Car Review: 2016/17 Jeep Renegade Limited 4x4 Review by Carey Russ
Combining fun and functionality with style
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
SEE ALSO: Jeep Research and Buyers Guide
Small crossovers are popular in Europe, Central and South America, Asia, and Australia as well as the US, and Jeep has a worldwide following. So it should be no great surprise that a small Jeep could be popular in parts of the world where roads are narrower and spaces smaller. Say hello to the Jeep Renegade, made in Melfi, Italy. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Jeep is part of FCA, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The Renegade shares its chassis architecture and powertrains with the Fiat 500X. That’s no surprise, as they are built in the same facility, on the same assembly line. But they have very different characters. The 500X is most definitely Italian; the Renegade is contemporary international American, but with plenty of Italian-inspired style.
Introduced for the 2015 model year, the Renegade is offered Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk trim levels. There are two four-cylinder engine choices. The Italian-sourced 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo is standard in the Sport and Latitude, matched to a six-speed manual transmission. The Dundee, MI-sourced 180-hp, 2.4-liter Tigershark is optional there and standard in the Limited and Trailhawk, matched with FCA’s nine-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. All except the Trailhawk can be had with front- or single-range four-wheel drive, called Jeep Active Drive, that automatically disconnects the rear axle when its traction is not needed, improving fuel economy. The Trailhawk is 4x4 only, with Jeep Active Drive Low that has low-range 4WD as well, for better off-road capability. It also has more clearance, 8.7 inches to the regular 4x4’s 8.0 or the FWD’s 6.7, for better off-the-beaten-path capability than other small crossovers. So there is a Renegade for every need or desire from economical small family box to outdoor adventure machine.
I’ve just spent a typical Fall week with a 2016 Renegade Limited 4x4. With weather varying from warm and sunny to heavy rain and strong winds, the little Jeep was perfect. If its boxy looks and shortish wheelbase would lead you to expect trouble in gusty winds, no. Not at all. It was surprisingly stable, snug, comfortable, and sure-footed at all times. My initial impression of fuel economy was not favorable, but that 15 mpg first trip was from cold, and a short uphill drive. More local short- and medium-trip driving brought that up to around 20. Add in a couple hundred highway miles and it went up to 25, then back down to 24 with more local driving. Not bad at all for an all-wheel drive box. Acceleration at city traffic and country road speeds was good, but any passes on the highway over 60 mph took a while — not surprising, and not at all unusual for a small crossover SUV. The platform-mate 500X with the same drivetrain but front-wheel drive that I drove recently shifted often in D; this particular Renegade was smooth and much less busy. Maybe, with over 8,000 miles of journalist service, it was better broken-in. Or a production variation. Software upgrade? Whichever, it worked well.
2017 changes: There are no major changes to the Renegade lineup for 2017. Minor trim details and color choices change, and there are two special editions, the 75th Anniversary and Dawn of Justice. So my review of a 2016 Renegade Limited applies as well to the 2017 version.
APPEARANCE: If you need to look imposing and macho, look elsewhere. The Renegade is almost the definition of vehicular cuteness. Cute-ute, indeed. It has all of the trademark Jeep styling features — seven-slot grille, round headlights, and squared-off flared wheel arches — and a boxy shape, rounded at the edges and corners, with a windshield that is more vertical than usual today. Textured protective plastic surrounds the lower perimeter. But its proportions are definitely neotenous, hence the cuteness. The “X” marks in the square taillights are an interesting and distinctive styling feature.
COMFORT: Interior styling is just as playful as the exterior, with no loss of function. Jeep calls the motif “Tek-Tonic”, and it’s visually stimulating. Orange “Moroccan Sun” trim around the outboard vents, door speakers, and shifter catches the eye. Materials and fit and finish are first-rate for the class, and form does not subdue function. Seating in the Limited is leather, with the driver’s seat power-adjustable. The seating position is comfortably upright, with good visibility and nearly unlimited headroom. The (optional) MySky power tilt-slide and removable front and removable rear sunroofs can make that even more so, although the special tool needed for removal was missing from my test car’s tool kit. Since it rained most of the week, no problem. No leaks, either. Panels are lightweight fiberglass, and can be stowed in the cargo area. The front passenger seatback folds forward for cargo duty, and the rear seatback folds 60/40. Rear headroom is as good as front, and outboard passengers should have no complaints. Narrow width and the center tunnel impinge on center space and comfort, as is the case in nearly all small vehicles. No demerits there. The cargo floor is adjustable for height and storage underneath (including roof panels). My test car had an inflation kit, no spare tire — but this is not the offroad-oriented Trailhawk. Instrumentation is complete and bright for easy visibility in all lighting. The leather-rimmed, manually tilt- and reach-adjustable steering wheel has controls for cruise, audio, and information systems on the front of the horizontal spokes, and volume and tuning rocker switches on the rear. The Uconnect 6.5 navigation and infotainment system is simple to use, and includes AM, FM, Sirius/XM radio plus SXM Travel Link and Traffic, USB and jack connections, and phone compatibility. Unusually for this class, the glovebox locks.
SAFETY: The Jeep Renegade’s unibody structure is designed to protect passengers with controlled deformation in the event of an accident. A full complement of airbags add further protection, while good handling characteristics, antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control, and electronic roll mitigation systems add active safety. Lane-departure warning, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, ultrasonic rear obstacle detection, and rear-vision camera systems are standard or available depending on model.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Good chassis rigidity, relatively light weight, and a well-designed fully-independent MacPherson strut front, Chapman strut rear suspension featuring quality Koni dampers ensure that the Renegade can be driven comfortably and safely. The electrically-assisted steering is light when parking, but firms up at speed for control. The Renegade is relatively tall, and the suspension spring and damper settings are Euro-moderate for comfortable compliance and better than the average crossover cornering ability. As mentioned in the introduction, stability in strong winds and resistance to crosswinds are very good, especially considering its size, shape, and weight.
PERFORMANCE: The Renegade is unusual in that it’s a compact crossover with an available manual transmission (in the Sport and Latitude), but most will be sold with the Tigershark/9-speed combination. Which works well enough for typical crossover duty, and can provide good highway mileage. The Tigershark is a Chrysler-developed twincam 16-valve aluminum alloy inline four that uses Fiat’s MultiAir valve control technology. Maximum horsepower is 180, at the 6400 rpm redline. Maximum torque is 175 lb-ft, at 3900 rpm. The nine-speed transmission was developed to optimize fuel economy — fifth is direct drive, with sixth through ninth overdrive. Ninth is a tall 0.48:1 — good for steady-speed cruising on a level road. Add hills, need for acceleration, or a headwind, and the transmission will need to downshift. This example did well there, shifting quickly and smoothly. Manual shifting brings out the best, especially on an interesting road. That is done with the shift lever, as there are no steering wheel paddles. This is a Jeep, not a race car. Fuel economy, at 24 mpg overall, is good for a small all-wheel drive crossover.
CONCLUSIONS: The Renegade, the newest and smallest Jeep, combines fun and functionality with style.
2016 Jeep Renegade Limited
Base Price $ 26,995
Price As Tested $ 33,165
Engine Type SOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder
Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower 180 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 175 @ 3900 rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 101.2 in. / 166.6 in.
Curb Weight 3348 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 18.6
Fuel Capacity 12.7 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires 225/55R18 98V m+s Goodyear Eagle Sport
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, ESC standard
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent Chapman strut
Ground Clearance 8.0 inches
Drivetrain transverse front engine, multi-mode all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 29 / 24
Towing Capacity 2000 lbs.
0 to 60 mph est 9 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Advanced Technology Group — includes: Lane Departure Warning Plus, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, ParkSense® rear park assist system $ 995
Passive Keyless Entry & Go $ 125
Safety and Security Group — includes: Tonneau Cover, Security Alarm, Blind Spot and Cross-Path Detection System $ 645
6.5-inch Navigation Group With Uconnect® — includes: GPS Navigation, Uconnect 6.5 Nav, HD® Radio, 6.5-inch touchscreen display, Uconnect Access, Sirius/XM Travel Link and Traffic w/5-year subscription, Uconnect 1-year free trial $ 1,245
MySky™ Power/Retractable/Removable Panels $ 1,470
Destination Charge $ 995