The new Jeep Renegade is arriving at Jeep dealerships across the country. It promises to be many things to many people, but is it a Jeep in the true sense of the word? Sadly, the answer is no. What the Renegade is is a dressed up Fiat 500L (the four-door Fiat) on a raised platform. Its true the body doesn’t look anything like the 500L, but the rest of the vehicle is pure Fiat.
The good news for Jeep is that in spite of its lowly origins the Renegade could easily sell like crazy. It is a very attractive vehicle that is fun to drive. The 2-wheel drive version of the Renegade is rated by the EPA at a combined 25 miles per gallon while the 4-wheel drive version gets 24 miles per gallon. It’s small and therefore easy to park plus the driver has the advantage of sitting up high for better visibility. The front seat is easy to get in and out of (the back seat is a different story) and the ride is quiet and composed. The back seat should be considered for children (or grandchildren only).
The interior of the Jeep is just as attractive as the outside with many Jeep styling cues. It seems like everywhere you look you’ll see a little jeep icon staring back at you. They are on the sides of the mirror, on the speaker grills and even along the edge of the windshield.
Everything about the Renegade screams it is not for the traditional Jeep buyer. It’s for the person who has never owned a Jeep Wrangler (because of its rugged ride, low MPG, poor seating and high cost) but has always liked the concept of the Wrangler, just not the reality. The Renegade will give them the cachet of Jeep ownership without actually owning one (the Renegade is a Jeep In Name Only, aka JINO).
But selling this Jeep to current Jeep owners isn’t the objective of the Renegade. It’s goal is to bring a whole new market to Jeep – such as young people who might otherwise buy a Kia Soul or Nissan Juke. The problem with this reasoning is the Renegade is much more expensive than a comparably equipped Soul and not as much fun to drive as the more expensive Juke.
Whats is the Renegade like to drive? The ride is solid and quiet. Handling is decent and predictable. Visibility to the front, sides and back is okay but not great. Still, Jeeps have never been noted for great visability. For better visibility buy a Subaru.
Acceleration is good at low speeds but drops off considerably at Interstate speeds. Two engines are offered, a 160-horsepower turbo charged four-cylinder (available only with the 6-speed manual transmission) and a larger, more powerful (184-hp) non-turbo-charged engine mated with the 9-speed automatic.
Pricing starts at $17,995 but good luck trying to find one at that price. My recent online search of Jeep dealerships within a 200 mile radius of Chicago didn’t find a single one. And its probably just as well, the base Jeep is so stripped down – no power windows, no air-conditioning, no cruise control – that it seems unlikely anyone would want one.
A more realistic price for the Renegade is $21,665. This price is for the front-wheel drive version with air-conditioning, power windows, cruise control and 16” inch steel wheels. Still not loaded by any means but at least a vehicle you can live with.
If you want 4-wheel drive (and what’s a Jeep without 4-wheel drive) prepare to spend at least $23,680. And that’s where the problem lies. At that price you can buy the much better Subaru CrossTrek. The good news is that knowing Chrysler/Fiat’s pricing policies it won’t be long before a one or two thousand dollar discount will be available on the Renegade.
Jeep claims the Renegade will deliver better than 30 miles per gallon when it is rated by the EPA. Unfortunately Jeep doesn’t specify whether the mileage estimate is based on front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. My guess is only the front-wheel drive version will be in the thirties.
Will Jeep lovers accept a Fiat Jeep? Especially one that’s platform is based on the Fiat 500L? That’s yet to be seen. The Renegade is targeted at first time Jeep owners who are not interested in any in off-roading beyond reaching the campground. It has minimal cargo space at 12.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, but if you fold the rears seats down the cargo space jumps to a more respectable 50.8 cubic feet. Also, like some of the other Jeeps, the front passenger seat can be folded flat.
If you like a car with a sunroof, you’ll like the Renegade; both manual and powered sunroofs are optional. Few may ever attempt it, but the two panels comprising the sunroof can be removed and stowed beneath the floor.
As stated earlier the Renegade is a Jeep in name only. Its an attractive vehicle with an interesting interior, but given Fiat’s reputation for less than stellar quality you may want to consider a vehicle like the Subaru CrossTrek. According to Consumer Reports the CrossTrek is more reliable and in many ways a better, albeit slightly less attractive, choice. So if you really want a Renegade wait a little while. The Renegades arriving at Jeep dealers now are the most expensive versions. Give the Renegade a year or so and less expensive versions will be showing up, possibly with discounted pricing.
Quick Comparison Table – – all models comparably equipped with All-Wheel Drive and an automatic transmission.
|Jeep Renegade Sport||Nissan Juke||Subaru CrossTrek|
|MSRP (Including destination fee)||Pricing not available||$22,100 + $825||$21,595 + $755|
|EPA MPG* (city,highway, combined)||21/29/24||26/31/28||26 / 34 / 29|
|Headroom (Front/Rear)||39.7 / 40.5||39.6 / xx.x||39.8 / 37.7.x|
|Legroom (Front/Rear)||41.2 / 35.1||42.1 / 32.1||43.5 / 35.4|
|Passenger volume (cu.-ft.)||100.1???||86.7||97.5|
|Turning circle (curb-to-curb)||36.3||36.4||34.8|
|Cargo volume (Rear seats up/down)||18.5 / 50.8||10.5 / 35.9||22.3 / xx.x|
|Ground clearance||7.9 (AWD)||7.0||8.7|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||184@2,500 – 4,000||177@x1,600 – 5,200||145@4,200|
|Wheels||16″ Steel||17″ Alloy||17″ Alloy|
|Audio system||AM/FM Radio, CD, MP3, 4-speakers||AM/FM Radio, CD, MP3, 6-speakers||AM/FM Radio, CD, MP3, 4-speakers|
|Sunroof||Manual – Standard||Optional||Optional|
|Side mirror turn signal indicators||N.A.||Standard||x|
*Fuel economy figures courtesy http://www.fueleconomy.gov. All use Regular unleaded unless otherwise noted. Prices and specifications subject to change without notice.