This is the Jeep Renegade. It’s based on the Fiat 500L, uses several of Fiat’s engines, and is built at Fiat’s Melfi plant in Italy. You’d expect, then, that it’s merely an about-town crossover in off-road fancy dress. Not so. It is called the Renegade after all, and Jeep’s rebelling against soft-roader convention.
Jeep Renegade: just a Fiat 500L in hiking boots?
Nope. That boxy body (the design theme is called ‘Tek-Tonic’, if you’re wondering) isn’t just fancy dress to hark back to Jeep’s boxy war machines of old. Jeep says the Renegade, which is wider and taller than a Nissan Qashqai but 15cm shorter, has best-in-class ground-clearance, approach, and departure angles. Live in Somerset? Then revel in 480mm of wading depth. Whether your school run is in Nuneaton or Namibia, you’re probably covered.
That said, the 20mm ride-height boost, contrast-colour towing hooks and bluff body addenda are unlocked by ticking the ‘Trailhawk’ option, as seen on the battleship grey-cum-green car in our gallery. The standard Renegade rides a little lower, shuns the Trailhawk’s chunky rubber, and can be specced with front- rather than adaptive all-wheel drive. Plenty for most folks, in other words.
Not on your life. There are some fun Jeep touches among the Fiat switchgear. Note the flame graphic in the rev counter where the redline starts, and a map of Moab, Utah – a favourite Jeep enthusiast haunt – picked out in the rubbery tray ahead of the gear lever.
The surround of the cabin’s focal point, the 7.5in touchscreen, bears the legend ‘Since 1941’: a nod to Jeep’s 73-year history, and counting.
Has this mini-Yank tank got clever tech underneath?
Lots, in fact. Most interesting is the nine-speed automatic gearbox, which can switch between 20 pre-ordained shift maps depending on your driving style at any given moment. Jeep reckons it’s the best way to balance strong acceleration with good fuel economy, and it’ll even do an impression of a low-range gearbox if you’re crawling down a steep slope off-road.
You can choose from six engines in the UK: two 1.4 four-cylinder petrols, two 1.6s, and either a 1.6-litre diesel, or a 2.0-litre diesel with either 138bhp or 168bhp. All-wheel drive is only available on the turbo’d 1.4 and the bigger diesels, so spec carefully.
The trick nine-speed ’box is reserved for higher-powered cars too: poverty-spec Renegades get a dual-clutch transmission, but only boasting seven speeds.
If I want one…
You’d better be patient. Although the Jeep Renegade will be officially unveiled at the Geneva motor show, you won’t be able to walk into a Jeep dealership in Britain and buy one until spring 2015. Talk about jumping the gun.
When it does arrive, you might get a pleasant surprise on the balance sheet, however. Early indications suggest the Renegade will be priced between compact crossovers like the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur, and more family sized offerings like the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti. That points to prices ranging from £13,000 to just over £21,000.
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