2017 Jeep Renegade Review

Consumer Reviews
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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
June 22, 2017

The 2017 Jeep Renegade is the smallest Jeep you can buy, appealing both to commuters and off-roaders, but its design can outshine its performance.

The 2017 Jeep Renegade, the smallest crossover you can buy from Fiat Chrysler's fabled off-road brand, continues for its third model year with only minor changes. It's the smallest Jeep sold since the Willys Jeep launched as a post-war civilian vehicle, but it's a modern utility vehicle with features GIs never dreamed of. Trim levels for the little Renegade run from Sport through Latitude and Limited, and include the tougher off-road Trailhawk version as well.

Changes for 2017 are minor, and we give it a score of 5.3 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

U.S. drivers will see the Renegade as a way to get off-road capability worthy of the name in a Jeep that's easier to use in tight city neighborhoods than the larger Compass, Patriot, and Cherokee crossovers above it in the lineup. The new Jeep has been a very successful addition to the range, not only in North America but globally, where the smallest SUVs are snapped up.

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The Renegade's shape is tall, slab-sided, and upright, with deliberately oversized details that underline its heritage. The familiar seven-bar grille is flanked by large, round headlights; the rubber-lipped wheel arches are trapezoidal and quite large, to emphasize strength; and taillights have an "X" shape stamped into them that Jeep says is an homage to wartime fuel cans. The interior is a slightly tougher version of what you'd expect in a subcompact car, with large, round knobs and a pair of center air vents in a pod on top of the dash.

Two powertrains

The 2017 Renegade continues with a pair of engines, each offered with a single transmission but the choice of front- or all-wheel-drive. The base powertrain is a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4, rated at 184 pound-feet of torque, paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Buyers wanting more oomph can upgrade to a 180-hp, 2.4-liter inline-4 that puts out 175 lb-ft of torque and comes only with a 9-speed automatic gearbox, which is the only powertrain offered in the Trailhawk off-road version. Fuel economy is a middling 27 mpg combined for the small engine, 25 combined for the larger.

The littlest Jeep proves to be remarkably capable off-road. We've driven it up steep hills on rutted dirt and gravel tracks, then descended at close to 45 degrees. The Renegade braked itself and controlled the traction on each wheel as it slowly crawled down the hill. It can ford streams, traverse boulders almost as large as its 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels, and generally acquit itself well in the kind of dirty, muddy, off-road conditions Jeeps are known for.

It includes drive 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 Renegade's no Jeep Wrangler, but it may be the best small utility.

On actual roads, where Renegades will probably spend 95 percent of their time, the car is sufficiently refined. We prefer the base powertrain paired with front-wheel drive for city and suburban use. It drives lighter and more directly, whereas the toughest Trailhawk feels far more ponderous due to its added weight and a simulated low-range transfer case.

Rear seat cramped

The two front-seat riders will enjoy the Renegade's interior; anyone riding in the rear, not so much. The front seats are well bolstered and comfortable, and the cabin width ensures shoulders don't touch. Rear-seat room can be made acceptable if riders up front slide forward, but rear-seat room isn't a strong suit in what remains a subcompact vehicle. The rear seat folds flat, as does the front passenger seat, and there's substantial cargo room in any configuration.

With seven airbags and a rearview camera standard on all but the base model, the Renegade ticks the boxes for safety basics. But its ratings have so far been only mid-pack, with four stars overall from the NHTSA and "Good" scores from the IIHS on most measures, but not on the tough small-overlap front crash test. Optional active-safety systems include forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitors.

Lots of variety

Of the four Renegade trim levels, the base Sport doesn't include air conditioning or cruise control, keeping its price around the $20,000 level. That pretty much means the mid-level Latitude or top-of-the-line Limited will be the ones most buyers choose. All three can be ordered with either powertrain. The all-wheel drive (AWD) option adds $2,000 with either engine. The Trailhawk off-road version only comes in AWD.

The Renegade comes in four trim levels: the base Sport doesn't come standard with air conditioning or cruise control, which means the mid-level Latitude ($22,290) and the top-of-the-line Limited will be the versions most drivers will seek out. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option. All can be ordered with either powertrain and with front- or all-wheel drive. Among the wide array of options is a nifty removable sunroof system that opens the Renegade to the sun or stars, though a special wrench and a few minutes will be needed.

Feature changes for 2017 are minor, with standard keyless ignition and available high-intensity discharge headlamps arriving slightly after the start of the model year. The Latitude trim includes a 7.0-inch color instrument cluster as part of the Uconnect package, the top-level Limited adds keyless entry, and automatic high beams are a new option.

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2017 Jeep Renegade

Styling

The 2017 Jeep Renegade verges on cute, but inside and out it's a Jeep through and through—which makes it appealing.

The 2017 Jeep Renegade pulls off a tough feat: the Italian-built five-door hatchback looks more like an authentic Jeep than the more suburban Cherokee above it in the brand's lineup of new models. We give it a score of 7 on our scale for design and styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Its upright, square profile leads with a bluff nose, a remarkably upright windshield, and a vertical tailgate. The trademark seven-slat Jeep grille is far more traditional than on bigger Jeeps, and it's flanked by two round headlights, as nature intended. Bumpers are stamped to show strength, and trapezoidal rubber wheel arches are oversized for effect.

Like many parts of the Renegade, those headlights carry "Easter Eggs," little design touches meant to surprise and delight owners when they discover them. In this case, it's a miniature Jeep icon etched into the projectors. Other such touches emphasize the Jeep heritage while distracting from the fact that the smallest Jeep is no larger than a Mini Countryman. A map of the Detroit skyline appears in a rubber bin pad, and a tiny Yeti climbs up the edge of the rear windows. The "X" pattern in the square taillights, the designers, evokes the one stamped into WWII fuel cans for strength.

Trim on the base Renegade Sport—mirrors and taillight surrounds, for instance—is mostly flat black, though it's more appropriate to a Jeep than the downmarket look it would convey on a small hatchback or sedan. A black-painted roof is standard on the to Limited version (and optional on the Latitude mid-level trim) to emphasize the windshield frame and rear panel over the tailgate, which appear almost like roll hoops. The toughest Trailhawk model gets several little design touches to distinguish it further, including black aluminum wheels and bright red tow hooks.

The best way to describe the interior, include the console and dashboard, is to look at them as what you'd find in a subcompact car, with added Jeep-ness. It's refined, somewhere toward the practical, Subaru end of the scale, but with enough military references and Jeep logos to remind you firmly of what you're driving.

Controls are slightly oversized, ventilation knobs are large, round, and silver, and it's all easy to understand at first glance. Two center air vents sit in a little pod on top of the dashboard, rather resembling "Wall-E," and then there are all those little Jeep design flourishes. Even the display and instruments have Jeep cues, with the tachometer's red zone in an irregular "splat" shape that designers proudly said evoked a paintball splash. If you select the parking-assist option, the parked cars around your Renegade on the display are all shown as original 1940s Willys-Jeeps.

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2017 Jeep Renegade

Performance

The Renegade excels off-road, even if its powertrain lineup isn't especially impressive.

The 2017 Jeep Renegade continues with a choice of two powertrains, each offered with front- or all-wheel drive. We give it a score of 6 on our performance scale, slightly above average, due to its unparalleled off-road ability among the smallest SUVs and crossovers. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base engine is a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It comes only with a 6-speed manual gearbox. This combination makes the most of the Renegade's size and delivers a more energetic feel in front-wheel-drive form. That combination, in fact, may be our reviewers' favorite. It's less perky when encumbered by all-wheel drive (AWD). The small FWD model is about 150 pounds lighter than versions with the bigger engine and its more complex transmission.

But the market being what it is, most Renegades these days are likely ordered with the more powerful drivetrain. This one pairs a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque to a new automatic transmission with 9 speeds, one of the first on the market when it arrived three years ago. The more powerful combination is heavier and more ponderous to drive. You get a moderate boost in acceleration, but the trade-off is a fair amount of noise from the drivetrain overall.

Renegades with this feature exhibited a few of the same shift quality issues we've noted in other Chrysler 9-speeds. The transmission occasionally hiccups and executes jerky shifts as it hunts through its array of gear choices—and we're not sure the ninth and top gear is ever used in real-world driving. It's worth noting that Fiat Chrysler has issued numerous software updates for the transmission, however, so the most recent Renegades may be better than the earliest models we drove. The lower gears are staged to draw as much acceleration from the 2.4-liter inline-4 while still delivering adequate, if far from exceptional, fuel economy.

All-wheel drive tricks

Renegade SUVs with all-wheel drive launch with all four wheels powered—unlike many AWD systems that wait until a wheel slips to vary torque. After it's launched, the Renegade's SelecTerrain system gradually tapers off power sent to the rear wheels to let the front wheels do all the work above 40 mph. Then, if the vehicle detects wheelslip, or if the driver selects a distinct traction mode, it varies torque between the front and rear wheels. Those driver-selectable modes include Mud, Sand, or Snow, plus a hill-descent braking mode.

To maximize fuel economy, when AWD Renegades are being driven only by their front wheels, none of the rear driveline components move at all, including the propeller shaft down the length of the car—reducing not only friction losses, but even aerodynamic drag. We found the transitions to be imperceptible.

Though passengers sit high, increasing the sensation of body roll on sharp curves, the Renegade holds the road comfortably and is slightly faster on winding roads, when pushed, than you might expect from such a tall and blocky vehicle. 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.

Specialized Trailhawk

The Renegade Trailhawk version maximizes off-road capability and offers the most rugged driving experience. It's quite capable off-road thanks to 8.7 inches of ground clearance (6.7 inches in front-drive models, 8.0 inches in all-wheel-drive models), skid plates, and its own front and rear bumpers, designed for better approach and descent angles. Its traction modes include a Rock setting, and it gets a simulated low-speed transfer case with an extremely low-speed crawl ratio of 20:1.

It will amble up steeply rutted dirt roads, and crawl its way down 45-degree hills, braking itself to slow its progress to a manageable clip. 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. It's still no Jeep Wrangler, but it's impressive nonetheless.

Still, most Renegades will likely spend the majority of their miles in city and suburban usage. Its short length and square shape make it easy to park and its 36-foot turning circle (35 feet on the Trailhawk) feels remarkably small, boosting maneuverability in tight quarters.

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2017 Jeep Renegade

Comfort & Quality

Rear passengers may be cramped, but the Renegade's interior is flexible for cargo.

The 2017 Jeep Renegade is wider than some of its rivals, but its short length hurts rear-seat capacity. And its cabin can seem noisy under some conditions. We give it a score of 4 on our quality and comfort scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

That cabin width lends the feel of a larger vehicle, especially up front, where nicely bolstered seats are well padded and comfortable. Rear-seat passengers don't get the same spaciousness, though. The Renegade's small overall dimensions and all-wheel-drive mechanical gear limit interior length and floor depth, so adults in the rear will be less comfortable on trips. Leg room for 6-footers to ride behind 6-footers—if everyone involved is good with sharing—is just adequate, but those back-seat passengers will find their knees right up against the backs of the front seats, although headroom and shoulder room is fine.

The Renegade offers 18.5 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the rear seat. That seat back folds flat, as does that of the front passenger seat as well, which gives enough room for long items (e.g. a short surfboard) to be carried diagonally inside what remains a very short car. With the seats folded, cargo volume rises to a credible 50.8 cubic feet. There's practical storage too: the console that divides the front-seat occupants offers lots of storage space for mobile phones and the like; a pair of big cupholders and a useful, locking bin occupy the space freed up by the electric parking brake that replaces a standard lever.

Larger hard-plastic surfaces are mixed with soft-touch materials where passengers may touch. Nylon and cloth are mixed on the door panels, and the two-tone interior of one test car—in black and "sandstorm" tan—was particularly fetching and premium.

The Renegade is quiet and refined on the road for such a blunt, tall vehicle—under most circumstances. But noise from the tires can vary enormously, from almost none on smooth surfaces to a great deal on coarse concrete roads. In most cases, wind noise is well suppressed until you hit 70 mph or more. If you factor in big rectangular door mirrors and the relatively vertical windshield, it's even more impressive. The turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces a fair amount of noise when it winds up into its power band, accompanied by whirring from the transmission and driveline.

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2017 Jeep Renegade

Safety

The 2017 Jeep Renegade gets so-so safety ratings at best, and the backup camera isn't standard on all models.

The 2017 Jeep Renegade covers the safety basics, but both sets of its ratings have only been in the middle of the pack, against competitors that have done better. It earns only a score of 2 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The NHTSA gave the small Jeep four stars overall, including four for front impact and five for side impact. However, the government agency awarded the 2017 Renegade with all-wheel drive just three stars out of five in the calculated rollover test—a rare rating these days.

The IIHS, meanwhile, gives it the top rating of "Good" in every test except for the tough small-overlap frontal crash and head protection categories, where it got only "Acceptable," one notch down. The institute did give it an "Advanced" rating for the optional frontal crash protection system. But its headlights received the lowest rating of "Poor" on the new IIHS headlight quality test, and the group rated the ease of use of its child-safety-seat anchors as "Marginal," only one step up from "Poor."

The Renegade's upright seating position helps visibility to the front and sides, as does a relatively low window line—and of course, so does the square-cornered styling. However, the view from the driver's seat to the rear quarters isn't great. A small third window and thick roof pillars cut into the view. The Renegade's door mirrors are big and rectangular, which doesn't do much for aerodynamics but gives an excellent view to the rear.

Optional active-safety systems include forward-collision warnings and automatic braking, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitors. It comes standard with seven airbags, but its rearview camera is not standard on the base Renegade Sport model. (It can be ordered as part of an option package.)

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2017 Jeep Renegade

Features

Spartan in base trim, there are a substantial number of ways to outfit the Renegade based on need.

The 2017 Jeep Renegade comes in four trim levels, with two powertrains, front- or all-wheel drive, and offers a variety of features and options that give it a wide price range. Base models come in around $20,000, but the off-road Trailhawk edition can push well into the $30,000s if well-equipped.

We're giving a point for good infotainment and optional content, but the base model isn't anything we think you'd want to be a part of. It gets a 6 out 10 on our feature scales. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Feature changes for 2017 are minor, with standard keyless entry and available high-intensity discharge headlamps arriving slightly after the start of the model year. The Latitude trim includes a 7.0-inch instrument cluster as part of the larger Uconnect package, the top-level Limited adds keyless ignition, and automatic high beams are a new option. Last year it received a premium sound system with 506 watts delivered through nine speakers and a 6.5-inch subwoofer.

All Renegades, even the base Sport level, include power windows, locks, and mirrors; a four-speaker AM/FM radio; 12-volt power outlets in the dash and cargo area; and a height-adjustable and removable cargo floor. However, the base Sport doesn't include air conditioning—unusual these days even for the smallest class of cars. Nor does it have cruise control or a standard backup camera, and the forward-folding seat back on the front passenger seat is omitted as well.

Above the Renegade Sport is the Latitude mid-level model, probably the best value, which gets ambient lighting, AM/FM/XM audio with Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming through a 5.0-inch touchscreen, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The top-of-the-line Renegade Limited adds power front seats; a 115-volt power outlet; a split-folding rear seat; a 180-watt audio system; and heated leather front seats, along with 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Trailhawk model is somewhat separate, with its greater off-road capability aimed at different buyers. It only comes with all-wheel drive and the larger 2.4-liter inline-4 and 9-speed automatic transmission, a simulated low crawl ratio, a full-size spare tire standard (optional on other trims), and a rock-driving mode. The Trailhawk can be loaded up with all the luxury features of the Limited trim, or for serious Jeep off-roaders, ordered as a relatively standard model.

The Renegade's list of features quickly grows from comprehensive to exhausting. 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. There are 10 different equipment groups that offer everything from cruise control and air conditioning to leather seating and in-car wireless internet.

Jeep is particularly proud of its 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, but not something you'll simply pop and flip open at a stoplight.

Other options include a wi-fi 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 Uconnect system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, navigation, AM/FM/SiriusXM radio, HD radio, SiriusXM real-time traffic, and Bluetooth connectivity.

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2017 Jeep Renegade

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Jeep Renegade is far from the most fuel-efficient of the growing crop of small utilities, even if it does have remarkable off-road ability.

The 2017 Jeep Renegade manages to exceed 30 mpg on the highway for most of its models, as Fiat Chrysler points out, but it's still only average for EPA-rated fuel economy against more efficient competitors. It gets a score of 7 on our green scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base version with a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a manual gearbox was rated at 24 mpg city, 31 highway, 26 combined, whether it's the front- or all-wheel drive (AWD) version.

The larger of two engines, the available 2.4-liter inline-4 with a 9-speed automatic transmission, lowered the ratings somewhat, to 22/30/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and 21/29/24 mpg with AWD.

But the Renegade remains below the champion of the class, the Honda HR-V, whose 2017 model was rated at 29 mpg combined with all-wheel drive, and up to 31 mpg combined when outfitted with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive.

The Chevy Trax was rated at 25/33/28 mpg with front-drive, and the AWD version was rated at 24/30/27 mpg.

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Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 4
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Features 6
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