The New Little Jeep
Let’s tackle the big thing first—is the 2015 Jeep Renegade really a Jeep? It’s got the seven-slot grille and little Jeep “Easter eggs” all over the place and even carries a “Trail-rated” badge on some
models. But it’s made in Italy by Fiat and comes in a two-wheel drive model. We’ve been down this road before, going back as far as the Willys-Overland Jeepster and continuing through square-headlight Wrangers and the current Compass/Patriot models, so let’s set it aside and get to what this brand-new subcompact crossover offers. If Jeep wants to call it a Jeep, then it’s a Jeep.
This is a fun, capable little machine. I had a chance to drive it off-road (the Trail-rated Trailhawk version, which definitely deserves its Jeep label). It not only felt competent, it felt solid and ready to tackle everything the course (laid out by the Land Rover folks, so it was not a cakewalk) could throw its way. The six-speed manual might have been more fun and given even more control, but the nine-speed automatic has a manual-shifting mode that worked quite well. The short wheelbase and overhangs make the Renegade a natural out on the trail.
In spite of its Italian manufacturing origins, the Jeep designers clearly had their input into the vehicle, resulting in those short overhangs, a simple interior that harkens back to the CJ hose-it-out aesthetic. They sweated the little details and it shows in things like the “X” accents borrowed from the Jerry cans (spare gas cans) carried by Jeeps in days of yore. Inside, the easy-to-manipulate dials for HVAC and media control are a nod to practicality that is the hallmark of the Jeep brand.
Tech is available
Since this is 2015 (and not 1945) the Jeep also has a healthy dose of technology things like Rear Cross Path Detection; ParkView Rear Back Up Camera (automatic when in reverse); forward
collision warning-plus (when approaching too rapidly, it will adjust speed); and blind sport monitoring. Power windows, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and hill-start assist (which I found very handy on the off-road course) are standard. Since it’s a hatchback with fold-down rear seats (and front passenger seat as well), the utility in sport utility comes through loud and clear.
Of course much of the tech is optional since at its core the Renegade is a do-it-yourself project. With a variety of cool colors (like the vibrant orange on our tester), a variety of interior materials and a long list of options, you can pretty much dial-up the Jeep that you want.
So you start with the basic package—a five-passenger (or four-passenger for normal American males), four-door hatchback crossover. The front-wheel drive version starts at $17,995; four-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the sticker. All models have a $995 destination charge. Those base Sport models come with 16-inch steel wheels, a 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission along with a basic AM/FM/MP3 audio system. The turbocharged and intercooled engine delivers 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, which can be very helpful off-road.
Moving up through the ranks are the Latitude model at $21,295 ($23,295 for 4WD); Limited at $24,795 ($26,795 for 4WD) and the 4WD-only Trailhawk at $25,995. The Limited bumps up to 18-inch aluminum wheels and the bigger 2.4L Tigershark engine (which offers 180 horsepower) and a nine-speed automatic transmission along with upgraded interior tech like the Uconnect system.
Fuel economy is standard
With most of the engine, transmission and 2WD/4WD choices, the 2015 Jeep Renegade can deliver up to 31 mpg highway, about what you might expect from this size vehicle. Of course, when the
add in the off-road capability of the Selec-Terrain traction control and its dial-in-your terrain challenge system, those fuel economy numbers look even more special. It’s not often you can squeeze out good fuel efficiency and this kind of go-anywhere capability. The Renegade also carries a 2,000-pound towing capacity.
Bottom line with the 2015 Jeep Renegade—it’s a great size both on and off-road, has got a load of fun tech and genuine ability packed into a compact frame. If you really plan to explore off-road, the Trailhawk version is worth a look. If you’ll stick mostly to pavement, check out some of the lower-level models. We predict Jeep is going to have another hit on its hands.
Some “Easter eggs” we found:
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