Jeepers! Rugged good looks make the Renegade a top crossover
I remember a time when all you wanted for Christmas was a football, sweets — and a Tonka Truck. The hours of fun you had crashing the rugged toy into walls and letting it freefall down the stairs knowing it would still be in one piece were priceless.
The Tonka was a simple but chunky toy that could take all manner of abuse, so when I feasted my eyes on this week’s test car, the Jeep Renegade, my boyhood dreams were realised.
The Jeeps of old were big, brash and extremely expensive, so the Renegade model is taking the brand in a slightly new direction. Yes, you can still have a Cherokee or Wrangler if you still crave a huge chunk of gas-guzzling metal, but the Renegade gives Jeep a very real chance of soaking up new customers from the lucrative crossover segment.
For one, it’s a lot more interesting to look at than most, and will give the school-run mummies the feel of a big protective SUV as well as offering adventurous dads a weekend warrior that suits their lifestyles.
The design of the Renegade will split opinion. I’m in the camp that absolutely loves it. I’m not a huge fan of plastic cladding on cars, but it works on the Renegade and gives it a purposeful look. It looks and feels chunky – even the steering wheel feels manly. When you sit behind the wheel you get the sense you are driving something much bigger, even though the overall dimensions of the Renegade are more in line with rival compact crossovers.
There’s plenty of room for four adults and if the need to transport five occurs, then you won’t find much trouble squeezing in. The boot capacity could be a little larger, with 351 litres offering enough for a large shop, but you’ll have to drop the back seats to avail of the 1,297 litres on offer if you are on the IKEA run.
Jeep is making great strides with the new Renegade, and it shares the same platform as the group’s new Fiat 500X, which is a very good car. The Renegade has a firmer suspension set-up and feels more on the rugged side. That doesn’t mean it drives like a big, lumpy SUV. It handles really well.
I was equally surprised by the performance from the 1.6-litre diesel. You’d expect it to be underpowered with only 120bhp, but the Renegade handles overtaking manoeuvres and steep inclines with ease.
Jeep is offering an entry-level 110bhp 1.6-litre petrol and two versions of the 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo in 140bhp and 170bhp outputs. The popular choice for Irish motorists will be the diesels, with a 120bhp 1.6-litre turbo diesel or a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with either 140bhp and 170bhp offered.
I was pleasantly surprised by the entry point of the new Renegade — at just €23k it’s a good lump of car for the money, although you’ll be looking at the entry-level Sport petrol model with average equipment. Jump the extra €4k to the Longitude model and you get a very economical diesel with decent performance, as well as a good spec level.
My test car was the higher spec Limited model, which came with a lot of goodies, including 18-inch alloys, a 6.5-inch infotainment system, leather seats and rear privacy glass. Jeep will offer a range-topping Trailhawk model, but only on special order.
The Renegade is a car that will get people talking. Entering the crossover segment at this late stage could be seen as disastrous, but it is like nothing else and, for me, offers the all-round package that families are seeking.