Jeep’s newest SUV might not seem conventional to the rough-and-tumble brand, but after spending a week behind its leather-wrapped wheel, the 2015 Renegade proved to be all the things that embody the Jeep persona. It’s small in size, is available with a manual transmission and 4WD, and comes packed with tons of personality and throwbacks to its heritage.

The Renegade is all new for 2015 and shares much of its greasy bits with the Fiat 500L. That includes everything from its architecture to its powertrain. Nevertheless, Chrysler engineers have somehow injected enough Jeep DNA into the Italian crossover, making it inherently different. Easter Eggs and specialty design cues make the Renegade one of the most unique vehicles on the market – not to mention a hit with the petrol heads and car nerds.

And popularity is what Jeep is striving for. The Renegade will be sold in more than 100 markets worldwide. To help broaden the appeal, engineers have included no less than six engine options and an unprecedented 16 powertrain combinations when 4WD and transmission choices are factored in. Sadly on two of those combinations are coming to the U.S. and are already familiar to FCA showrooms thanks to the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200.

Continue Reading for the full review

  • 2015 Jeep Renegade - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    six-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    160
  • MPG(Cty):
    23
  • MPG(Hwy):
    32
  • Torque @ RPM:
    184
  • Energy:
    Turbocharged
  • Displacement:
    1.4 L
  • 0-60 time:
    8.7 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    115 mph
  • Layout:
    front engine, FWD
  • Price:
  • body style:

Exterior

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2015 Jeep Renegade - Driven
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The Renegade’s look is somewhat cartoonish on first impression, yet is somehow grows more manly as time marches on

Taking a look at the outside, the Renegade is unlike anything Jeep has ever made before – even including the dull Patriot and Compass crossovers. The Renegade’s look is somewhat cartoonish on first impression, yet is somehow grows more manly as time marches on. I considered the Renegade more of a joke when it first debuted, but now am finding myself wondering if this design will be a lasting icon for the company. It has that much appeal in person.

Up front, FCA has molded in that familiar, seven-slot grille that’s made Jeep such a recognizable brand. Two simple round headlights complete the look. A dark bezel gives the grille and headlight assembly a macho, five o’clock shadow look. The dark theme continues down low with the air valance, fog lights, and daytime running lights. The plastic looks rugged without looking cheap. (No Chevy Avalanche jokes to be had here.) The black plastic does continues rearward, cresting over the wheel wells and collecting below the side doors. Around back, the rear bumper finished the theme.

The Renegade’s large windshield sits high on the body with accent lines sloping downward to meet the side windowsills. The slops is then mirrored at the C-pillar, giving it a tailored appearance.

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Beyond the basic design details, Jeep has continued its recent tradition of hiding Easter Eggs over every nook and cranny. On the outside you’ll find the “Sarge” grille and headlight silhouette within the headlights and taillights; a stenciled-style “NO STEP” warning on the lower trim piece below the rear door jams; and a Jerry Can-style “X” also found in the headlights and taillights. Oddly enough, there’s even a raised indentation of a spider with a speech bubble saying “Ciao Baby!” behind the fuel door. I’m sure that will catch a few unsuspecting owners off guard. Let’s just hope they don’t try dousing it with unleaded and setting it ablaze.

Interior

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Fiat’s merger with Chrysler is certainly paying dividends in the interior. The Renegade has already been showered with praise and a Ward’s 10 Best Interior award. Everything from its design and controls layout to its materials and fit and finish are well conceived and executed.

Fiat’s merger with Chrysler is certainly paying dividends in the interior

Behind the wheel, the driver is greeted with a nice thick-grip steering wheel with plenty of controls – even on this lower trim-spec tester. The gauge cluster is well laid-out with easy-to-read fonts and numbers. A FTF center display gives information such as temperature, direction, mileage, speed, tire pressure, vehicle customization settings, radio info, and more.

To the right, the center stack is comprised of the 5.0-inch Uconnect touchscreen, HVAC controls, and charging ports. That 5.0-inch Uconnect system in my tester is the base level offering, yet it gives plenty of functionality and control. It combines both hard and soft keys for easy navigation of menus and radio presets. I did find the satellite radio to have trouble keeping signal. The radio would sporadically lose signal where other SiriusXM systems haven’t had trouble.

Below the radio is a bank of blocked-out switches for items not included in my tester. Below that is then HVAC system. The three-dial controls are incredibly intuitive and are controllable without looking down. Push the center of each rotary knob for recirculation, A/C, and rear defrost respectively. In the storage bid in front of the shifter lies the USB and Auxiliary inputs, along with the 12-volt power port.

As expected, the Renegade offers a decent amount of comfort and cargo storage options with its two rows of seats. Headroom and foot room are both acceptable in the first and second rows, while shoulder room is somewhat more cramped. Fold the 60/40 split bench forward for hauling bulky items. Tie-downs in the rear will keep things from sliding around, though the tough plastic that lines the cargo area walls seems up for moderate abuse.

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And like the outside, the interior features its fair share of Easter Eggs. The Sarge grille can be found behind the rearview mirror, on the speaker surrounds on the door panels, and in the center of the rear hatch. Paying tribute to the company’s founding, the Renegade features “Since 1941” stenciled above the radio. Paying homage to Jeep’s extensive presence in Moab, Utah, the Renegade features topographical maps in the front storage cubby and in the center console. The Jerry can “X” can be found in the cup holders and a splash of “mud” can be found acting as a redline indicator on the tachometer. Regrettably my tester lacked the optional 4WD, so a Sarge grille sat in place of the rotary dial controls.

Powertrain

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Though Jeep is offering a myriad of powertrain options with several different engines, the States only sees two of those engines: the 1.4-liter turbo and the 2.4-liter Tigershark. Both four-cylinders use FCA’s MultiAir valvetrain technology. Two transmission choices are also offered, though each is strictly paired with its own engine. The 1.4-liter comes equipped with a six-speed manual box while the 2.4-liter Tigershark gets Chrysler’s nine-speed automatic. Four-wheel-drive is optional with both powertrain configurations.

Speaking of 4WD, the renegade is offered with two separate 4WD systems: Active Drive and Active Drive Low. Both are full-time systems that send power to the front wheels when in slippery conditions and can direct 100 percent of power to any one wheel with grip, however, Active Drive Low offers a low range gear set for more treacherous off-roading. Both systems offer Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system which gives the driver five separate settings for matching the current terrain. The settings include auto, snow, sand, and mud – then exclusively on Trailhawk models – rock mode.

The engine isn’t overly powerful at 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, but it gets the job done

However, my tester came fitted with the 1.4-liter MultiAir, turbocharged four-cylinder in FWD configuration. That means I got to row my own though the six-speed box while doing the three-pedal dance. The engine isn’t overly powerful at 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, but it gets the job done. It’s constructed with an iron block with an aluminum-alloy head and sports a 9.8:1 compression ratio.

Despite is lack of horsepower, the turbo four moved the Jeep at a decent clip. The sensation of speed was greatly helped by the manual transmission, as it was a joy to shift. The clutch was light with a predictable engagement. Revs grow quickly and the engine runs out of steam in the higher rpm, so shifts are best done somewhat early. That’s an understatement in regards to the short first gear. It requires a change into second by 15 mph. Still, the Fiat 500L’s powertrain works well in the Jeep, making it rather fun to drive.

Driving Impressions


Speaking of driving, the Renegade proved to be a hoot in many situations. Since my tester lacked the necessary goods for an off-road experience, I kept the Jeep on the beaten path. Starting with steering, the wheel gives a decent amount of feel with its weight growing in the corners. Straight-line performance is good with no dead space on-center. Tall windows, large mirrors, and a high seating position lead to good outward visibility and plenty of confidence when navigating thick traffic. A standard backup camera gives a view rearward, though the 5-inch screen compresses the wide-angle to the maximum.

Body roll is well managed as the Renegade will outdrive the 215-series tires’ grip before things feel tippy. The brakes are more than confident at pulling the Jeep’s roughly 3,300-pound curb weight to a halt. Acceleration from the turbo four is moderate, with 60 mph coming in 8.7 seconds. Thanks to that low first gear that requires an early shift, the time feels somewhat longer than it is.

All around, the Renegade prove to be a fun vehicle to throw around.

Pricing

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Jeep seems to have a good idea on who this vehicle is targeting. Its $17,995 base starting price is right in line with the budgets of most youthful, thrill-seeking customers. Deck a Renegade out with all the options available, and the price still stays in the low $30,000 area.

My tester came fitted in the Latitude trim that second from the bottom. Its base price is listed at$21,295 and carries an as-tested price of $22,365.

Trim Level Price
Sport $17,995
Latitude $21,295
Limited $24,795
Trailhawk $25,995

Competition

Fiat 500L

2014 Fiat 500L High Resolution Exterior
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Though who find the features of the Renegade attractive will likely fancy the 500L as well. The Fiat shares its architecture with the Renegade and many of the parts. That includes the 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder, Uconnect infotainment system, and general interior looks – minus all the Jeep Easter Eggs, of course.

Pricing wise, the two compete in the same segment, with the 500L’s base price coming in at $19,100.
Read our full review here

Mini Countryman

2015 Mini Countryman High Resolution Exterior
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The Countryman comes into 2015 with a welcomed refresh that addresses a few outward and inward areas. Outside, the updated grille gets the most attention while things inside center around the central gauge cluster.

Beyond the slight changes, the Mini still comes with the 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder that kicks out 206 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard and AWD is optional.

Prices for the Countryman start at $22,750 with things leveling off in the mid-$30,000 range.
Read our full review here

Conclusion

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The Renegade is no substitute for the rugged Wrangler – it’s not meant to be. Understanding that makes understanding the Renegade much easier. Jeep hasn’t designed this cute ‘ute to be its go-anywhere halo vehicle, but rather a fun city-dweller that just so happens to be decent good in the dirt (when properly optioned up, of course). The Renegade is designed as a volume leader. Its sales scheduled for more than 100 markets around the world, so the Jeep has global reach. Thankfully Fiat is ready good at making fun little city cars, so that expertise will certainly come in handy for Jeep.

The Renegade, along with the Cherokee, are Jeep’s golden tickets to global profitability that will fill company coffers with money that will fund other projects like the upcoming Wrangler, the next Grand Cherokee update, and perhaps other projects not yet announced.

For me, the Renegade proved it has what it takes to stand out in the crowded crossover market. Its fun personality and macho design makes it more attractive. I can definitely see younger, more adventurous buyers flocking its way.

  • Leave it
    • A little on the slow side
    • Light tan seats show dirt
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