The 2015 Jeep Renegade is a brand-new model that slots below the new Cherokee and offers serious off-road capability in the subcompact crossover market.
The Renegade shares Fiat Chrysler’s Small-Wide 4x4 platform with the brand-new Fiat 500X, which debuts as a 2016. Both vehicles enter a crowded field, with the Renegade in direct competition with the tiny but capable Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke.
It may not share the trail savvy of the bigger, badder Wrangler, but the Renegade was designed to offer Jeep buyers a more comfortable and less costly alternative without relegating them to smoothly paved streets.
The new SUV certainly resembles the Wrangler, at least from the front. The classic, round Jeep headlights and gap-tooth grille ride atop a molded black bumper. And a “My Sky” dual-panel sunroof system lends the Renegade an open-air feel; however, a quick walkaround reveals a body more akin to the erstwhile Nissan Cube.
Like the Fiat 500X, the Renegade features a choice of two four-cylinder engines, each with a dedicated transmission. The base turbocharged inline four is good for 160 horsepower (hp) at 184 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque and is only available with a six-speed manual transmission. The optional, naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-banger ups the horsepower by 20 and gives away 9 lb.-ft. of torque; the bigger engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic.
The Renegade offers standard or available four-wheel drive across the lineup. The base Sport, Latitude and Limited models share 16-inch steel wheels and Jeep’s Active Drive system, which automatically uncouples the rear axle to save gas, while the four-wheel-drive-only Trailhawk adds higher ground clearance, lower gearing, a fuel-tank skidplate and knobby, 17-inch wheels. Every 4x4 allows drivers to select from Auto, Mud, Sand and Snow settings; Trailhawks also include a Rock setting.
To further distinguish the Renegade from the Wrangler — and several of the Renegade’s competitors — Jeep equipped the new vehicle with uptown comfort and safety accessories, such as 5- and 6.5-inch touchscreen interfaces, smartphone connectivity, a rear camera and blind-spot, lane-departure, forward-collision and rear cross-traffic alerts.
The 2016 Jeep Renegade is in showrooms now. Prices range from $18,990 for the Sport to $26,990 for the Trailhawk; adding four-wheel drive to the Sport, Latitude or Limited adds $2,000 to the sticker.