There are predictable shortcomings and limitations here, among them only moderately comfortable front seats, decidedly mixed material quality levels and an unintuitive, under-provisioned and averagely rendered infotainment system.
But, by the skin of its teeth, the Renegade has the charm, equipment level and practicality to cover for those failings, so you can continue to feel as good about the car having climbed in as you may have begun to when surveying its plucky exterior – assuming you’re so inclined.
The driving position is broadly sound, with plenty of head and leg room. Taller drivers could do with more steering column reach adjustment but will be pleased with the quantity of vertical base height adjustment – once they’ve diced with the flimsy, sharp-edged adjuster lever. The seat cushions are a bit flat and unyielding, though, and the squabs are short for taller drivers.
The quality of the cabin mouldings varies from respectable (roll-top dash) to disappointing (interior door cards, centre console), but there’s enough imagination to the detailing to distract you from the worst bits. The Jeep Wrangler-derived grille is used quite endearingly as a recurring motif on the speakers and seatbacks, while the chunky, geometric forms of the infotainment surround, air vents, air-con controls and cupholders are appealing and different.
The infotainment system in our Limited trim test car sees two key upgrades to the Renegade’s infotainment set-up: Jeep’s 6.5in Uconnect central multimedia system with DAB radio and sat-nav, and its 7.0in colour premium instrument cluster screen. The latter is quite useful, relaying route directions and trip computer information at a good, clear size.
But Uconnect lacks the graphical sophistication and easy navigability of the best new multimedia set-ups, and while it offers some app-based functionality, it doesn’t integrate the more obvious social media channels.
Jeep is clever enough to include button shortcuts for the features you most commonly need to switch between, and the scroll knob on the bottom right corner of the unit means those who find it easier not to use the touchscreen interface on the move don’t have to. But processes such as switching the navigation to ‘north up’ and disabling auto-zoom aren’t as simple as they ought to be, and the mapping lacks detail.
Second-row space is passable. It’s not as good as you’ll find elsewhere in the crossover market but just about good enough for bulky child seats and growing teenagers. Boot space is adequate but not brilliant; the hold is tall but not particularly wide or long. A false floor does at least make loading easier and saves some space for smaller items underneath.
A 60/40 split-folding rear bench is standard, divided conveniently to give maximum through-loading space in right-hand-drive cars. For those who need to make more of their Renegade’s carrying flexibility, a 40/20/40 split back seat and a folding front seatback are both options. A well-equipped Renegade could therefore probably be made into a very practical second car. Primary family transportation would stretch it, though, which is an accusation that can’t be levelled at plenty of other crossover hatchbacks at this price.
As for the trim choices for potential buyers, there are five to choose from - Sport, Longitude, Limited, Trailhawk and 75th Anniversary. The entry-level Sport Renegade endows the crossover with intelligent traction control, hill start assist, electronic stability and roll mitigation control as standard, while inside there is air conditioning, 6-speaker audio system, and Fiat's Uconnect infotainment system with a 5.0in touchscreen display.
Upgrade to Longitude and not only can you get a four-wheel drive Renegade, but also it comes with heated door mirrors, cruise control, rear parking sensors and front foglights thrown in, while Limited models add chrome exhaust, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, front parking sensors, leather upholstery, sat nav and a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment display. There is also the inclusion of Fiat's Forward Collision Warning Mitigation and lane departure warning systems.
The range-topping Trailhawk model gets numerous additional features, which include hill descent control, reinforced protection plates for the fuel tank, transfer case and transmission, rear privacy glass and numerous Trailhawk specific decals. Currently rounding off the range is the limited edition 75th Anniversary Renegade, which has all the standard features from the Limited model and comes with a Bronze exterior details, a choice of black or Sandstorm and Tangerine upholstery and an electric sunroof.