- Really IS a Jeep
- Quiet on most roads
- Off-road capability when needed
- 'Easter egg' design touches
- Clever removable roof panels
- Styling too cute for some
- Rear-seat room unimpressive
- Safety scores unknown
- Fuel economy not yet rated
The 2015 Jeep Renegade is a smart blend of ruggedness and livability that works as well in crowded cities as on muddy roads.
While it may be larger and heavier than the original World War II-era Willy Jeep, the 2015 Jeep Renegade is absolutely the smallest Jeep sold in decades. It's smaller than everything else in the lineup, fully 16 inches shorter than the "compact" Cherokee SUV. Its minimal size reflects its mission: to extend the Jeep brand outside North America to conquer a share of the growing market for very small SUVs around the rest of the world, where even the Jeep Cherokee is too large, let alone a Grand Cherokee.
The Jeep Renegade is targeted as much at South America, Europe, and Asia as the U.S.--though it's likely to do very well in its homeland as well. It offers true Jeep functionality in a package that's actually not much smaller than the compact crossover utilities of 10 or 15 years ago, plus modern features, far better safety ratings, and decent fuel-economy numbers as well.
Reflecting that adaptation to global markets, the Renegade is offered with a remarkable array of 16 different powertrains globally. We'll only get two in North America, however. The base engine is a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four, putting out 184 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. For more power, a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four producing 175 lb-ft of torque is combined with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, clearly the only such nine-speed in any subcompact on the market.
All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option with either engine, and in true Jeep fashion, it includes settings for extreme conditions: Mud, Sand, or Snow, plus a hill-descent braking mode. The top-of-the-line Trailhawk model, with an inch more ground clearance and different front and rear bumpers to allow steeper approach and descent angles, adds a Rock mode and the ability to crawl at very low speeds.
The design of the 2015 Renegade neatly splits the difference between rugged and cute. It's a tall, slab-sided, and upright little utility, but its stylists deliberately oversized some of the details to emphasize its heritage. The headlights flanking the seven-bar grille are large and round, with clear lenses that let you see a little stylized Jeep-front icon in the projectors, if you look closely. The rubber-lipped wheel arches are large and trapezoidal, the bumpers on both ends are stamped to show off their strength, and at the rear, the rectangular taillights have an "X" pattern in them that was appropriated from the one stamped into WWII fuel cans to strengthen them. It all sounds a little contrived, but by the end of our day-long test drive, it all seemed familiar and appropriate.
Inside, the dashboard and console are slightly more robust versions of what you might find in a subcompact. There's hard plastic over larger surfaces, soft-touch vinyl where passengers may come into contact with a panel, and otherwise slightly oversized controls. The two center air vents sit in a little pod on top of the dashboard that resembles nothing so much as the cartoon character Wall-E. Ventilation knobs are large, round, silver, and easily to understand at first glance.
The little Jeep is very capable off-road, as its engineers were anxious to prove. Our test drive included a remarkably steep climb up rutted dirt and gravel mountainside roads, and then a descent at close to 45 degrees in which the Renegade braked itself and controlled the traction on each wheel as it slowly crawled down the steep track. It can traverse boulders almost as large as its 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels, ford streams, and generally acquit itself well in the kind of dirty, muddy, off-roading Jeeps (or their designers) revel in. It's no Jeep Wrangler, but it's good for a little utility.
Still, Renegades will likely spend 95 percent of their time on city and suburban streets. As the entry-level Jeep, it's suitably refined and surprisingly un-Jeep-like from the inside. It all just works, and if it weren't for the military-inspired textures, truck-like styling of the controls, and numerous Jeep logos hidden all over the car, you might not know it came from the Jeep brand at all. (We counted almost a dozen Jeep grille images, X-shaped impressions, plus a map of the Detroit skyline in a rubber bin pad, a tiny Yeti climbing up the edge of the rear windows, and others.)
On the road, the little Jeep is surprisingly quiet and refined for such a tall, bluff vehicle. Tire noise varies enormously, from virtually none to quite a lot on certain rough concrete surfaces, but there's virtually no wind noise at speeds of 70 mph or less. That's doubly impressive when you factor in the relatively vertical windshield and the nice big rectangular door mirrors.
The seats are comfortable and nicely bolstered, and the Renegade is clearly wider than other subcompact AWD entries, meaning the shoulders of the two front-seat riders are suitably separated. Rear-seat room is acceptable for two adults if the front passengers are willing to move their seats toward the dash, but this is still a subcompact, and rear-seat room isn't its strong suit. There's substantial cargo room behind the rear seat, which folds flat, as does the front passenger seat—allowing long items to be carried inside diagonally from dashboard to rear corner.
The Jeep Renegade sits on a version of the platform underpinning the Fiat 500L, with some additional engineering for strength. Fully 70 percent of its body structure is made of some type of high-strength steel, and it's been designed with all the latest crash tests in mind. Seven airbags are standard, as is a rearview camera, and available electronic safety systems include Forward-Collision Warning Plus with automatic braking, lane departure warning and correction, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Jeep executives made no predictions about the Renegade's performance on crash safety tests.
The 2015 Renegade comes in four trim levels: the base Sport (starting at $18,990 for the base 2WD version), the mid-level Latitude ($22,290), and the top-of-the-line Limited ($25,790). All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option. All can be ordered with either powertrain and with front- or all-wheel drive. Then there's the Trailhawk model ($26,990) with its greater off-road capability, which only comes with all-wheel drive and the larger 2.4-liter engine with the nine-speed automatic. All prices above include the mandatory $995 delivery fee.
2015 Jeep Renegade
The 2015 Jeep Renegade neatly split the difference between tough and cute, with undeniably Jeep lines inside and out, but in a smaller version.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade has a challenging mission: It has to look like (and perform like) a traditional Jeep, but it also has to attract younger and more urban buyers who will use a small SUV for the same kinds of around-town duties they might previous have undertaken in a five-door compact hatchback. In other words, the design has to split the difference between rugged and cute.
We think the designers have succeeded, producing a tall, slab-sided, and upright little utility with some of the details deliberately oversized to emphasize its heritage. At the front, a traditional seven-slot vertical Jeep grille is flanked by large round headlights. If you look closely, the clear lenses that let you see a little stylized Jeep-front icon in the projectors--one of a dozen Jeep grille images and other little design touches to emphasize its Jeep-ness.
The side profile is upright and square, with that bluff front end, a vertical tailgate, and a windshield with very little rake. One inadvertent retro touch: a fixed triangular window at the front of the front door just the shape of Sixties-style "wing windows" for those who remember them. A black-painted roof is optional on the Latitude mid-level trim, standard on the Limited high-end version, to emphasize the windshield frame and rear panel over the tailgate, which appear almost like roll hoops.
The rubber-lipped wheel arches are large and trapezoidal, and the bumpers at each end are stamped to show off their strength. At the rear, the Renegade's square taillights have an "X" pattern in them that the designers said they had appropriated from the one stamped into WW2 fuel cans for strength.
The X-pattern is repeated in other places, along with other deliberately quirky touches: a map of the Detroit skyline in a rubber bin pad, a tiny Yeti climbing up the edge of the rear windows, and more. It made us wonder: How many "Easter eggs" are too many? But while it may all sound a little contrived, we warmed to it quickly and by the end of the day, we were viewing the Renegade purely as a Jeep—never mind underpinnings shared with a Fiat model and its role as the first ever Jeep to be exported to the U.S. from Italy.
Along with the usual silver, white, black, and red colors are a couple that make the Renegade stand out from every other small silver SUV. The tone called "Anvil" (only offered on tne Trailhawk) is an almost-retro gray-blue that we found quite striking, and "Commando" is what would result if you mixed some butter into olive drab. The base Renegade Sport model has some trim done in flat black--mirrors and taillight surrounds, for instance--but on a Jeep, it's less downmarket-looking than it might be on a small sedan or hatchback. Several little design touches further distinguish the toughest Trailhawk model, including black aluminum wheels and tow hooks painted bright red.
Inside the 2015 Renegade, the best way to describe the interior furnishings, dashboard, and console is to consider them tougher, more robust versions of what you'd expect in a subcompact car--but with slightly oversized controls and those little Jeep design flourishes. Ventilation knobs are large, round, silver, and easily to understand at first glance. The two center air vents sit in a little pod on top of the dashboard that resembles nothing so much as the cartoon character Wall-E.
The instruments and display contain their own Jeep cues, though: The red zone the tachometer is an irregular "splat" shape that the designers said was meant to evoke a paintball splash. And if you order the park assist, the display screen shows original Willys-Jeeps from the 1940s for each parked car around which you're maneuvering.
But for a Jeep--much less an entry-level Jeep--the Renegade's interior is refined and not all that Jeep-like, more toward the practical but generic Subaru end of the scale. In fact, if it weren't for the military-inspired textures and numerous Jeep logos all over the car, you might not know it came from the Jeep brand at all.
Considering that most of the little Jeeps will likely spend 95 percent of their time on city and suburban streets, that was probably a smart call by Fiat Chrysler--and it makes the Renegade easy and predictable to live with inside, while showing off all its toughness on the outside.
2015 Jeep Renegade
The 2015 Jeep Renegade performs well on highways and around town (where it will spend most of its time), and the Trailhawk model is surprisingly capable off-road.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade comes with only two choices of engine, each paired with a different transmission. The base engine is a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four, putting out 184 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. For more power, a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four producing 175 lb-ft of torque is combined with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, clearly the only such nine-speed in any subcompact on the market. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option with either engine.
The smaller combination is roughly 150 pounds lighter, possibly due to its six-speed manual transmission, and it moves the basic 2WD model around adequately. We didn't test an AWD model with the smaller engine, but moving to a 2.4-liter Renegade with AWD, the driving experience was slightly heavier behind the wheel.
The electric power steering doesn't provide much feedback, but it's tuned well enough that it fades into the background and many drivers won't notice the difference. Though passengers sit high, increasing the sensation of body roll on sharp curves, the Renegade held the road comfortably and proved to be slightly faster on winding roads, when pushed, than you might expect from such a tall and blocky vehicle.
The AWD versions of the Renegade are designed to move away from stop with all four wheels powered. Then the SelecTerrain control system gradually cuts the power directed to the rear until the front wheels are doing all the work above 40 mph, unless either the sensors detect wheel slip or the driver switches into one of the traction modes for more extreme conditions: Mud, Sand, or Snow, plus a hill-descent braking mode. Then rear traction is added back.
To maximize fuel economy, when AWD Renegades are propelled only by the front wheels, none of the components of the rear driveline, including the propeller shaft down the length of the car, move at all--reducing friction losses and even aerodynamic drag. It's a variation of the system found in the larger Jeep Cherokee, and in our test drive, we found the transitions to be imperceptible.
The top-of-the-line Trailhawk model is the one designed for serious off-road use. It's the one, a Jeep executive said at the launch, that will "take you absolutely anywhere you're crazy enough to want to go." It's no Jeep Wrangler, mind you, but it adds almost an inch more ground clearance (to 8.7 inches), plus different front and rear bumpers to allow steeper approach and descent angles, and skid plates to prevent damage. The Trailhawk also adds a Rock mode as well, and a two-speed transfer case with an extremely low-speed crawl ratio of 20:1.
Jeep's smallest Trailhawk is very capable off road, whether climbing steep rutted dirt and gravel mountainside roads, or descending at close to 45 degrees to show off the hill-descent capability. The Renegade capably braked itself and braked each wheel individually as it slowly crawled down the steep track. It can ford streams, climb over boulders close to the size of its 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels, and it generally acquitted itself well during the little sample of dirty, muddy, off-roading we were able to do. It also weighs almost 3,600 pounds, giving it a solid feel for such a small Jeep.
That said, however, most Renegades will likely spend the majority of their miles in city and suburban usage. There, it's easy to park (due to its square-cut shape) and has a 36-foot turning circle (35 ft on the Trailhawk) that felt surprisingly small, making the Renegade more maneuverable than expected in tight quarters.
2015 Jeep Renegade
Comfort & Quality
The 2015 Jeep Renegade has a wide cabin, excellent noise suppression, and a comfortable ride for a small vehicle with its capabilities.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade has a notably wider cabin that other compact SUVs, including the Chevrolet Trax. That not only keeps the shoulders of the front-seat riders suitably apart, but it gives the little Jeep the feel of a larger vehicle.
The front seats are nicely bolstered and comfortable to ride in, and Jeep provides various useful bins, cubbies, and trays between the front seats. Jeep has fitted an electric parking brake to every model of the Renegade, which opens up the space between the seats to accommodate a couple of cupholders and a large lockable bin between the seats.
Rear-seat room is less of a strong suit; this is, after all, a tall subcompact engineered to accommodate all the mechanical gear of all-wheel drive just behind that back seat. Two adults can sit in back if the front passengers are willing to move their seats toward the dash, but while the headroom and shoulder room will be fine, they'll still find their knees right up against the backs of the front seats.
The materials mix hard plastic in larger surfaces with soft-touch vinyl where passengers may come into contact with a panel. Door panels are a mix of nylon and cloth textures, and we found the two-tone interior in one test car--in black and "sandstorm" tan--particularly fetching.
Under most circumstances, the Renegade is surprisingly quiet and refined on the road for such a blunt, tall vehicle. But tire noise varies hugely, from almost none to a great deal on certain types of rough concrete roads. Still, in most cases, there's essentially no wind noise until you hit 70 mph or more. That's doubly impressive when you factor in the nice big rectangular door mirrors and the relatively vertical windshield.
Behind the rear seat, the Renegade has 18.5 cubic feet of cargo volume. The rear seat folds flat, and so does the front passenger seat back--allowing long items (think a short surfboard) to be carried inside diagonally from the right side of the dashboard to the left rear corner of the cargo bay. With the seats folded, cargo volume rises to 50.8 cubic feet.
2015 Jeep Renegade
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has rated the 2015 Jeep Renegade yet, but seven airbags are standard, as is a rearview camera.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade has not yet received crash-test ratings from either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Unusually, Jeep executives made no predictions about the Renegade's performance on crash safety tests. But as a new and likely high-selling entry in the fast-growing segment of subcompact SUVs, however, we suspect one or both groups will test the Renegade sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the littlest Jeep comes standard with seven airbags, a rear-vision camera, and a design in which fully 70 percent of the body structure is comprised of various grades of high-strength steel. Optional electronic safety systems include Forward Collision Warning Plus with automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and correction, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Visibility out the front of the Renegade is good, helped by an upright seating position, a relatively low window line, and the square-cornered styling. And the door mirrors are big and rectangular, which doesn't do much for aerodynamics but gives an excellent view to the rear.
From inside, however, thick pillars and a small third window on each side mean rear three-quarter vision is marginal. Again, though, the upright and right-angled shape make it relatively easy to place once you learn its dimensions. A backup camera is standard on all except the base Sport trim level, in which it is optional.
2015 Jeep Renegade
The 2015 Jeep Renegade starts at $19,000, with carefully chosen trim levels and options; a loaded Trailhawk model can pass $30,000.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade can be purchased in four trim levels: the base Sport, the mid-level Latitude, and the top-of-the-line Limited. To Jeep's credit, all-wheel drive can be added to all three with either powertrain, as a $2,000 option.
Standard equipment on all models includes halogen headlamps; a removable, height-adjustable cargo floor; a 3.5-inch color display in the instrument cluster; a four-speaker audio system; 12-Volt power outlets in the dash and cargo area; one-touch up/down front driver and passenger windows; and
A few notes on the Sport model, however: It does not come with air conditioning as standard, the 2WD model forgoes the fold-forward front passenger seat back that allow lengthy cargo to load in diagonally, the radio is listed as simply AM/FM. Also, it features standard 16-inch painted steel wheels and the otherwise-standard backup camera is optional.
Beyond that, however, the array of features, options, packages, and trim items--not to mention Mopar accessories on top of that--is comprehensive, to say the least, and could verge on the exhausting. Ten different equipment groups can be added in various combinations to various trim levels, ranging from one that adds air conditioning, cruise control, and heated door mirrors to the base Sport all the way up to Safety and Security, Advanced Technology, and Premium seating and interior packages.
The Latitude trim level, the middle of three, is expected to be the volume model. It adds 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights, LED ambient interior lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the Uconnect audio system with a 5.0-in. touchscreen, AM/FM/SeriusXM radio, Bluetooth connectivity for streaing audio, hands-free mobile phone operation, and voice commands.
The Limited is the top of the range, and the luxury model, with heated leather seats, a power eight-way adjustment for the driver's seat, a heated steering wheel, 7-inch color cluster display, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a 115-Volt auxiliary power outlet, a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat with a cargo passthrough, a six-speaker 180-Watt audio system, and polished 18-inch alloy wheels.
Then there's the Trailhawk, with its greater off-road capability. which only comes with all-wheel drive and the larger 2.4-liter engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. As well as the Rock driving mode and two-speed transfer case, it comes with a full-size spare tire standard (that's an option on the other trims). The Trailhawk can be ordered as a relatively standard model--think roughly the Limited trim--or loaded up with all the luxury features of the Limited trim.
Several features of each trim level are optional on the level below, and several choices of optional 17- and 18-inch wheels can be added. Other options include a WiFi hotspot that can be added that turns the entire car into a local router with the addition of a cellular phone card. There's also a Uconect system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, navigation, AM/FM/SiriusXM radio, HD radio, SiriusXM real-time traffic, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Finally, Jeep was particular proud of the MySky sunroof option, consisting of two entirely removable glass roof panels. Either fixed or power operated, they require a special Allen key to unlock the clamp in the headliner that holds them to the car. The pair of panels fits into a specially tailored bag that slides underneath the rear cargo deck when its movable floor is set to the highest position. Overall, it's a neat system for owners who really want open air badly.
Prices starts at $18,990 for a base Jeep Renegade Sport with 2WD, although it doesn't include air conditioning. The mid-level Renegade Latitude starts at $22,290, and the Limited at $25,790. The Trailhawk is the priciest, starting at $26,990, meaning that you can spend anywhere from $19,000 to about $33,000 for a Jeep Renegade. All prices include the mandatory $995 delivery fee.
2015 Jeep Renegade
The 2015 Jeep Renegade gets from 24 to 27 mpg combined--better than larger SUVs but not on top of the small AWD heap.
Fuel-economy ratings for the 2015 Jeep Renegade are good, but some other small crossover SUVs perform much better.
The base turbocharged engine, with manual transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive, earns the Renegade ratings of 24 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined. With the bigger engine and an automatic transmission, the Renegade is rated at 22/31/25 mpg with front-wheel drive, and 21/29/24 mpg with four-wheel drive.
The new 2015 Chevy Trax, for instance, is rated at 27 mpg combined (24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway) with all-wheel drive. That's also the combined rating achieved by the Nissan when fitted with AWD and an automatic transmission. But three Subaru models that comes standard with all-wheel drive do even better: the XV Crosstrek at 29 mpg, and the XV Crosstrek Hybrid and standard Impreza hatchback at 31 mpg.
Meanwhile, if Chevy Trax buyers forgo the AWD, its ratings rise to 29 mpg combined (26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway). It's probably the best comparison for the Jeep Renegade, but perhaps the Jeep's ratings will be higher in its simplest model, the front-wheel-drive version fitted with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and six-speed manual gearbox.
The upcoming Honda HR-V, meanwhile, is rated at up to 29 mpg combined with all-wheel drive, and up to 31 mpg combined when outfitted with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive.
While Jeep buyers won't easily trade for other models, it's worth noting that many front-wheel-drive subcompact hatchbacks provide notably high fuel economy--up to the Toyota Prius C hybrid, at a combined 50 mpg.