Fiat Chrysler Automobiles can consider the Renegade a success here in as much as the sophistication of its ride and handling are in the ballpark for the class. That doesn’t mean this is a particularly wieldy, comfortable or keen-handling car – or even that it has any of the virtues we’re inclined to praise in a high-rise family hatch. But it’s competent, being adequately responsive, grippy, stable and easy to drive, while also feeling alternative – like a Jeep. Which may have been precisely the compromise that was aimed at.
Jeep or not, the car could certainly steer much better. Perhaps inevitably, the Renegade has inherited the slightly sticky, pendulous, over-assisted steering we’ve encountered on other cars with the same platform in recent years, such as the Punto Evo and 500L.
Rarely can you guide the car with the fluency and precision that a keener driver would appreciate, and never with any meaningful feedback from the front wheels.
If the car’s occasionally jostling, bumbling, firmly damped ride offends, it’ll probably be because you’ve got no affinity for the heavy-duty, old-school SUVs the Renegade seeks to reference in just about everything it does – and if so, you’d be unlikely to find yourself experiencing it for long anyway.
For anyone with even the remotest fondness for what might be called a ‘proper’ off-roader, meanwhile, the Renegade’s ride is actually part of its appeal. Body movements are more pronounced than those of most crossovers and aren’t dealt with subtly, but they’re reined in well enough to keep the car on line and under control, even when pushing on.
Grip levels are moderate but respectable and don’t deteriorate with the pronounced but ultimately controlled body roll exhibited through tighter, harder-charged bends. Up to the point that you start testing the effectiveness of the four-wheel drive and torque vectoring systems to shuffle power between the rear wheels, the cornering balance is decent and the authority of its steering likewise.
Off road, the Renegade’s four-wheel drive system finds strong traction and conserves forward momentum well. With both the torque vectoring and hill descent control systems relying on the brakes to work, tougher tracks can set a test that the brakes can’t live up to indefinitely.
Still, the car will go farther and harder into the rough than many would believe — and most owners are ever likely to require.