More than most compact crossover SUVs, the 2019 Jeep Renegade looks like it can hardly wait to hit the off-road trails. Chunky details, a friendly face, and an unrepentant boxy profile affirm the Jeep brand’s woodsy, go-anywhere heritage.
Jeep offers the 2019 Renegade in Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk trim levels. Upland and Altitude editions are its option packages.
A new 1.3-liter turbo-4 engine with stop/start technology is available for the 2019 model year. Mated to 9-speed automatic, it’s standard on Limited and Trailhawk versions, optional on Sport and Latitude.
All Renegades except Trailhawk get new active grille shutters. The freshened exterior includes a new front-end look. The Advanced Tech Group adds adaptive cruise control, parallel/perpendicular parking assistance, and front parking sensors. Large round headlights now are available with LED illumination.
The carryover 2.4-liter engine is standard for Sport and Latitude models, rated at 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The new 1.3-liter turbo 4-cylinder produces 177 horsepower and 200 pound-feet.
Jeep also has modified its 9-speed automatic transmission for smoother shifts. The 6-speed manual gearbox is gone.
Except for the AWD Trailhawk, Renegades come with either front- or all-wheel drive. At higher speeds, with AWD, rear wheels can disconnect to reduce fuel consumption. Trailhawks get a different AWD system with a simulated low gear. Both versions automatically engage the rear axle when slippage is detected.
Mechanical upgrades boost the Trailhawk’s trail-conquering capabilities, including off-road terrain settings and a 20:1 crawl ratio. Higher ride height and reshaped bumpers increase its obstacle-clearing capabilities.
The Renegade has added some safety options, namely adaptive cruise control and self-parking capability. Those costly features are bundled with automatic emergency braking, and are options on Latitude and Limited models.
Crash-test ratings from the NHTSA are four stars overall. The IIHS gave the Renegade â€œGoodâ€ scores in moderate-overlap and side-impact tests, but an â€œAcceptableâ€ rating for the stringent small-overlap test.
Prices do not include $1,495 destination charge.
Sport ($22,025 with front-drive, $23,525 with all-wheel drive) comes with the 2.4-liter inline-4 and 9-speed automatic, and includes cloth seat upholstery, steering-wheel audio controls, and a 5.0-inch touchscreen. Steel 16-inch wheels are standard.
Latitude ($23,875 with FWD, $25,375 with AWD) adds such features as tinted windows, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, fog lights, roof rails, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Options include a panoramic sunroof and remove/stow panel roof.
Altitude ($24,870 with FWD, $26,370 with AWD), an upgrade of Latitude trim, gets black cloth seats, black exterior accents, body-color mirrors, and black 18-inch wheels.
Limited Turbo ($26,395 with FWD, $27,895 with AWD) is powered by the 1.3-liter turbocharged engine with 9-speed automatic. Included are heated black leather-trimmed seats, power driver’s seat with lumbar, 18-inch wheels, and heated leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Trailhawk Turbo AWD ($27,545) adds such off-roading extras as reshaped bumpers, all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels, slightly increased ride height, skid plates, red tow hooks, a full-size spare tire, and hill-descent control.
Beyond the Renegade’s boxy shape, rugged touches include short front/rear overhangs and relatively tall tires. An upright grille helps to overshadow Renegade’s front-wheel-drive roots.
Unpainted trim also helps make the Renegade appear taller. Thick rear pillars and squared-off wheel wells add to the muscular look. Widely-spaced square taillights complement deep tailgate shapes.
Different grilles, mirrors, and headlight surrounds identify each trim level. Trailhawks ride significantly higher, above meatier tires. Reshaped bumpers improve off-road clearance.
Although Renegades don’t make the best use of space, cabins are filled with big and playful shapes. Most materials are soft-touch, but some trim in base models is tougher plastic.
The Renegade’s front seats are comfortable and sufficiently spacious, with decent bolstering. Because of limited rear legroom, taller passengers may be less comfortable when sitting behind someone of similar height. Two shorter adults will fit in back, and headroom isn’t a concern.
Controls are laid out logically, and we like the vent pods atop the dashboard that look more like sci-fi hardware. An optional 8.4-inch infotainment screen serves as the focal point. Big knobs adjust fan speed and temperature, while buttons surround an off-road mode selector. Ahead of the front passenger is an integrated grab-bar.
Cargo storage is deep and flat-sided, and checks in at 18.5 cubic feet. With rear seatbacks folded down, volume grows to 50.8 cubic feet.
A capable performer off-road, comfortable when scurrying up mountainsides, the Renegade also behaves well on ordinary pavement.
Rugged Trailhawk trim serves as the best example of this Jeep’s impressive character. It’s the prime choice for off-roaders. Well-calibrated traction control and grippy tires can handle most slippery terrain.
A Renegade with the 2.4-liter engine accelerates decently, but its 9-speed automatic transmission shifts a lot in search of the proper gear.
In urban driving, the soft Renegade suspension delivers a comfortable ride, despite the short wheelbase and upright profile. Larger wheels transmit a little impact harshness.
Once underway, this compact Jeep handles better than expected. Higher-speed turns and corners generate modest body roll, though it’s not too noticeable since the Renegade’s power steering supplies little feedback to the driver.
As for gas mileage, the 2019 Renegade with standard 2.4-liter engine and all-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 21/29 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined. Front-wheel drive raises the estimate to 22/30/25 mpg. EPA fuel-economy ratings for the new 1.3-liter turbo are 24/32/27 mpg with front-wheel drive.
The 2019 Jeep Renegade has a gruff but lovable attitude. It’s small, and very snug for four adults, but with its uprated engine and off-road hardware, it’s a singular machine in its size and price class. Automatic emergency braking is a costly option, limited to upper trim levels.
Driving impressions by TheCarConnection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.