► 2018 Jeep Renegade driven
► New turbocharged petrol engines
► Coming to the UK in September
Have you spotted any Jeep Renegades out on the road? You should have seen plenty since its launch in 2014 – it was the best-selling Jeep in Europe in 2017 and Jeep is still seeing steady growth.
So here it is, the MY2019 Jeep Renegade SUV. Designed as a heavy upgrade rather than just a teeny update, the latest Renegade is just one of Jeep’s pillars for future growth, as described during FCA’s five-year plan announcement.
So what’s new, exactly?
Most won’t notice much at first glance. Jeep says its designers have brought the new Renegade more into line with the all-new Wrangler, seen most prominently in the LED headlights and grille design.
Out goes the solitary 1.4-litre petrol for two all-new, aluminium block turbocharged ones – a 1.0-litre 3cyl with 118bhp and a 1.3-litre 4cyl with either 148bhp or 178bhp. The diesel offerings remain the same, albeit with a revised turbo to help responsiveness and the latest in emissions reduction kit.
Trims are Sport, Longitude and Limited, with a Trailhawk spin-off designed to appeal to those maximum-lifestyle folk, with all-wheel drive, independent suspension all-round, 210mm of ground clearance and a ‘Selec-Terrain’ off-road mode switch.
Is it rugged inside?
In parts. Jeep still wants to make sure the Renegade looks like a… well, a Jeep both inside and out, so there are some cheesy/cute (delete where appropriate) little motifs in the speaker surrounds shaped like the Willy’s Jeep’s front end, for example. Even the starter button has an embossed ‘To New Adventures!’ slogan wrapped around it, which made us a little sick in our mouth.
The driving position feels a little odd, with what feels like four miles of dashboard and bonnet stretching ahead of you blocked by a fat-rimmed steering wheel. We recommend paying extra for the larger 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment (a 5in or 7in one is standard, depending on trim) as it’s pretty easy to use, looks sharp and feels responsive. Material quality is fine; it’s a blend of pleasingly robust switchgear, a soft-touch dashboard topper and tinnier stuff whacked on in places you’re not likely to see or touch much.
All Renegades, regardless of trim or engine, come with lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition, ‘Intelligent Speed Assist’. Optional kit includes Jeep’s new ‘Skills’ app for the 8.4in Uconnect infotainment system that shows certain parameters on the screen designed to improve your off-roading technique, adaptive cruise, and an auto parking system with a ‘pull out’ assistant that will be available towards the end of 2018.
Rear legroom is fine for kids, less so for full-sized humans, but the blocky dimensions mean enough headroom for even Lincoln complete with stovepipe.
So, how does it drive?
We tested both the 1.0-litre 3cyl and 1.3-litre 4cyl petrol engines on road and the 2.0-litre diesel Trailhawk briefly on one of Jeep’s off-road courses at FCA’s Balocco proving ground.
Pick the basic 1.0-litre 3cyl manual and you have the most compelling version out of all the petrol offerings. The engine makes that familiar 3cyl sound, feels *just* punchy enough for a suburbanite runabout and fits with the Renegade’s cheeky character the best. A 11.2sec 0-62mph time makes it not in any way fast, but it’s a similar sprint time to many three-pot crossover rivals, so it’s not outgunned at a traffic light drag race. It’s a sweet mix and the one we’d go for.
The 1.3-litre 4cyl and six-speed DDCT (Jeep’s ‘Dual Dry Clutch Transmission) combo we were less than impressed by. The 148bhp version felt no quicker than the 1.0-litre but loses the characterful engine noise, while the DDCT during our drive was dim-witted to the point where we counted a five-second gap between us stabbing the throttle for an overtake and any form of reaction from the gearbox. Even in town driving the auto ‘box suffered with sudden bouts of indecisiveness. Still, the shifts themselves are buttery smooth, even if you use the manual mode.
We also had a very brief go in the Renegade Trailhawk on the proving ground’s off-road course. More likely to save floundering hacks like us damaging its shiny new Renegades, most of the interesting and challenging bits were cut off, so we just sort of meandered up a few hills, waded through a small ford and slowly crawled through rutted tracks in rock and mud mode via the ‘Selec-Terrain’ switch. Basically, it did the off-roady thing and did it pretty capably, but our experience wasn’t exactly rock-hopping in Moab. Still, the 2.0-litre 168bhp MultiJet diesel offers plenty of torque and slick auto shifts. Sounds a bit gruff, mind.
Handling-wise, the steering has quite a darty and direct first turn-in but just adds synthetic resistance the more lock you wind on and there’s plenty of body lean in fast cornering. The optional 18-inch alloys are best avoided, too, to avoid an overly jittery ride.
At motorway speeds, the boxy shape makes for considerable wind noise hitting both the slab-like door mirrors and near-upright windscreen. If you want the Jeep look, you’ll have to suffer less-than-sleek aerodynamics – this thing sounds like it’s cutting through the air like a brick through a window.
Verdict: 2018 Jeep Renegade
Jeep’s smallest SUV (for now) will still undoubtedly remain a popular choice with its fairly unique character, better-than-most off-road capability and attractive looks.
But it’s not exactly a thriller to drive, motorway cruises will be blighted by considerable wind noise and most of the powertrains aren’t dripping with the same charm that the looks do. Keep it simple with a manual 1.0 and you’ll get the best of the pack.
Check out our Jeep reviews
(Specs and price below are for Renegade Limited T3 4X2, price is estimated)