, side-curtain and driver-knee airbags, electronic stability control with traction control, antilock brakes and brake assist, and hill-start assist. Optional safety equipment varies by trim and includes a rearview camera, rear park sensors, lane-departure warning/correction and forward collision warning with mitigation braking and blind-spot warning with cross-path detection.