2016 Jeep Renegade SportPosted on June 3rd, 2016
Compact crossover with Italian roots
By Nina Russin
These days it’s not unusual for automakers to share platforms, for example, the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. Economy of numbers means automakers can offer car buyers more value. In the case of Jeep and Fiat, the marriage also combines the Italian automaker’s talent for sporty performance with Jeep’s all-terrain capability.
Of two available powertrains, the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine and six-speed manual gearbox is the one to buy. Unfortunately, it’s not available in the off-road specific Trailhawk model, but provides value-conscious buyers with a great option.
Base price is $19,995 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include a Uconnect package with rear backup camera, power and air conditioning group, roof rails and removable My Sky roof panels. Final MSRP is $24,470.
While nothing in Jeep’s lineup can beat the Wrangler for off-road capability, the lower-priced Renegade offers drivers the ability to traverse challenging trails at a more affordable price. Unlike it’s bigger cousin, the Renegade is based on a car chassis, so the ride on paved roads is smoother. The Renegade also has much better fuel economy: about 29 miles-per-gallon on our 200-mile test drive.
Styling inside and out is iconic Jeep, with neat flourishes such as the color splat on the tachometer inspired by the sport of base jumping and the X-stamped rear tail lamps based on military gas can designs.
The Renegade looks like nothing else in its competitive segment: appealing to buyers with active lifestyles that comprise its target market. Even better, the differences are more than skin deep. The Jeep Renegade fills a lot of squares: offering good performance on and off-road, with a spacious, versatile interior that hauls soup to nuts.
Test drive in southern Arizona
Over the past week I drove the Renegade through Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as the foothills of the San Tan Mountains southeast of town. The Renegade lived up to its promise as a willing partner on all adventures, with its peppy engine, crisp-shifting manual transmission and spacious cargo area that easily meets our bicycle friendly standards.
Despite its small size the 1.4-liter engine has plenty of low-speed power. The block develops 184 pound-feet of peak torque at 2500 rpm and maintains it to 4000 rpm, providing good acceleration off the line, in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use on freeway entrance ramps, and passing slower vehicles at speed. Despite being a full liter smaller in displacement than the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine that comes with the automatic transmission, the turbo block develops more torque and holds it over a wider range of engine speeds. Granted the Tigershark engine carries a higher horsepower rating, but in our stop-and-go world, torque is king.
For those who don’t like the Jeep Wrangler’s front and rear live axles, the Renegade offers a MacPherson strut independent front end, providing better isolation from road chatter on paved surfaces. Sections of the two-lane road that skirts the base of the San Tans are pretty chewed up and the Renegade handled the areas just fine.
Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners, while 16-inch wheels provide a decent footprint for the highway and unimproved dirt roads. I was sorry to see that the Renegade comes with a tire inflator kit rather than a spare tire, given the car’s off-road mission. Granted spare tires add weight and take up space but that’s a small sacrifice for being able to keep moving in remote areas
The Renegade has enough ground clearance to clear clear roots and tea kettles on unimproved roads. The Trailhawk model adds two inches of ground clearance over the base Sport model for serious rock crawling.
An electric parking brake with a hill hold feature is an unusual upgrade for cars in this segment. Four-wheel discs stop the Renegade in firm, linear fashion.
The electric power steering system offers plenty of low-speed assist for maneuverability but is soft at higher speeds. Occupants will also notice some road noise on the highway. Wind and engine noise are non-issues.
Living in an exceptionally hot climate, the base Renegade’s cloth seats are more practical than leather. They are also easier to clean after a day on the trails. The seats offer plenty of lower lumbar support for drives several hours in duration.
Kudos to whoever made the shift knob out of composite rather than metal: I didn’t have to drive around in the 100-degree heat with an oven mitt. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view and a safe distance from the front airbag.
A thin-film-transistor display in the gauge cluster gives drivers information about driving range, tire pressures and fuel economy. Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight.
Second-row seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for longer items such as skis, snowboards and bicycles. Roof rails on the test car enable owners to mount an additional rack up top.
The Jeep Renegade comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, electronic roll mitigation, traction control, a capless fuel fill system, tire pressure monitoring and hill start assist.
Jeep builds the Renegade at Fiat’s Melfi, Italy assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, versatile compact crossover with the ability to travel on paved and unpaved roads and a versatile cargo area.
Dislike: Soft on-center response from the electric power steering system. No spare tire.
Model: Renegade Sport
Base price: $19,995
As tested: $24,470
Horsepower: 160 Hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 184 lbs.-ft. @ 2500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 24/31 mpg city/highway2016, Best Value 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Jeep, performance, pricing, standard safety