Another new crossover hatchback must hardly seem like a landmark to most car industry watchers as its stacked to the roof with them.
But suspend your disbelief, because when a company such as Jeep reaches back into its seven and half decades of 4x4-making history, confronts the new corporate context in which it finds itself and boldly steps forward into the 21st century, it’s reason to sit up and take notice.
The Renegade is Jeep’s first all-new model introduction for almost a decade. It is the first Jeep ever to be built outside of the United States. And perhaps more significant than both, it’s the first car to be born directly from the collaboration of American and European designers and engineers brought together as part of Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne’s gradual takeover of the Chrysler Group, which began in 2009 and was completed early 2014.
The Renegade promises to be a different kind of Jeep, but quite how different is what we’re here to ascertain. Built in Fiat’s SATA plant in Melfi, Italy (the one that has been cranking out Puntos for the past two decades), the Renegade shares its platform with the Fiat 500X and goes in search of a piece of the pie thus far enjoyed by the Mini Countryman, Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka – supermini-based small SUVs all.
However, the Jeep is generously proportioned compared with those rivals, as well as quite well endowed mechanically, putting it into competition with full-size crossovers and giving it all to prove.
The Renegade looks ready to surprise and confound, with Jeep’s 4x4 brand equity combining with Fiat’s touch with small cars to make for the perfect start in life for a compact crossover.
Distinctiveness, character and capability are given, but will the substance be right? And will the execution be in tune with what buyers want from a crossover? Will the Renegade be the European breakthrough that Jeep has been waiting decades to make?