The Car Connection Jeep Renegade Overview
The Jeep Renegade is a compact crossover SUV and the smallest Jeep produced since World War II.
It's built alongside the Fiat 500X in Melfi, Italy, but the Jeep adds more off-road hardware and a retro-cool look compared to the smoother Fiat.
With the Renegade, Jeep joins an increasingly crowded market of small and carlike, yet tall and often boxy utility vehicles—such as the Subaru Crosstrek, Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, and the Mazda CX-3. Unlike many of those, the Jeep can be fitted with a manual transmission, although those versions are increasingly rare.
For 2018, the Renegade dropped its 1.4-liter turob-4 in favor of a more powerful but smaller 1.3-liter turbo-4.
MORE: Read our 2019 Jeep Renegade review
The new Jeep Renegade
The Renegade throws out both the very creased, angular look of products like the Patriot and Liberty and the somewhat softer look of the Compass, Grand Cherokee, and new Cherokee. Instead it strikes up a new look that is chunky and rugged-looking, yet sophisticated and just a little playful. With its blunt slotted grille and somewhat upright windshield, the Renegade nods to Jeep tradition; its curved rear flanks and its low beltline are anything but traditional.
Inside, the Renegade is less radical in its design statement. It's a subtle look, but one that's finished with plenty of soft-touch materials around the front seats, plus some body-color details.
With an overall length of 167 inches, the Renegade is slightly longer than a Wrangler, but over a half-foot shorter than the Patriot. It manages to offer interior volume similar to the Patriot by being a little wider and taller than that model, but still fits into smaller parking spaces just the same.
An upright seating position in front, combined with the rather low beltline, adds up to great visibility, and back-seat space is adequate for a couple of adults. Cargo space is 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seatback up, or nearly 51 cubic feet with it flipped forward. The Renegade offers a rollback cloth roof that can be opened or removed entirely.
While several engines are offered around the world, U.S.-bound Renegades are powered by a choice of two engines, each with its own no-choice transmission pairing. A 160-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 is matched to a 6-speed manual, while the 184-hp 2.4-liter gets a 9-speed automatic transmission. The Renegade features an independent rear suspension with frequency-selective shocks from Koni, which provide a good balance of handling and ride. There's even a feature to help the anti-lock brakes detect rough roads so they can react accordingly.
Off-road ability is the selling point on a lot of Jeep vehicles, and the Renegade holds true to the reputation in a way that might be unexpected. You can even order a Renegade with sufficient equipment to carry off-road ability Jeep deems worthy of its Trail Rated badge—the Trailhawk model comes with the so-called "Active Drive 2" system, which adds a low range, a 20:1 crawl ratio, skid plates, increased ground clearance, and hill descent control, among other things. Meanwhile, there's also an Active Drive 1 for those who simply want an all-weather all-wheel-drive system. Front-drive is the standard layout.
Renegades also offer the latest from Chrysler's infotainment options. The infotainment system can read incoming text messages aloud and even send dictated messages. The service is integrated with Sirius Travel Link, which provides weather, traffic, and other info. There's also integration with smartphone apps and services like Yelp.
The Renegade went on sale in early 2015, and few changes were made for the 2016 model year. For 2017, standard keyless ignition and available high-intensity discharge headlights arrived slightly after the start of the model year. The Latitude trim got a 7.0-inch touchscreen as part of the Uconnect package, the top-level Limited added keyless entry, and automatic high beams became a new option.
For 2017, the Renegade saw some minor trim shuffling and new HID headlights after hitting the market as a new model in 2016.