First Drive – 2015 Jeep Renegade

2015 Jeep Renegade
Credit: Daniel Rufiange.

I spent much of last week in San Jose, California, testing out the 2015 Jeep Renegade. This subcompact SUV is intended to erase our collective bad memories of vehicles like the Compass and the Patriot that never really lived up to the expectations associated with the Jeep name in terms of quality or capability.

I liked the Renegade’s boxy styling, and I was also impressed with how easy it was to drive, even in sparsely-equipped base model Sport trim. There’s a couple of engine choices available with the Jeep, including a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which fall within a 10 horsepower and lb-ft of each other (with the smaller unit showing as torquier than the larger mill). The biggest difference between the two options is in the transmission department: the 1.4-liter comes exclusively with a six-speed manual, while the 2.4-liter is matched with a nine-speed automatic. Neither motor is particularly speedy, but I’d most likely opt for the 1.4-liter. This is due more to the struggles that the nine-speed autobox has in parsing the commands passed through your right foot than it does any particular advantages offered by the turbocharged mill.

Four-wheel drive is offered with all Renegade models, and the Trailhawk trim even provides a 20:1 crawl ratio for first gear (along with a very slight ground clearance advantage). In off-roading, the Renegade Trailhawk proved fairly capable, and I am willing to believe you could have fun with it on weekend trails as long as you didn’t try to match a Wrangler step-for-step.

90 percent of Renegade buyers are going to stick to the pavement, however – at least, that’s my general feeling – and I think that style and image are going to go a long way in making this little SUV a success for Jeep. It’s certainly much better than Jeep’s previous small people mover efforts, and it shows that FCA is will to invest in product rather than just mix-and-match platforms.

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