A Jeep built in Italy? That might seem sacrilegious to the Jeep faithful but it’s a result of sharing a chassis platform with the Fiat 500L and 500X. Welcome to the global world of auto manufacturing.
Small crossover utility vehicles such as the Buick Encore, Chevy Trax, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V are all the rage lately, and more are on the way. The Jeep Renegade, shorter and wider than the Jeep Patriot and Compass, slides neatly into this segment. Compact crossovers are appealing on several levels, most notably because they are easy on gas, fit comfortably into urban environments and have affordable price tags. They are essentially tall hatchbacks with bigger cargo spaces, an upright stance and very modest off-road ability.
The Renegade is powered by a 160-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder with a six-speed manual or a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a nine-speed automatic. Fuel economy is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway for the smaller engine and 22 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway for the 2.4-liter.
The base Renegade Sport with front-wheel drive starts at $18,990, including a $995 destination charge. The Latitude starts at $22,290, the Limited begins at $25,790 and the Trailhawk is $26,990. Four-wheel drive is standard on the Trailhawk and a $2,000 option on the other models.
There are two four-wheel-drive options: full-time four-wheel drive and Active Drive Low with a 20:1 crawl ratio. Personally, I would select the full-time all-wheel drive for the security it gives in snow or rain. If I lived in a place like Colorado or New Hampshire, Active Drive Low would be my choice.
The Trailhawk Renegade has been getting respectable marks for its capability by those who have driven it off-road. It sits almost an inch higher, has skid plates and tow hooks, 17-inch wheels with off-road tires and hill-descent control. It comes with Active Drive Low and the select-terrain system that has Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock modes. It can wade through water up to 19 inches deep.
I drove a front-wheel-drive Limited with the 2.4-liter engine from Jeep’s press fleet. In this configuration, the Renegade is a perfectly acceptable city car, and its boxy shape gives it a versatile, if not overly large, cargo space. It was lively and maneuverable, with quick steering and a ride that felt a little jittery on the highway. It was quieter than a Wrangler.
The Limited’s interior was a tad busy for my taste, with a stylistic representation of the Jeep headlights and grille embossed into the seatbacks, console and door speakers and “Since 1941” stamped above the central LCD screen. Other than the name, this little Jeep has little in common with the original military model of 1941.
The front seats were comfortably contoured, although I found that for me, the headrests lacked adequate adjustability. Taller folks are not likely to be so affected.
Standard equipment included dual-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, heated seats, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio and 18-inch wheels.
The split-folding rear seat can be tumbled forward to expand the cargo space, and the rear tailgate is large. The rear cargo floor is height-adjustable.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The base price of the test car was $25,790. The only option was a tonneau cover. The sticker price was $25,865.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
2015 Jeep Renegade Limited FWD
Engine: 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower four-cylinder
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 101.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,187 pounds
Base price: $25,790
As driven: $25,865
MPG rating: 22 in the city, 31 on the highway