It won’t appeal to everyone, but if you like it, you’ll probably love it.
The mainstream 2WD Renegade variants are based around 1. 6-litre engines – either a 110bhp E-torQ petrol unit or a preferable 120bhp MultiJet diesel that has more than twice as much pulling power and manages nearly 65mpg on the combined cycle and 115g/km of CO2. If you must fuel from the green pump, the 140bhp MultiAir engine is a better choice, a unit you can have in pokier 170bhp guise, packaged up with 4WD and a sophisticated 9-speed automatic gearbox.
Diesel buyers wanting 4WD must mainly opt for the 2. 0-litre MultiJet 140bhp engine, which is offered with both the all-wheel drive set-ups Jeep offers on this car – ‘Active Drive’ and ‘Active Drive Low’ with its low range gearbox. Both are paired with the brand’s ‘Selec-Terrain’ system that tailors the drive characteristics of the car to suit the surface you’re on. The top ‘Trail Rated’ Trailhawk version of course features the most capable set-up and mates it to a higher ride height, auto transmission and a 170bhp version of the 2. 0-litre MultiJet diesel engine.
On the road, this Jeep inevitably isn’t quite as responsive as more tarmac-orientated rival small Juke-genre Crossover models would be, but the firm ride and measured handling responses arguably constitute part of its charm. Arguably, it’s all part of the authenticity that should be part of the whole Renegade experience.
Whatever you think of the stylised compact Crossover segment, it’s certainly brought us some interesting pieces of design. The rugged, squarical shape with its short overhangs and beefy bumpers is classic Jeep, as is the signature seven-slot grille flanked by circular headlights that are tucked slightly under the leading edge of the aluminium bonnet for a more contemporary look.
In profile the theme continues, with classic trapezoidal wheelarches, rugged lower side sill cladding and a raised beltline that’s supposed to reference the tough Jeep Wrangler model’s half doors.
At the back, the square Wrangler-style tail lamps feature the distinctive Renegade ‘X’ icon you’ll also find elsewhere on the car. It’s an important graphic for the brand, inspired by the design of the vintage Jerrycans that played as much a part in winning the World War II as the original 1941 Willys Jeep did itself.
And up-front? Well, the quirkiness continues in the details. The Jeep ‘face’ - round headlights and that seven-slot front grille - is embossed into the speaker covers, the seatbacks and the faring behind the rear view mirror. Then there are the outer vents, shaped apparently to reflect the design of base-jumping equipment, the trim surrounding these, the gearstick and the cupholders can, be brightly colour co-ordinated as an option. Ahead of you, the chunkily distinctive three-spoke multi-function steering wheel’s very Jeep-specific too and through it, you glimpse a rev counter that for some reason feels the need to feature a mudsplat instead of a red line. Affordable Renegade models get the usual information screen, but the top ‘Limited’ version features something much classier, a bigger customisable 7-inch TFT colour display that, amongst other things, can show Navigation, speed, real-time economy, audio information and safety warnings.
Pride of place in the centre of the fascia is reserved for the ‘Uconnect’ TFT colour touchscreen. As on other Fiat Chrysler models, the set-up’s admirably clear and intuitive to use, with voice activation and control systems that are easy to figure out, so you won't have to be delving into the manual every time you want to Bluetooth-pair your phone or try to find a point of interest on the sat nav.
Take a seat in the back and the first thing you notice is the vast headroom enabled by the boxy shape. As well as the usual dual-pane electric sliding top, the Renegade offers something even better – a so-called ‘My Sky’ roof arrangement consisting of two separate panels that can be removed and stored in the boot, creating a real open-air driving experience.
And out back? Well, we’d expected the squarical styling and longer-than-average vehicle length to deliver class-leading standards of space but in fact, the chunky tailgate rises to reveal one of the smaller boots in the compact Crossover segment, this one 351-litres in size.
This Renegade brings a long overdue dose of credibility to the Crossover 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.
Ultimately, what’s important here is that Jeep has a new direction and a more relevant product to offer users who never previously would have considered one of its cars. These people will like the fact that 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.