After a major overhaul in 2015, the Jeep Renegade has become one of the most recognizable crossovers on the road. Its stout, snub-nosed body and hipster military lines have become ubiquitous. This allows the distinctive look of the Renegade to define itself for a new generation of drivers. Its nerdy cool exterior isn't the only thing worth mentioning: there are plenty of features that make this a real contender for your next vehicle purchase.
What's so special about the new Jeep Renegade, anyway?
Watching the compact SUV market get handed to carmakers like Kia and Nissan prompted Jeep to rethink its strategy and to take advantage of the Fiat Chrysler merger in developing the new compact Renegade. After the lackluster performance of the Patriot and Compass compact SUV's, Jeep decided to take the radical step of a complete redesign to make it more compatible with city driving (and parking) along with a new generation of car buyers. The design team cut over 7 inches of length from the Patriot model and outfitted the Renegade with a modified version of the 'small-wide' platform around which the Fiat 500L is designed. In so doing, they developed a Jeep that could handle the demands of urban maneuvers while still maintaining the rugged capabilities for which the brand is known.
What prompted the changes?
The new Renegade was developed after the merger of Fiat and Chrysler, and is the first Jeep vehicle on the American market to be final-assembled entirely in Italy. It comes from the same factory where the Fiat 500X is made, and the similarities are noticeable when the two cars are side by side. The crossover market is one of the fastest growing in the world, and Jeep's blend of American aesthetic with Italian sensibility makes it a versatile vehicle that packs a lot of power into a compact yet comfortable body. In order to keep pace with the compact SUV market, the Renegade maximizes interior space while still keeping a body that can fit into tight corners: 118 cubic feet of interior space fits 5 (although 4 would be more comfortable) and leaves room for sporty accessories and/or organic groceries (depending on your style).
What Makes the Renegade Stand out from Other Crossovers/Compact SUV's?
The distinctive design features of the Renegade are only part of the story. It's one of the best value for money crossovers on the market today and is a far superior 4WD or offroad model compared to both the Kia Sol or Mazda CX-3, its closest competitors in the compact SUV market. While the Sol has slightly more legroom in the back, the Renegade has more cargo space and comes with standard 4WD, which will cost extra in the Sol or CX-3. Its interior design also feels more luxurious than the price tag suggests, and the six different models and upgrade packages available give prospective buyers the option of getting as close to customizing a vehicle while still staying in a very reasonable price range. While a fully loaded Renegade does cost just about the same as the Sol or CX-3, it gives you a ton of features that place it above the competition.
Is the Renegade actually practical?
Well, that depends on how you define practical. Regarding fuel economy, the Renegade loses some points with low mileage on both manual and automatic transmissions. The 1.4 liter Fiat designed turbocharged MultiAir engine gets 24 city and 31 highway MPG, while the larger 2.4 Tigershark automatic comes in with 22/31 (front wheel drive) and 21/29 (all-wheel drive). As far as safety goes, the Renegade receives four stars out of 5 in crash tests and has features for fitting two car seats in the back. Speaking of that back, it's a tight fit, and if you've got a taller person sitting in the front seat, you'll find your passengers getting really friendly with each other, especially if you attempt to seat three people. However, if you're the type who is city on the weekdays and country on the weekends, there are a few perks: both the rear seats and the front passenger seat fold down for lots of space, especially if you're looking to bring your snowboard or skis or other extreme sports accessories along for the ride. In short, it's not the most family-friendly suburban machine out there, but the millennial couple with the off-road dreams will find themselves pretty well accommodated by the Renegade's features.
What's with all the X's?
The Fiat team tasked with overhauling the Renegade was asked to design a car that they would like to drive, and in so doing they followed the trend of hiding a whole bunch of easter eggs inside of the car that make it feel like a personalized driving experience. The X's that feature throughout the car's design (most notably in the head and tail lights) is a reference to the jerrycans that old Wranglers used to transport when they were military vehicles. There are a number of X's whose location Jeep won't reveal, like topographic maps of the various locations that inspire each version, and the splash designs meant to evoke paintball matches, apparently a favorite of the design team. All in all, the Jeep Renegade is fast becoming the go-to car for a new generation of drivers, the automotive equivalent of a new (yet not so new) indie band that you've probably never heard of. For all of its possible shortcomings, the team behind the Renegade has understood something that many carmakers have not yet realized: products need a story, and they need to make the owner feel like they're part of an experience. Love it or hate it, on these two points the Jeep absolutely delivers.