First drive: Jeep Renegade
When you first see the Jeep Renegade, you'd be forgiven for thinking the iconic off-road brand had lost its way slightly. It seems, on first inspection, this latest model – their smallest – is more style than substance, with little of the macho 'take-to-the-trails' attitude exhibited by its larger vehicles.
To convince us otherwise, Jeep threw us in at the deep end with a test drive that would take place exclusively in a winter wonderland in the Arctic Circle. If it works here, it'll cope with a miserable morning commute in the UK. Rebecca Chaplin strapped in to find out.
What is it?
It's the Jeep Cherokee's little brother and it's ready to prove it's just as good off -road as its bigger sibling. This downsized compact crossover's bold looks are aimed at younger drivers, as is its reasonable price tag. The Renegade's underpinnings are shared with the new Fiat 500X, though that car is pitched as more of a chic urban runabout than the rough-and-tumble Jeep.
What's under the bonnet?
Our Renegade had the most powerful 2.0-litre MultiJet II diesel engine with 170bhp and optional new segment-first nine-speed automatic gearbox. It's also available with 1.4-litre petrol and 1.6- litre diesel engines, with the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox. A six-speed manual is fitted across the range as standard.
What's the spec like?
Inside, the Renegade hasn't lost its Jeep charm. It might be covered in plastic but it feels hard-wearing and ready for working boots or dogs. Our 'Trail Hawk' spec was the most off-road-ready model. A lot of thought has gone into the design. There's a metallic burnt-orange trim around the console and they've even added mud splatter graphics in the red-line zone of the rev counter. The Renegade is also available in entry-level Sports spec, which includes DAB radio, Bluetooth and 16-inch alloys. Mid-range Limited models get 18-inch aluminium wheels, collision detection, rear parking sensors, leather seats and privacy glass.
Much like its Fiat counterpart, the Renegade will have to square up to the established Mini Countryman and Skoda Yeti in the crowded crossover market. It will also have to face off with the likes of the new Citroen C4 Cactus, which features unique styling and a number of innovative feautues. Where the Jeep triumphs is with its 4x4 credentials, which most of the competition would struggle to match, even when equipped with four-wheel-drive.
What's it like to drive?
The driving position is good and the steering feels direct and positive, which gives drivers confidence, even in the adverse conditions of our testing ground. The go-anywhere suspension also means the ride is relaxed when cruising on the motorway, and the nine-speed gearbox is so smooth you can just sit back and enjoy the drive.
The only potential fly in the ointment is the diesel motor, which struggled for grunt when tasked with hauling the Renegade up the steepest of the slippery slopes we encountered. However, these extremes had us convinced that in all-together more normal surrounding, this new Jeep would be more than up to the task.
The AOL Cars verdict
In a class that's so competitive, though largely centred around on-road prowess, the Renegade has brought some real, purebred off-roading excellence. For most, it's abilities won't be stretched beyond negotiating a snowy lane or two, but this is one crossover that does its SUV looks justice.
Model: Jeep Renegade Multijet II Trailhawk
Price: From £16,995 (£23,133 as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 170bhp, 350Nm
Max speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
MPG: 48.7mpg combined
Emissions: 151g/km C02