Engine options, speed and acceleration

Some manufacturers are starting to integrate the technology associated with PHEVs into the driving experience in a pretty slick and seamless way. It’s early days, of course, but Jeep isn’t at that stage.

This firm’s models were among the original ‘dual-purpose’ off-roaders, and you might well consider this one a ‘multi-purpose’ vehicle of a sort. What it lacks, however, is much in the way of overarching consistency between its various and discrete operating roles – a matching strength and refinement about its motorway performance, for example, as it has when running in zero-emissions urban mode, or the ability to cruise sufficiently economically in ‘range-extended mode’ so that you might consider it frugal for more than just short-range pootling.

Charging port is on the nearside rear quarter panel, opposite the fuel filler. The fastest charge it will accept is at 7.4kW AC, taking about two hours to go from empty to full.

The car performs well around town when there is charge in its batteries. The electric rear axle is evidently geared short to satisfy Jeep’s requirements for the Renegade off the road. Away from rest and up to about 40mph, then, it’s very easy to avoid rousing the combustion engine (you can simply select Electric driving mode to be sure not to) and there’s plenty of torque for nippy, enjoyable bursts of acceleration.

Seek to maintain the same nippiness between 30mph and 50mph, though, and the engine chimes in pretty frequently when you switch back to Hybrid mode. Above 50mph, that engine runs more often than not – and you’ll know when it is. The 1.3-litre petrol four-pot feels a little rough and sounds particularly noisy when working at revs, and there’s a slightly diesely clatter about it when warming up.

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Our performance figures bear witness to a car that’s fairly assertive from low speeds, but a lot slower at motorway pace and beyond, when the electric motor has run out of gearing and effectively shut down. The 14.4sec the car needs to get from 60mph to 100mph is no quicker than a pretty average family hatch.

Jeep’s six-speed automatic transmission, meanwhile, does seek to present a consistent performance level by blending the combustive and electric power available under your foot, but it often does this by slipping and delaying the engagements of lower intermediate gears and it isn’t the most convincing juggling routine.

At times, particularly after the engine has just started, the 4xe’s accelerator pedal can feel numb and dead, and when running in E-Save mode (in which the petrol engine has to run as a charger for the drive battery while also providing motive power for the car), there’s a notable dullness and clunkiness about the powertrain’s responses.