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Jeep Renegade: Fun Unleashed

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The Renegade is Jeep’s new baby SUV. This car is also Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ first compact crossover with proper off-road ability, with a variety of trim levels and a choice of powertrains.

Using the new Fiat 500X as its base and designed to attract new buyers to the Jeep brand, the Renegade is also attempting to appeal to the core Jeep audience with its mix of off-road skills and everyday commuting comfort.

There’s even a special Trailhawk model designed to take on genuinely challenging off-road trails and it’s the car I drove for a week for GUSMEN magazine.

As I said the Renegade shares its platform with the Fiat 500X. That may seem an unlikely starting point for an off-road-capable Jeep, but there are significant differences between the two.

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The Renegade certainly doesn’t look like a sellout, although it does look weird. But with its round headlights and seven-slot grille, there’s no mistaking the Renegade for anything but a Jeep.

I really like the little details that Jeep have been giving their cars lately, and the Renegade is no exception. There are little cues everywhere you look, from the small seven-slot grille icon integrated into the headlights to the military-style “No Step” warning on the side sills. They’re small things, but owners will delight in discovering them.

This car is cheekily, confidently butch without being overdone, its upright stance, trademark grille, and taillights that protrude from the bodywork immediately identifying it as a relative of the Wrangler.

The Renegade Trailhawk has a number of unique elements designed for off-road driving: It gets an extra centimeters of ground clearance, along with front and rear tow hooks that are rated at twice the Renegade’s gross vehicle weight in case you need to be yanked out of a ditch — or yank someone else out. There are also skid plates for the front suspension, transmission, transfer case and gas tank, as well as different lower front trim that gives it a better approach angle.

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Despite its small footprint, the Renegade accommodates taller passengers. The front bucket seats have firm but comfortable cushioning, while the rear bench seat provides decent comfort and legroom.

Overall interior quality is good, and the attention to detail that’s present on the Renegade’s exterior carries over to the cabin. You see it in things like the storage bin mat, which incorporates a trail map design, as well as the tachometer, which has a splatter graphic inspired by paintballing instead of a regular redline.

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The Renegade will offer Jeep’s UConnect touchscreen infotainment system, which has already appeared in the new Cherokee.

The Renegade is best sampled in top-spec Limited trim, which gets a 6.5-inch touchscreen, automatic lights and wipers plus parking sensors. If you Choose the entry-level Latitude model and you still get equipment such as alloy wheels, cruise control, foglights and a five-inch touchscreen display. The cabin also has some fun details, such as the mud-splatter graphic in the rev counter and several Jeep ‘face logos.

The Renegade Trailhawk has a number of unique elements designed for off-road driving: It gets an extra centimeters of ground clearance, along with front and rear tow hooks that are rated at twice the Renegade’s gross vehicle weight in case you need to be yanked out of a ditch — or yank someone else out. There are also skid plates for the front suspension, transmission, transfer case and gas tank, as well as different lower front trim that gives it a better approach angle.

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The Trailhawk version feels even more rugged, with carpet mats swapped for rubber flooring, but the changes run much deeper than that.

Jeep has teamed up with parts specialist Mopar to offer a list of more than 100 exclusive accessories, covering everything from external customisation to parking sensors and on-board WiFi.

It’s worth mentioning that the Renegade can be equipped with a range of vibrant trim options. It’s a good idea to consider spending a little money on brightening up the interior, as standard cars get a bland, all-black dashboard which only servies to highlight the scratchy plastics.

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Rather than a traditional moonroof, the Renegade is available with an optional My Sky sunroof that features two removable fiberglass-polyurethane roof panels that stow in a bag in the cargo area.

The Renegade’s controls are thoughtfully arranged, and — just as important — it has the right kind of controls in the right places. The climate control system has large knobs, and there are familiar dashboard buttons.

All models have a standard MP3 jack and USB connectivity, and three Uconnect multimedia systems are offered.

The boot holds 351 litres with the seats up and 1,297 litres with them folded down, which is reasonable. The Jeep also features a fold-forward front seat that means you can carry long items, as long as they don’t exceed the length of the car’s interior.

If you regularly carry mucky sports kit or a wet dog, you’ll appreciate the reversible, wipe-clean boot floor that can also be adjusted for height. Go for the My Sky removable panel roof and the Jeep’s boot offers a somewhere to store the panels, complete with a protective bag.

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A 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine is available, along with a 1.6-litre diesel, plus 138 and 168bhp 2.0-litre diesels. You can choose between six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic gearbox – or even a dual-clutch six-speed. There’s also a choice of two or four-wheel drive.

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Apparently the 2.0-litre diesel engine is smoother than the 1.6-litre and also significantly quicker – the 168bhp version gets from 0-100km/h in 8.9 seconds, while the 138bhp version does the same in 10.2 seconds.

The four-wheel-drive 1.6-litre diesel and 0-100km/h takes a leisurely 11.8 seconds.

The 1.4-litre petrol engine is the fastest on paper, getting from 0-100km/h 8.8 seconds, and it also the quickest.

If you’re not planning regular off-road excursions, I recommend the two-wheel-drive 1.6-litre diesel Limited model, which gets plenty of standard equipment and is relatively cheap to run. The Trailhawk model fitted with the 2.0-litre diesel engine is the one you have to choose for use on rough terrain. The larger engine is also the better option for towing.

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Despite being tuned to cope with harsh terrain, the Renegade is comfortable on the road. Ride quality is firm, but suspension responses are refined.

It shows admirable poise on the highway, without any of the bucking tendencies that some cars with shorter wheelbases exhibit.

In Trailhawk trim, the pint-sized SUV still feels comfortable enough to be a long-distance highway cruiser, with very little road noise intruding into the cabin. Wind noise is minimal as well. For a four-wheel-drive system, this one is pretty low-key, almost to the point of us forgetting it’s there on normal roads.

 
I experienced the Trailhawk’s considerable off-road capabilities. After crawling up rock-strewn paths, navigating deeply rutted terrain and descending steep dirt tracks, my lasting impression is how easy the Renegade made it all seem.
The Trailhawk model is by far the most accomplished off-roader in the range. It’s nearly unstoppable when fitted with the more powerful 2.0-litre diesel engine and Jeep’s nine-speed automatic gearbox. At the flick of the switch, you can engage special low gears that allow the Jeep to keep ploughing on in the trickiest conditions.

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The Jeep Renegade is the American brand’s eye-catching entry into the competitive compact crossover market.

The Jeep Renegade is excellent off-road and has admirable performance. There’s no doubt the Renegade is an interesting alternative to other compact crossovers, and the Renegade will appeal to those who want to buy into the Jeep lifestyle, to those who are looking for the adventure at the corner of the city.

Image source: Jeep

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