What is it?
“It’s the start of a new era!” Jeep says. “It’s to reduce your fleet CO2 average!” we say. Regardless, it’s a show of confidence in the rough and tough US maker that it’s the first Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brand with a European presence to receive a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
And it won’t be the last. It’ll come as no surprise that Jeep is one of the biggest polluters in the group’s stable, and even FCA’s emissions credit pooling with Tesla will go only so far to remedying that. So Jeep needs electrification to do some of the legwork. The ever-popular Renegade takes priority but soon to follow are a plug-in Compass and Wrangler, and all models will feature some form of battery propulsion by 2022.
The Renegade 4xe (pronounced 4-by-e) joins an ever-growing rank of plug-in SUVs, but Jeep touts the Mini Countryman PHEV as its main challenger. Pricing is broadly similar, although the Jeep is more comprehensively equipped as standard.
It makes use of a 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine, itself giving 128bhp (or a sprightly 177bhp in top-spec Trailhawk trim, which we’re not driving here). That’s combined with a 59bhp electric motor mounted over the rear axle in all models for four-wheel drive without the need for a second driveshaft.
Those output figures are healthy enough, but they’re lugging a car that’s between 130kg and 200kg heavier (depending on spec) than the pure combustion-engined variants. Despite an 11.4kWh battery crammed under the passenger compartment, Jeep claims there has been no loss of space, although the hardware under the boot floor robs 20 litres of outright capacity.