There’s probably no more recognisable shape in the automotive world than a Jeep, and the iconic American maker has given us yet another model, the Renegade that cries out Jeep-Jeep when viewed from any angle outside or in.

With a shape that’s chunky and cheeky the Renegade is almost toylike in its style, but is anything like toylike in its makeup. We’ve just emerged from the wilds of far north Queensland after a day of reasonable tough off-road driving. Jeep Renegade took big lumps and bumps, steep climbs and descents, a moderate river crossing and some seriously skinny tracks with killer drops on either side without ever breathing hard.

Areas that you wouldn’t dream of taking on in most of Renegade’s competitors were no challenge for the new baby Jeep.

A word of warning before you buy a Renegade and head for the rough stuff. Our test vehicle was a Trailhawk; underneath, it’s built like a Jeep – every other model in the range is aimed at the buyer who wants a fun city runabout and has no intention of ever leaving normal roads.

Trailhawk has a ground clearance of 211 mm, and a 4WD Active Drive Selec-Terrain system a 20:1 crawl ratio. It gives you a choice between five modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock). There are protective skid plates, and rear tow hook in the traditional red colour used by all Jeeps.


There’s more surprises in the new Renegade. It’s designed in the USA and Italy, and built in Italy. Italian giant Fiat took custody of a financially challenged Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge organisation in 2014 and the American and Italian engineers and designers appear to be working well together.

As an interesting sideline, the diminutive Fiat 500L recently seen transporting Pope Francis in the USA is a slightly distant relation of the new Jeep Renegade.

Though style is what is going to attract many to Jeep Renegade, it’s also a very practical family station wagon. The tall shape makes for good interior space, with enough headroom to let you wear your Akubra (perhaps even top hat!) and there’s good legroom for adults in the rear seats. It’s quite narrow, though, and the three in the back had better be slim, or children.

Luggage space is good, though not outstanding. Keep in mind this is a smallish vehicle not a big load hauler so check it meets your needs. The rear seatbacks fold flat in three sections, allowing load-through in the centre. The front passenger seat folds flat to allow long surfboards, ladders and the like to be transported.

Renegade has a great ‘My Sky’ open-air roof option; manually removable front and rear panels are lightweight and stow neatly in the rear cargo area.

Powertrains depend on which Renegade model you select. Trailhawk is moved by a 2.4-litre engine with 129 kW of power and 230 Nm of torque and drives through a nine-speed automatic. It’s normally connected only to the front wheels, reverting to all-wheel-drive when wheel slip occurs. This system is a sophisticated one that saves fuel when possible. The large number of ratios enables close coupling and Renegade has a crawl rate of 20:1.


Renegade Sport, Longitude and Limited models come with a 103 kW / 230 Nm 1.4-litre MultiAir2 turbo-petrol engine mated to a six-speed DDCT (Dual Dry Clutch Transmission) automatic.

A lower cost option, the $29,500 Renegade Sport is available with an 81 kW / 152 Nm 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine and has a five-speed manual gearbox.

Diesels are offered in some markets but the Australian importer says there’s little demand for these in this class so has no plants to import them.

The windscreen if far closer to vertical than other vehicles these days and you sit a long way back from it. At first you may get the feeling you’re peering through a TV screen, something that many may not initially like. Make sure you take a Renegade for decent test drive rather than just a quick spin around the block.

What you won’t get used to is that the sun visors are all but useless when you turn them through 90 degrees to prevent sunlight coming in from the side. Due to the forward windscreen and narrow body of the car the visors don’t get anywhere near your eyes.

On sealed surfaces the Renegade is competent enough, with good road grip and a decent ride. The steering doesn’t have enough feel for us, but is otherwise fine.

Comfort is better than average for the class and noise and vibration are generally well subdued, again for this type of vehicle. Dirt roads don’t faze it, which hardly comes as a surprise, and tyre roar is only intrusive if you’re on a section of relatively new coarse-chip.

With a prices starting at $29,500 and climbing to $41,500 for the Trailhawk the Jeep Renegade isn’t cheap. However, the “… bought a Jeep” advertising campaign has shown many people really like everything the marque stands for. It will be interesting to see if they accept the pricing.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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