Jeep Renegade - Launch Report

Massimo Pini headed to Northern Italy to check out the revamped Renegade – the compact SUV that’s spearheading Jeep’s expansion plans as the first of several new cars on the horizon from the iconic American manufacturer.

Due out in September, the latest Renegade comes with new engines and updates inside and out. Powertrains include the first use of Fiat’s new MultiAir III turbo petrol engines – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder and a 1.3-litre four. Despite their diminutive capacities, they pack some decent punch with the 1.3 offering power outputs of either 150 or 180hp over the entry-level three-pot’s 120.

Three MultiJet diesel engines are also available in 1.6 and 2.0-litre guises with a variety of transmissions available across the range, including six-speed manuals as well as DCT semi-automatics and nine-speed autos.

All models get LED headlamps and feature the iconic seven slot grille – a design detail which is picked up across the interior and exterior of the vehicle (we played a fun game of ‘Spot the Slots’) and even on the ignition key. Some though this to be overkill but we thought it was well-judged.

If you’re not likely to venture off the tarmac, then a standard Renegade will suit you just fine, but for those who have cause to stray into the wilderness, the Trailhawk specification will cope with the rough stuff just about as well as any other 4x4 Jeep.

Thanks to a selectable drive system for snow, sand, mud and rocky terrain, independent suspension, a ground clearance of over eight inches, hill descent control and low ratio gears, the Trailhawk can tackle all but the very toughest of conditions – and we were able to put it to the test over the Balocco Proving Ground’s off-road track, which the feisty compact SUV tackled with aplomb, confirming its genuine Jeep DNA.

The petrol models are not available with four-wheel-drive and, as such, are more at home in day-to-day ‘on-road’ driving conditions. The 1.3-litre petrol Renegade (in 150hp guise) felt noticeably perkier than the 1.0-litre, delivering its extra 30 horses to good effect. It covers the 0-62mph sprint in 9.4 seconds on its way to a flat out maximum of 122mph.

If low running costs are paramount, then the 1.0-litre engine Renegade is the one to go for. Jeep claims Combined economy of 47mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km, with still reasonable acceleration of 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds.

On the tech front, the Renegade is now up to date with full smartphone compatibility and an optional 8.4in touchscreen for the Uconnect connectivity/infotainment system.A revised layout includes a centre console with handy storage areas for a phone while the central USB port is now also accessible to rear seats passengers.

Safety equipment fitted as standard includes lane departure warning, a speed limiter and traffic sign recognition, with an automatic parking system on the way. All models are fitted with automatic emergency braking and forward collision alerts, while  adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic detection and blind spot monitoring are also available.

Physical exterior changes are restricted to minor tweaks so cabin space is very much as it was – good for the class – with boot space ranging from 351 to 1297 litres with the rear seats folded.

Prices and exact performance/economy data is yet to be released but the current line-up kicks off from about £18,500 and tops out at over £30k for the ‘tough-mudder’ Trailhawk model.

With a new Wrangler due in September, Jeep is set to expand its range from five to eight models in the coming months, adding a pick-up, a large (Range Rover-sized) model and a compact SUV to sit beneath the Renegade, according to Head of Jeep Brand - EMEA, Jeff Hines.

The Jeep Renegade is built in Italy alongside the Fiat 500X (a car with which it shares many underpinnings), but it is sold across the world – and in big numbers – with 800,000 finding customers since the current version appeared 2014, so this is a very important car both for Jeep and parent company FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).

This latest update keeps the Renegade competitive. Its new, more efficient engines and genuine off-road capability, coupled with distinctive styling and enduring brand heritage will ensure it continues to find buyers for some time to come.