Renegade may be the most fashion-forward Jeep ever. But does it stand up to cold-weather commuting?
Over the last couple of years, Jeep has gotten quite bold in terms of product design and segmentation. The pointy-nosed Cherokee, as far a cry from a ‘traditional’ jeep as we’d yet seen, has sold to the tune of 400k units in its two full years on sale. The Renegade may look stranger still to the Jeep4Life purists, but some 60k sales in its first full year are quite promising.
I’d only gotten a few miles behind the wheel of the Renegade when this, army-liveried Latitude-spec Jeep was delivered for a week’s test. Time to see if promising sales are based on those nontraditional looks alone, or a solid product.
- More than the Cherokee, and far more than the first, cutesy iterations of Jeeps Compass and Patriot in the mid 2000s, the Renegade may build a following as a fashionable lifestyle vehicle. There are persistent ‘easter eggs’ around the vehicle that point to Jeep’s utilitarian and military-service past, but the Renegade is far more funky styling statement than tool. The overall look is either “hip” or “weird” depending on your particular set of eyeballs, but either way it seems appropriate for snowy-city dwellers with edgy taste.
- The form factor is perfect for urbanites, as well. Tall but short of wheelbase, the Renegade was simple to parallel park and well suited to cramped parking garages. Even still, the interior feels quite generous and utile, with loads of space for my bigger-than-average frame, and a decidedly useful load space inside the tailgate.
- I was driving the Renegade and the Scion iA during the same week. That apples to oranges comparison proved interesting for me, as the down-market Scion’s ride control and quality were far superior to the boundy Jeep. At first this turned me off, but eventually the mix of suspension travel and softness grew on me, seeming laid-back and livable in a way that works for a Jeep.
- The 2.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder engine was just dandy at moving the Renegade smartly through the city and on the highway. But I didn’t care much for the nine-speed automatic transmission, which hunted around quite a lot when I was city driving at speeds from 0 to 30 miles per hour. I’d forgive the slightly unsettled behavior from the automatic if it paid off in great fuel efficiency, but with 50/50 city/highway driving I saw about 20 miles per gallon. Granted, the EPA ratings are 21/29/24 City/Highway/Combined, so my number wasn’t far off.
- During the summer the My Sky retractable/removable roof panel might be worth the $1,395 price tag, but in the Michigan winter it definitely was not. Naturally I wasn’t inclined to open the sucker in the near-zero temperatures, but it also proved annoying with a bit of ice buildup. Even when I scraped snowfall from the top, enough clung to the panel that it was solidified by the cold, and made an awful racket inside the cabin via wind noise.
- The $28,000-ish as-tested price for my Renegade isn’t out of the question in this brave new mini-utility vehicle segment, believe it or not. Spending between $25k-$30k is just as easy with a Subaru Crosstrek, Nissan Juke, and certainly the Mini Countryman. Still, unless the buyer really wanted something funky looking, I’d have an easier time recommending the Subaru in this class, with it’s better quality scores and residual values. The Renegade’s character may be irreplaceable as “a Jeep thing” but the poor resale comes along for the (bouncing) ride.
- Chevy Trax
- Buick Encore
- Fiat 500X
- Honda HR-V
- Mazda CX-3
- Mini Countryman
- Nissan Juke
- Subaru Crosstrek
|Output||180 Horsepower / 175 Pound-Feet|
|EPA Fuel Economy||21 City / 29 Highway / 24 Combined|
|Cargo Volume||50.8 Cubic Feet|
|Lease Price (As-Tested)||$490/Month|