The 2015 Jeep Renegade is built in Melfi, Italy, and also in Goiana, in the State of Pernambuco in Brazil. The Brazilian output will stay in the South American market and we will get the Italian ones. It’s based on a new 4×4 architecture which it will share with the upcoming Fiat 500X mini ute. Merriam-Webster defines Renegade as ‘an individual who rejects lawful or conventional behavior’ and I like this.

The design is boxy, exaggerated and slightly cartoonish but it has hints of Wrangler and the familiar grille and large headlights accentuate that. It looks the part. FCA delivered us the Trailhawk 4×4 version in Colorado red, which is pretty loaded and included the My Sky power retractable/removable panels. This is a cool option, but for $1,395 we would prefer it not to squeak in its housing when closed.

2016 Jeep® Renegade Latitude 2016 Jeep® Renegade Latitude 2016 Jeep® Renegade Latitude 2016 Jeep® Renegade Latitude 2016 Jeep® Renegade Latitude 2016 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk 2016 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk

Engines

There are 2 available engines for the new baby Jeep, the first the familiar 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo I-4, which makes 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, the same as it does in the Dodge Dart. The Renegade’s MultiAir engine comes in both front-and all-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual is the only available transmission. This version sadly was not available at the time so instead we got the 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4, with 180 hp and 175 lb-ft mated to Chrysler‘s excellent nine-speed automatic.

On the Road

I have to say right off the bat, the little Renegade isn’t fast (0-60 in 9 seconds), but it’s not meant to be. Pottering around town or on the freeway it has adequate power, however put your foot down to pass and the engine becomes a little strained and doesn’t increase forward momentum by that much. We find it sounds buzzy and unrefined both on-and off-road. Settle in to a more relaxed driving style, however, and it works. Ride is a little stiff, but that makes it fun and you can chuck it into a corner at fairly high speeds and it goes around with little body roll. The nine-speed transmission continues to improve as Chrysler adds it into more of its models, and in the Renegade it works brilliantly, shifts are smooth and precise and there is no need to use the optional manual shift mode. Could it use more power, of course. We would like to see more torque lower down in the rev range, maybe a turbo diesel is in the cards…… nudge nudge.

Off Road

For off-roading, the Renegade’s short overhangs and ground clearance will likely handle anything a typical Renegade owner will ever throw at it. If you opt for Trailhawk such as the one we had, you can wade through up to 19 inches of water. We took a trip East from San Diego and peeled off onto Boulder Creek, a winding truck trail that hugs the lower slopes on the West side of Cuyamaca Mountain, San Diego’s second highest peak. The road itself is layered with Decomposed Granite and suffers from some extreme washboard sections that threaten to jiggle your teeth loose. The Renegade does even better off road than on, squeezing through small gaps and bouncing over rough terrain. Throw it into a corner and after initial under-steer the rear comes out just enough for a nice slide then straightens up for the next bend. Highly entertaining. We forded a river and the Jeep powered up the muddy slope on the other side with ease. With only 8.7 inches of ground clearance and a fairly basic suspension setup the Renegade doesn’t have much wheel articulation, so on more difficult rocky sections it feels a little of balance. All in all though a very good effort and for an out the door price of $31,770 you get something a little different in your driveway.

Inside

Props to FCA for making a fun, quirky interior that isn’t boring. There are many cues taken from its big brother Wrangler, like the large passenger grab handle that not only looks but feels the part. Decent quality, soft feel plastics abound, except for the top of the door interior strangely, which is a shame as the rest of the dash feels like a quality item. Controls have a nice feel especially the terrain control knob which is surrounded by grippy rubber.

Seats are excellent and the driver’s has 8-way power making it easy to find a comfortable driving position. There really is plenty to like in here, with lots of quirky touches. We especially liked the mud splat in place of a red line on the rev counter and an air vent stack that reminded us of ET. Trunk space is adequate but the carry bag for the roof panels takes up too much space and as we said earlier squeaks when closed.

Uconnect works great as does the touchscreen, although it could be a bit bigger. The 6.5-inch unit shows navigation, audio, apps and hands-free phone. It’s easy to use, and connects easily to Bluetooth devices without the fussiness of some systems I have used in the past.

Verdict

Apart from the buzzy slightly underpowered engine (please give us a tdi FCA) we were wowed by this little Jeep. It stands apart from the regular crop of Honda HRV, Nissan Juke shopping car brigade and makes a bold statement. Italian flair meets Jeep off road prowess. Our Trailhawk 4×4 came with five-mode control for its Active Drive system with modes automatic, mud, sand, snow, or rock, something you may not need for a trip to your local Target, but if it’s an adventure you’re looking…this is your car.

2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4×4 BASE PRICE $25,995 PRICE AS-TESTED $31,770 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5 pass, 4-door ENGINE 2.4 L 4-cylinder TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic POWER 180 hp TORQUE 175-lb-ft 0-60 MPH 9.0 secs TOWING CAPACITY 2,000 lbs CURB WEIGHT 3,573 lbs FUEL ECONOMY 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway