Jeep's baby Renegade has been usefully improved. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
The Jeep Renegade is a genuinely smart piece of product design, distilling Jeep's brand values into a smaller package while leaning on the smartest technology the Fiat Group has to offer. This improved version gets revised petrol engine technology, slightly smarter looks and enhanced connectivity. But as before, if you eat squirrel, own a bowling ball and call your first cousin your spouse, chances are you're going to hate it. Otherwise, read on.
Take a respected brand, a fresh and vibrant market segment and a willingness to do something different. Then create from that a product with uncompromising looks, real capability and clever design. The result you'd get certainly wouldn't be ordinary. It wouldn't please traditionalists. No, in automotive terms, what you'd get would be something like this, the Jeep Renegade. At its original launch here in 2015, news that this Renegade was almost entirely based on Fiat's 500X had Jeep die-hards choking on their beer. These people needed to allow for the fact that much had been done with these underpinnings in creation of a tougher, more rugged and very different product. It's certainly one that's attracted widespread interest and now accounts for over 70% of Jeep's UK sales. It's achillies heel was previously an ancient couple of petrol engines, which have now thankfully been dumped as part of the changes made to this smarter, more sophisticated facelifted model.
The key news with this improved Renegade lies with the changes made beneath the bonnet. The old-tech entry-level normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine of the original model has been replaced by a much more efficient 120hp 1.0-litre unit. And the old inefficient 1.4-litre 134hp MultiAir petrol 1.4 makes way for a new 1.3-litre powerplant, available in 150 and 180hp guises. Ideally, you want to try and stretch to the 1.3 because the base 1.0-litre unit doesn't really have enough pulling power to shove the Renegade along with much conviction. The automatic gearbox that goes with the lower-powered version of the 1.3-litre engine isn't especially slick-changing; the uprated 9-speed auto 'box that goes with the 178hp 1.3 is better. As before, if you're looking at a diesel, there's a 120bhp 1.6-litre Mjet unit or a 2.0-litre Mjet option with either 140 or 170bhp. You'll need the 2.0-litre Mjet diesel if you want your car with 4WD. The car's 4x4 system hasn't changed, incorporating a rear axle disconnect system that switches seamlessly between two and four-wheel-drive for reduced energy loss when 4x4 capability isn't needed, improving fuel efficiency in the process. But the Renegade is more at home on the highway, where refinement is surprisingly good, despite the relatively bluff aerodynamics.
The Renegade has always sold on its styling - and it still will. There are some subtle aesthetic tweaks with this revised model but the main changes lie with the adoption of LED technology for the headlamps and tail lights. As before, the squarical profile features lovely tight overhangs and some very cool detailing. What is particularly interesting is the way the design includes some very traditional Jeep design cues but isn't afraid to twist them a bit into something resolutely modern-looking. That aspect you will either love or hate. Cover up the badges inside the car and, yes, you would probably think you were in a Fiat product, but if you've had a look at the latest Fiat range, that's no bad thing. Jeep says that the fascia's been updated but it's difficult to see many changes apart from the improved Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, which on top variants features a big 8.4-inch monitor. This has clear menus, sharp graphics and useful shortcut buttons, plus it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can use apps from your smartphone (such as Google Maps and Waze) while driving. As for practicality, well it's a bit pinched in the back, but then that comes with the territory when you've got this little length to play with.
In the UK, the Renegade is available in a range comprising four different trim levels - Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk - equipped with efficient turbo-diesel and petrol engines and available in four-wheel drive or front-wheel drive configurations. Prices sit in the £19,000 to £30,000 bracket. Standard equipment in the well-equipped entry-level Sport includes air conditioning, DAB radio with touchscreen and Bluetooth, electric parking brake, 16-inch alloy wheels, tyre pressure monitoring, and remote central locking. Longitude adds features including 17-inch aluminium wheels, six-speaker audio system, roof rails, body coloured door mirrors and handles, cruise control, and front fog lamps. The Limited version further adds 18-inch aluminium wheels, chromed exhaust tip, Forward Collision Mitigation, heated front seats and steering wheel, leather upholstery, privacy glass and rear parking sensors. In case you were wondering where the Renegade is screwed together, yes, it's from the Deep South. Of Italy though; coming off the same Melfi production line as the Fiat 500X SUV.
The Renegade can't afford to be an expensive car to run, but it rather was in its original petrol forms. This facelifted version does much better thanks to its more modern 1.0-litre three cylinder and 1.3-litre petrol units. The 1.0-litre variant manages 46.3mpg on the combined cycle and 139g/km of CO2. Of course, the ultimate figures you achieve will depend very much on how you drive, something you can monitor and improve if you've downloaded the infotainment system's 'Uconnect LIVE' app onto your smartphone. This gives you an 'eco:Drive' section that enables you to develop your driving style, save fuel and check your car's CO2 emissions in real time. During each trip, 'eco:Drive monitors four driving parameters: acceleration, deceleration, changing gears and speed variation. There's also a 'my:car' feature that allows you to check your fuel level and tyre pressure, choose an assistance service if you have an emergency and be informed if there's anything wrong with your vehicle. What else might you need to know? There's an unremarkable three year / 60,000 mile warranty, though you do get three years of breakdown cover included in the deal. We'd want to opt for the 'Mopar Vehicle Protection' 'Freedom Pack' which extends the warranty to five years and provides competitively priced servicing and assistance plans.
This Renegade has brought a long overdue dose of credibility to the small SUV segment. Here, you get plenty of style, in a bluff, tough Jeep kind of way, but there's decent substance behind that too, with near-family-sized practicality and the potential for far more off road prowess than any other car in this segment can provide. So you get a little more than you might expect to from this class of car - which is just as well, given premium pricing that lifts this Jeep well clear of cheaper offerings in the Juke-genre. If you're OK with that and dig the distinctive look, then potentially, there's much to like here, especially with this revised model. The efficient engineering, strong safety standards and hi-tech features you'd want a reasonably expensive family car to provide are here packaged with a depth of character you simply wouldn't think you'd find at this price point. The result is the kind of car people talk about - the sort almost everyone will have an opinion on, so shy and retiring types should shop elsewhere. In a sea of compact Crossovers, this one's very different from the norm. A renegade if you like - perhaps, just as every Jeep should be.