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2016 Jeep Renegade Limited 4x4 Review By Steve Purdy

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IN CONTEXT Jeep Renegade Articles ( Text, Video, Data, Opinion)


By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Have you been driving down the highway recently and noticed in front of you a small crossover with a bold, white “X” in each taillight? Symbolically it reminds me of a dead cartoon character. That is the new Jeep Renegade introduced last year, a vehicle that shares the Fiat 500X platform. It’s a cute little thing but very different in personality from its Italian sibling even though the two are assembled side-by-side in Melfi, Italy.

The genre we’re talking about here is a front-wheel drive compact crossover (all-wheel drive optional) with a low-end entry price of just eighteen grand and lots of ways to dress it up, including some special editions like a “Dawn of Justice Edition.” We recently reviewed the the 2016 Fiat 500X and we’re amazed at how FCA was able to differentiate these these two. While the Fiat has a distinctively European character this Renegade looks and feels like a fully American small crossover.

Round headlights, a traditionally Jeep-like seven-slat grille and vertical, boxy shape along with a minimal use of shiny parts provide that faux-utilitarian image we associate with most Jeep products. Large, trapezoidal wheel arches frame these big, stylish 18-inch aluminum wheels. Side body creases, lots of flat black cladding and a little wing over the rear window give it a distinctive style and the ambiance of a little truck.

Interior appointments are surprisingly luxurious, at least on our high-end test car. We have nice leather with classy stitching, and just enough brushed aluminum trim to set it off nicely. The simple manual controls for HVAC, lights and audio are well laid out and easily managed though the 7-inch multifunction screen and it’s many functions require a substantial learning curve. Some functions make me wonder what they were thinking. The heated steering wheel gets amazingly hot and does so quickly. Nice feature in this cold climate.

Seating is comfortable front and rear feeling like a larger vehicle. Rear seatbacks fold 60/40, or optionally 40/20/40, for a flat, or nearly flat, adjustable cargo area with a good 50.8 cubic-feet of space for our stuff. Ingress and egress, front and rear, are easier than most compact crossovers that we’ve experienced.

Excellent handling characteristics result from this well sorted platform. Firm suspension and decent steering make for confidence even on bad roads. While it has good off-road capabilities compared to other compact crossovers because of more ground clearance and solid platform you’ll not want to challenge the back woods like you would with a Wrangler.

Powering our Renegade Limited model is the 2.4-liter “Tigershark ®,” naturally aspirated, four-cylinder I4. The name sounds like an Apple operating system, does it not? It’s good for a decent 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque and gets a new 9-speed automatic transmission. The EPA rates this combination at 21 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway and 24 combined. We got very close to 24 mpg in our week with the Renegade.

This powertrain is standard on the Trailhawk and Limited models while lesser trim levels get a 1.4-liter turbo with 6-speed automatic. No manual transmissions available with either engine. Part-time 4X4 drive uses a rear axle disconnect and automatically connects only when needed. With the 2.4-liter engine we can tow up to 2,000 pounds. All 4X4 equipped Renegades get an electronic system that adjusts a variety of parameters for maximum effectiveness in a variety of conditions – snow, rocks, mud and sand. The Trailhawk even includes a low range with crawl ratio of 20:1. Trailhawk also gets skid plates, tow hooks and a bit more ground clearance.

This Limited (top of six trim levels) 4X4 shows a base price of $26,995. Our test car has lots of technology and electronic options including, navigation, premium audio, lane departure warning, full speed collision warning and park assist bringing the price to $31,695 on the sticker’s bottom line.

FCA’s new vehicle warranty covers the whole vehicle for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

If you are willing to spend 30 grand on a small crossover you have many choices. If you are a fan of the Jeep brand and want a bit of off-road cred this one might be for you. It can be had with most of the high-end tech options in demand and the quality appears be good. Time will tell on the latter matter since this is a new vehicle on a new platform. We have no reason to think this will be an issue.

We enjoyed our time with the Renegade. We expected a bit better fuel mileage but my spirited driving style does not make for peak efficiency, so we cut it some slack in that regard. While performance is unremarkable it is certainly adequate and that 9-speed automatic is rather impressive, though a bit slow and unsophisticated on pedal-triggered downshifts.

If you are shopping in this category, do take a look at this one.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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