From £30,6997
Chirpy Jeep goes well off-road, as much as that’s likely to matter. Decent handling on it, with a few flaws

What is it?

The Jeep Renegade is something of a different kettle of fish for the compact crossover segment – which still doesn't have what you’d call a proper, old-school 4x4 within it: a car with plenty of grunt, a low-range transfer box and ground clearances to put a Land Cruiser to shame.

Most manufacturers would say that’s because compact crossover buyers simply aren’t asking for one, and certainly aren’t willing to pay a premium for one. But to a car-maker like Jeep, given how fast this part of the market is growing, that’s an irresistible invitation to launch one – whether the market wants it or not.

The Renegade is a 4.2-metre SUV-in-miniature that’s been designed and developed in the USA, is based on a heavily adapted Fiat supermini platform, and is being built in Italy alongside the forthcoming Fiat 500X.

Powered by a choice of MultiAir turbo petrol and Multijet turbodiesel engines, it offers clutch-driven lockable permanent four-wheel drive, an ultra-short crawler transmission ratio, hill descent control and as much ground clearance as a Range Rover Evoque – provided you plump for the range-topping Trailhawk diesel auto version that we tested.

What's it like?

The Renegade’s supermini underpinnings are a bit misleading; inside and out, the car’s a closer match for a Nissan Qashqai than a Nissan Juke. As such, its nearest rival would be a Skoda Yeti or a Vauxhall Mokka – both proof that bridging the gap between the ‘B’- and ‘C’-segment SUV can produce sales success.

Boot space is on a level with a Ford Focus-sized family hatchback, while passenger space is more generous – with headroom in ample supply. The seats themselves are a touch flat, hard and short in the base for optimal long-range comfort, but they’re entirely comfortable over middle distance.

Jeep’s Fiat parts bin cabin materials are a mixed bag; there are fairly rich mouldings on parts of the fascia, but the switchgear’s all classic Fiat Group stuff – relatively plain and dull-looking. And yet the Renegade carries its material plainness well because there are enough characterful flourishes to lift the ambience just above the humdrum. Large, squared-off cupholders; oversized, stylized air vents; bevel-trimmed instruments; even a grab handle ahead of the front passenger seat.

The Renegade isn’t a particularly refined car to drive, but the entirely reasonable way it conducts itself comes as a relief in the wake of the under-cooked Jeep Cherokee. Those oversized door mirrors and upright A-pillars make for plenty of wind noise at motorway speed, and the 2.0-litre diesel engine and automatic transmission could both be smoother – but performance is just about strong enough to be a selling point.

The chassis, meanwhile, is decently balanced, stout and stable – and also adequately quiet over scarred roads. The ride fidgets somewhat at high speeds, but the car’s primary controls are sensibly weighted and placed, and they feel broadly consistent, though lacking in tactile feedback.

On standard-fit Goodyear ‘M&S’ tyres, the Renegade Trailhawk develops a limited quantity of lateral grip on tarmac, and suffers with a squidgy sense of directional imprecision at high speeds.

Back to top

Both are tolerable conditions if you’ve need of the car’s abilities off the road, where it’ll ford, climb, slither and claw more determinedly than you’d believe of anything spawned of a Punto. The relatively firm suspension makes for an abrupt offroad ride at times, but the Renegade seldom struggles for contact with the ground.

Should I buy one?

Absolutely, assuming you’ve need of those rugged abilities – but if you’re shopping at the lightweight end of the crossover market, there’s a strong chance you don't.

Given that those off-road abilities touch and compromise not just this Renegade but every derivative in the range to a greater or lesser extent, we’d be surprised if the car became an overnight sensation.

Still, choice is always a welcome addition to any part of the market – and this particular agent of it has no small amount of charm, which isn’t a bad place for any new car to start.

Jeep Renegade 2.0 Multijet II 170 Trailhawk auto

Price £25,000 (est); 0-62mph 8.9sec; Top speed 122mph; Economy 48.7mpg; CO2 155g/km; Kerb weight tbc; Engine type, cc 4cyls, 1956cc, turbodiesel; Power 168bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox nine-speed automatic

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Add a comment…
Zimmerit 24 September 2014

It's a Fiat

MJet diseasil, nowt to do with GM. The only GM excuses for engines that Fiat has ever used are the lacklustre petrol engines used in the 159.
As for street cred If BMW 1 series owners can't figure out which end is driven you are asking a bit much to credit potential buyers with the knowledge that it's built on a heavily modified Giulietta platform.
People who want a Jeep will buy something with all the ability of a Defender but a little less hair shirt. Looks won't be a major factor - luckily!
Madasafish 23 September 2014

The price and perfomance look

The price and perfomance look matched to me for a 4x4 with 4wd.. rather than compare with a 2wd Cashcow.

Looks wise it's no worse than anything else on the market.

BUT it's GM's 2 litre diesel and it's FIAT based so no street cred at all in this price range.

Let's see if the depreciation is as vertical as the front , and the rear and the sides. It is so like a tin box.

I suppose its looks are its USP ..

NeufNeuf 22 September 2014

Finally a baby SUV with big engines

So you go and buy a huge Nissan X-trail and all you can get is a tiny little 1,6 litre diesel in it to pull your caravan with. Eh?! Then Jeep comes along (and like the Yeti range) with decent 2,0 litre engines and power up to 170 hp (and more overseas with a petrol producing 185ps). Downsizing engines are fine and well but there comes a point (to some buyers) where you either want speed, accelaration or the grunt you only get from cubic capacity to tow something. This looks awkward from the front but all in all I was very impressed by it at the last motor show. I'm even more impressed now that I've learnt it doesn't just come out with 1,0 litre baby engines. Well done Jeep.

As to the £25,000 asking price. Seems totally reasonable to me for a car with 170 horses. A 170hp Yeti is about the same price (in the lower spec levels) - in terms of power and size, so what's the issue with the £25,000 price exactly?