When I tell people that the 2016 Jeep Renegade isn’t built in the United States many will cry “sacrilege”. When they find the car was built in Italy the purists will howl. After all, Jeep is an American icon!
But once they drive the Renegade, that scowl will slowly fade. And the more time they spend with this international Jeep child, the more they’ll begin to rethink their initial outrage. That’s because the Jeep Renegade is a very pleasant car. I haven’t been impressed with the small Jeeps of the last decade, but this one is definitely a solid step forward.
It’s the first all new vehicle built since the Fiat and Chrysler merger. While it’s built on the same platform as the Fiat 500x, you wouldn’t know it. It has the distinctive Jeep grill and a taller, boxier look. While the American version is built in Italy, there are other Renegade factories in China and Brazil.
The Renegade is not an all-out off-road adventurer like some of its brethren. It’s a sub-compact crossover designed to be a great around town car that can occasionally bounce along the bumpier roads. The base model is front wheel drive, but toss in an extra couple thousand dollars and you can make it a 4×4. There’s even a Trailhawk edition that includes off-road equipment (although I’m not sure it’s ready for serious 4×4 action).
The thing you notice first about the Renegade is its looks. Some folks call it cute, others go for quirky. It kind of reminds me of a cross between a Jeep and a Kia Soul. The official Jeep grille is there, and the car is sort of boxy looking. But it won’t remind you of any other Jeep. Frankly, that’s fine with me. Never hurts to break out of the old mould.
Inside, the Renegade is very pleasant. Seats were suitably comfortable and they even had the word “Jeep” ghost written into the fabric. While you can upgrade to a Beats nine-speaker sound system, mine had the basic six speaker model and sounded fine. I got a kick out of the fact that the door speakers have an embossed Jeep Grille on them. My test car had the smaller display without navigation. The one thing it did have was a rear view camera. Even though it was small, it’s still worth having.
You have your choice of two engines. The base model is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that pumps out 160 horsepower. It’s definitely not going to wow you. It will get you where you’re going, but don’t expect anything special. There is another choice. Optional on the Sport and Latitude but standard for Limited and Trailhawk models is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that bumps up to 180 horsepower. However, I’m not sure if an extra 20 horsepower will impress you much. my 1.4 liter version was good for 24 mpg in town and 31 on the highway with a combined number of 27 mpg.
My test car had a base price of $19,995 which included the 4×4 package. Throwing on a few options like the Power and Air group, the My Sky sunroof and the customer preferred package and it moved it up to $24,470. That includes the base three-year/36,000 mile warranty along with the five-year/60,000 powertrain warranty.
If all you want is a small crossover SUV to get you around town, the Jeep Renegade may not be the choice. But if you want Jeep versatility and a quirky look, then you should definitely consider the 2016 Renegade. Of course, first you’ll have to figure out how to look past its new Italian roots.