Smaller and cheaper than the Cherokee, the 2015 Renegade is Jeep's first subcompact crossover, with styling that emphasizes typical Jeep touches, such as removable roof panels. The use of classic Jeep styling cues creates an image that's aimed at the younger demographic. The vertical-slotted grille and round headlights make the Renegade easy to spot in a crowd.
This all-new Renegade takes advantage of Chrysler's new "small-wide" 4x4 architecture, which is a modified version of the platform that supports another Chrysler Group vehicle -- the Fiat 500L. Even though it's the smallest sport-utility on the market, the Renegade is built to handle lots of on- and off-road abuse from all sorts of terrain and can take its owners anywhere other Jeeps go.
Unique suspension components and increased structural rigidity help separate the Renegade from the Fiats. The Renegade's taller stance gives it longer suspension travel and front-wheel-drive models offer 6.7 inches of ground clearance. The off-road-oriented Trailhawk 4x4 model sits 0.8-inch taller and provides 8.7 inches of ground clearance as well as up to 8.1 inches of rear-wheel articulation and 19 inches of water-fording ability.
While not spacious, the interior seems adequate with plenty of elbow room and enough space to support similar oversized features to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It also features a tall roofline, allowing for efficient rear- and passenger-seat storage.
The base engine is the 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder from the Fiat 500 Abarth, producing 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque and paired exclusively with a six-speed manual. The step-up powertrain is a 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder that makes 184 horses and 177 lb.-ft. and backs up exclusively to Chrysler's nine-speed automatic.
Buyers can get either engine in FWD or 4WD form. Jeep claims a class-leading coefficient of drag and says that its B-segment crossover will deliver 30-plus mpg on the EPA highway cycle. That would put the Renegade on par with the mileage delivered by the Kia Soul and Nissan Juke.
The Renegade has two all-wheel-drive systems from which to choose. Jeep Active Drive is a full-time system that can send up to 100 percent of engine torque to any drive wheel as needed. Jeep Active Drive Low is standard on the Trailhawk 4x4 model and adds a low range that gives the Renegade a 20:1 crawl ratio in first gear. Jeep Active Drive Low also employs hill-descent control and Selec-Terrain traction control with Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and on the Trailhawk model, Rock 4x4 driving modes.
Jeep's designers needed to toughen up what is really a wee little thing, and so the Renegade has short overhangs, trapezoidal wheel arches, and trinkets inspired by the military and extreme sports. The "X" design on the taillights suggests military equipment or jerry cans, while the "air-pod" vents that sit atop the dash are meant to look like the performance goggles worn by downhill skiers.
But if the success of the Soul and Juke are any indication, the main points of appeal in this segment are urban usability and polarizing design rather than off-road capability. Despite its small size -- 7.2 inches shorter overall than the Jeep Patriot -- the Renegade offers 118.6 cubic feet of interior volume.
Standard Koni frequency-selective shocks work with the Renegade's four-wheel independent suspension, bleeding off damping on sharp jolts and firming up for good body control on the highway. And the Jeep uses triple door seals, an acoustic laminated windshield, and an isolated rear-suspension cradle to help quiet the cabin.
The instrument panel features analog tachometer and speedometer gauges that flank either a standard 3.5-inch monochrome display or an optional and customizable 7-inch TFT display, which transmit vehicle, trip, and infotainment data to the driver. The latest iteration of Uconnect infotainment is displayed at the top of the center stack via a 5.0- or 6.5-inch touch screen.
And like any new vehicle these days, the Renegade is available with a litany of driver-assist features, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, rear parking sensors, a backup camera, and rear cross-path detection.
The second-row seats split 60/40 as standard, but a 40/20/40-split with cargo area pass-through is available. There are 12.4 cu.-ft. of storage space behind the rear seats, and that swells to 50.8 cu.-ft. with the second row folded flat. The front passenger seat can be folded flat, too. Prices for the new 2015 Jeep Renegade start at $19,000.
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