Pages Navigation Menu

A blog about the cars I drive

Little Jeep Renegade brims with personality

This review first appeared in The Spokesman-Review.

Jeep Renegade interior

An air of playfulness attends Renegade’s funky, upright stance.

In a category where cute counts, Jeep’s Renegade is a smash hit.

The little Renegade ($18,990, including destination) teems with visual delights. An air of playfulness attends its funky, upright stance. Inside, rounded surfaces play with brightly colored trim.

Lest you miss the point, Jeep scatters “Easter Eggs” throughout. Jeep’s iconic “Sarge grille” — seven vertical strokes flanked by a pair of round headlights — adorn headlamp lenses and speaker enclosures. Topographical maps hide in storage bins. A tiny Sasquatch scurries across the rear window.

Jeep Renegade interior

Inside, rounded surfaces play with brightly colored trim.

Jeep tradition appears in multiple images of the Willies-era “Jerry can” X. Less traditionally, a hidden spider hollers “Ciao Baby!” from inside the fuel-filler cap.

Señor Spider is a nod to the Renegade’s roots. Designed in the U.S. and assembled in Italy, it’s built on Fiat Chrysler’s new small-car platform and shares DNA with Alfa Romeo and Fiat. Mechanically, it’s a near-twin to the Fiat 500X we reviewed in July.

The Renegade brims with personality. It’s engaging, generally well-equipped (the base trim gets keyless entry but not air conditioning or cruise control) and roomy, as compact crossovers go. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, skid plates and an enhanced AWD system, the Trailhawk trim ($27,490) offers segment-best off-road chops.

All Renegades but the AWD-only Trailhawk are available with front-wheel-drive or multi-mode (Auto, Mud, Snow, Sand) all-wheel-drive.

Renegade’s user-friendly touchscreens access a broad range of infotainment features. Up to 70 safety and security features include the segment’s first available adaptive forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems.

Rain-sensing wipers and a BeatsAudio system join the options list this year.

Drivetrain choices include a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four that’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The up-level 2.4-liter four is rated at 180 hp and pairs with a nine-speed automatic.

Both engines produce class-appropriate acceleration and fuel efficiency. Properly equipped, Renegade can tow up to 2,000 pounds.

Our tester’s 2.4L engine idled with a hint of roughness and grew buzzy under acceleration. The automatic transmission generally makes smooth shifts, but can be indecisive when choosing gears, causing the car to pause dramatically. This quirk bit me badly twice, once pulling onto a 45-mph country road from a dead stop, and once while merging in traffic onto I-90 from Hwy. 195. Some owners report using the manual-shift mode to avoid potentially dangerous flame-outs.

Renegade’s tall profile yields excellent headroom at all seating positions, but rear-seat legroom is tight. Ride quality is good — neither too soft nor too firm — and the all-independent suspension soaks up all but the nastiest road-surface bumps and bruises.

At speed, moderate levels of wind and tire noise make their way into the cabin. But out on the open road, the Renegade feels planted and stable. Steering is accurate and well-weighted, with good on-center feel. Factor in a set of comfortable seats and Jeep’s cute-ute promises to be a genial long-distance companion.

In cars, as in affairs of the heart, cute can be a tempting distraction. Fortunately, Renegade has the goods to back it up.

2016 Jeep Latitude AWD
Vehicle base price: $17,995
Trim level base price: $23,395
As tested: $28,755
Options included 2.4L engine/nine-speed automatic transmission; keyless entry/ignition; remote start; rain-sensing wipers; blind-spot and rear cross-path detection; 6.5-inch touchscreen; Uconnect Access; navigation; satellite radio; SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link; HD radio; Beats premium audio.
Towing capacity: 2,000 lb
EPA ratings: 24 combined/21 city/29 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *