The Jeep Renegade is the smallest crossover you can buy. Less than 167 inches in overall length (13.9 feet), it’s shorter than a Range Rover Evoque or a Subaru Crosstrek. Being so efficiently small, it fills a need, easy to park, relatively rugged, and having fantastic off-road traction with its two-speed transfer case providing low-range gearing.
The Renegade is built by Fiat Chrysler in Italy, on the Fiat 500x chassis, the first Jeep product built completely outside North America. It’s very popular in countries where gas costs much more than here (mostly due to taxes).
Renegade was introduced as a 2015 model. For 2018, the interiors have been revised with new seat colors and fabrics and fresh bezel treatments. A new Selec-Terrain shifter dial allowed the creation of more storage space. 2018 Jeep Renegade models are available with the latest Uconnect system with larger displays and more features, including navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available. 2018 Renegade models come standard with a rearview camera, and sunroof options have been expanded.
Renegade is smaller than the all-new Jeep Compass, the next size up in Jeep’s crossover lineup. The Wrangler is shorter than the Renegade, but it’s a highly focused offroad vehicle, not a crossover.
There are no precise competitors for the Renegade. There are all-wheel-drive crossovers that might be considered, but they’re oranges to the apple. For example there is the Nissan Juke, the Honda HR-V, the new Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona, or even the Range Rover Evoque, which matches the Renegade’s traction, but it’s in another class altogether.
Renegade comes with two powertrains, with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The base engine is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder making 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.
The more powerful option is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 9-speed automatic. It comes standard on the Trailhawk and Desert Hawk models.
The 1.4-liter turbo gets an EPA-rated 27 miles per gallon Combined, while the 2.4-liter rates 25 mpg Combined city and highway.
The federal NHTSA gives the Renegade four stars for crash worthiness, while the insurance industry’s IIHS gives it top scores in all but the small-overlap front crash test on which few vehicles earn a Good rating. Optional active-safety features include forward-collision warnings and automatic braking, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitors.
The 2018 Renegade comes in Sport ($17,995), Latitude ($21,495), Altitude ($22,190), Limited ($27,195), Trailhawk ($26,895), and Deserthawk ($28,390). (Prices are MSRP for 2017 models and do not include destination charge.)
The Renegade is short in length, but relatively tall, exaggerated by sides that are flat and vertical. It has a spunky kind of distinction, or a distinctive kind of spunk. Details flaunt the fact that it’s a Jeep, from the seven-bar grille to the big round headlights. The black fender flares are oversized, making the tiny Renegade look tough. The taillamps have an X shape in them, intended to suggest jerry cans strapped to the rear, as a reminder of Jeep’s WWII heritage.
Imagine a bulked-up subcompact, and you might see the Renegade interior, with its big round knobs and center vents in a pod on the dash.
The front seats are comfortable and well bolstered, with good shoulder room. But in the rear, the subcompact size comes back with seriously limited legroom. For there to be reasonable comfort for back-seat passengers, the front seats have to be slid forward.
The rear seats fold flat, and so does the front passenger seat, creating a ton of cargo space for the Renegade’s size.
In short, Renegade is better for two plus their cargo than it is for four adults.
On paved roads, the Renegade feels adequately refined. We like the combination of the 1.4-liter turbo engine with front-wheel drive in the city, even with its manual gearbox. It’s lighter and more direct than the 2.4-liter.
The Trailhawk feels ponderous around town where handling is tight, because of its additional weight.
Off road, the Renegade is no Wrangler, but with its modes for Mud, Sand and Snow, it’s quite remarkable. We drove it up steep and rutty hills, nearly 45 degrees, and back down again using the hill descent control to control the speed, and grip at each wheel. The little Jeep will cross streams and climb boulders almost as tall as its wheels. No worries about getting it muddy, or getting to the other side of the bog.
The Trailhawk has one inch more ground clearance and bumpers that allow steeper approach and descent angles. There’s also a Rock mode, which enables the Trailhawk to crawl along at less-than-walking speed, a great feature.
The Jeep Renegade is a solid small utility vehicle, with a suspension and two-speed transfer case that add capability over rugged terrain. Excellent powertrains, especially the fuel-efficient 1.4-liter turbo, make the Renegade compelling. The manual transmission keeps the Jeep real. Comfortable front seats. Big cargo room for the tiny size, thanks to rear and front passenger seats that fold flat.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.