‘Small-wide-4x4’ is the pleasingly descriptive name of the Renegade’s platform. Shared with the Fiat 500X, its roots trace all the way back to the Fiat Punto of 2005 but it has long since been developed to accommodate differing wheelbases, body widths and suspensions. It confers on the Renegade a transverse, front-mounted engine layout and predominantly front-wheel drive.
From there on, the Renegade departs from crossover convention with the freedom-loving glee of its American roots. Although shorter than a Mazda CX-3, the Jeep is also wider than the Mazda and more than 160mm taller in top Trailhawk spec – taller, even, than a BMW X3. This is a boxy, square-jawed, high-rise Jeep in the traditional Willys mould.
You may either see that as a refreshing departure from the norm or something of a visual anachronism, but don’t be surprised if the car’s visual charm puts you in the former camp when you see it in the metal.
Suspension is all-independent, while all engines have four cylinders, with all but the entry-level petrol unit being turbocharged. Petrol options range from 108 to 168bhp, diesels from 118 to 168bhp, in each case giving the Renegade more heart than the average small crossover – if you’re willing to pay for it.
A Jeep’s driveline is equally important, and the Renegade’s provides genuine off-road capability – but again, as long as you’re willing to pay for it. Four-wheel drive is delivered via an electronically actuated clutch – the same GKN ‘rear-axle disconnect’ system used on the Range Rover Evoque – but only on high-end trim levels. All of the petrol models, excluding the flagship 168bhp Multiair turbo, are exclusively front-wheel drive.
The cheapest four-wheel-driver is a 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel in mid-spec Longitude trim, priced at just over £24,500. It’s a car whose 190mm of ground clearance is approached by that of a Skoda Yeti Outdoor and beaten by a Subaru XV. So it’s pretty clear that the Renegade doesn’t offer distinguishing off-road ability across the full breadth of its model range – which stands to disappoint a good portion of its owners.
Splash out in excess of £28,000 on a top-of-the-range 168bhp turbodiesel Trailhawk model and you’ll get 210mm of ground clearance, front and rear bumpers tweaked for approach and departure angles in excess of 30deg, underbody skid plates and a nine-speed automatic gearbox with proper torque multiplication and a crawler ratio – more of the kind of stuff on which Jeep has built its reputation, in other words.