At what point does cute design cross over into a Napoleonic complex?
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I’ve been wanting to drive the new Renegade for a looonnnngggg time. I gotta say, I liked this better than I thought I would by quite a bit. It’s fun to bomb around town in.
I like this platform — Fiat-Chrysler calls it the Small-Wide 4×4 platform. It’s also under the Fiat 500X. Solid and stiff, it makes the Renegade drive more like a hot hatch than a Jeep. Not kidding. Yeah there’s some body roll, but the structure is strong and the thing actually feels quite balanced. Plus the steering is damned good. I’m surprised the car weighs 3,348 pounds. Feels a lot lighter than that. FCA calls this engine the Tiger Shark and it provides plenty of power and the 9-speed is smooth. It’s easy and fun to fling around — very forgiving. I bet it’s a hoot in the snow!
There’s plenty of interior space — at least in front, considering the Renegade’s compact size — and like other FCA cars, Jeep has loaded the interior with a lot of cues paying homage to Jeeps over the decades, such as a tiny Willys crawling up the windshield and a Moab trail map in a storage bin. I think they’re cool. There are quite few on the exterior too, and no, I didn’t stand in the rain and count them.
That brings me to a couple things I didn’t get to do with the Renegade: Rain prevented me from trying the enormous sunroof. I also didn’t take it off-road, but from what I’ve read on our site, it’s a real Jeep.
It’s only been on sale for three months and Jeep’s sold about 15,000 so far. Not a grand slam quite yet, but respectable for a newcomer.
Being in a 2.5 Jeep family, I’m sure I’ll be accused of being a Jeep slappy for liking the Renegade. Fine with me.
2015 Jeep Renegade Limited shown
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: There’s a ton to like here as long as you can get past all the damn “look, look, I’m a real Jeep!” cuteness plastered EVERYWHERE in and on the Renegade. My kids and I crawled around the thing looking for Easter eggs the designers planted and counted no fewer than 18 — and I’m sure we missed a few.
Most of them come in the form of the classic CJ/Wrangler seven-slot grille and round headlight (sorry YJ) face, and they can be found in the headlights, taillights, rear interior panel, speaker surrounds and even the rearview mirror finish panel. I suppose for entry-level Jeep buyers — the kind who will purchase a Renegade — it helps reinforce the brand so someday they’ll move into something more profitable. If I were a new-Jeep buyer, the barrage of CJ faces would serve as a constant reminder that I settled for something other than a Wrangler.
But like I said, maybe that’s the point.
Anyway, put on your Jeep hat and Jeep T-shirt and add your “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand” bumper sticker and climb in. First thing you notice is there’s a ton of space inside the Renegade, and outward visibility is excellent. Interior accommodations are good too, with enough premium touches to offset the utilitarian black plastics and upholstery. On the road, the Renegade is flat-out fun; it’s not a barnstormer, but it’s a quick, relatively quiet crossover with good road manners. Engineers even managed to tame the nasty shift quality found in other applications for the 9-speed automatic. The only weirdness on our Renegade was an intermittent low-speed rumble when slowing down for traffic lights and then accelerating again. It felt almost like regenerative braking or hybrid interference, so I’m not sure if something was amiss with our car’s 4WD system or if it’s a normal resonance.
It’s impossible not to compare the Renegade to the abysmal Compass/Patriot, but the truth is, there’s no comparison. This is a superior vehicle on every level, and I suspect the modest sales figures so far are simply a matter of supply, not demand.
Go figure that it took the Italians to build the Jeep the Germans never could.
2015 Jeep Renegade Limited shown
Options: 2.4-liter I4 MultiAir Engine ($ 1,400), My Sky power retractable/removable panels ($ 1,395), Popular Equipment Group ($ 795), 18-inch x 7.0-inch aluminum wheels ($ 595), passive entry/keyless go ($ 295), remote start system ($ 200)