Chunky-cute looks, useful off-road in some trims, comfy seats
Ride and refinement are immature, woeful gearboxes, outdated infotainment
What is it?
A couple of years ago now, Jeep promised us that it would introduce a new entry-level car that’d sit under the Renegade in its line-up. That was supposed to arrive before 2022. Those with calendars close by will discover that it is now 2022.
So, for the time being, the Renegade remains the smallest, cheapest Jeep. It has found plenty of friends since its introduction in 2014, no doubt for its characterful styling and low running costs, but top spec versions have always seemed over-engineered as tail-munching tractors. Most buyers just want the looks with a super simple FWD powertrain.
The Renegade is all about distilling that authentic Jeep ‘freedom’ pastiche into a dinky car the size of a Renault Captur or Seat Arona. Thing is, in some trims it stands apart from all the other crossovers by being a true downsized 4x4, not a dressed-up supermini. You can have four-wheel drive, a trail-rated Trailhawk model with various terrain modes and rearranged bumpers for greater approach and departure angles (you’ll smack it into banks and ridges less often) and there’s tech like hill-descent control and lockable differentials for wading into scenarios from a North Face catalogue.
Isn’t it an old car by now?
It’s getting on for a decade old now, but for its 2018 facelift Jeep did treat the Renegade to some LED light units, a refreshed touchscreen, and a new family of engines. That was many years ago though, and just a little has happened in the world since then, so the powertrain line-up has changed again.
There are still two pure ICE options, with a 1.0-litre tri-cylinder turbo petrol that makes 118bhp, and a 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo that’s good for 148bhp. The former is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox while the latter can only be had with a six-speed auto. Both petrols are now front-wheel drive only, meaning you’ll have to go plug-in hybrid if you want a Renegade that drives all of its wheels. More on that later. The old Renegade diesels are no longer available in the UK.
What’s this new e-Hybrid I’m hearing about?
Don’t be fooled by the name – the Renegade e-Hybrid only uses a mild-hybrid setup that pairs a specially-developed 1.5-litre turbo four-pot with a 48V electric motor, a seven-speed DSG auto gearbox, a second smaller electric motor that acts as a starter generator and a teeny battery that sits between the front seats.
The engine itself makes 128bhp, while the transmission-mounted e-motor can add an extra 20bhp. You won’t get any meaningful EV-only range, but the e-Hybrid will start up silently and can manoeuvre on the electric motor. Be warned though, the e-Hybrid is also FWD only and doesn’t exactly include much Jeep DNA.
So, this 4WD PHEV then?
Ah yes, here’s where the old off-roading spirit has got to. Kind of. The 4xe (pronounced four-by-e) uses a 60bhp electric motor to power the rear wheels and a turbocharged 1.3-litre 4cyl petrol with two different power outputs (depending on trim level) that drives the fronts. The 4xe is now the only powertrain that can be paired with the hardcore Trailhawk trim level too. You can read our in depth plug-in review by clicking these blue words.
What's the verdict?
Look, you could have a quieter, more comfortable, more enjoyable car to drive for the same money as a Renegade. The question is: do you actually want any of them? In a class of copycat pseudo-SUVs with less personality than their sat nav voiceover and all the off-road ability of a copper bathtub, the Renegade looks and acts a little differently, and that alone imbues it with likeable character. It’s not a crossover you’ll buy rationally – it’s possibly the only car in its class that’s a heart-over-head purchase.
Chances are if you’ve fallen for its bonsai-Rambo looks, you’ll overlook the Renegade’s powertrain bugbears and come to see it as a treasured member of the family. It’s just a shame that you can now only have a rugged 4WD version with the most expensive plug-in hybrid powertrain. If you’re after a diminutive, rough-and-tumble workhorse, we’d be looking at the likes of the Hyundai Kona, Citroen C3 Aircross or Nissan Juke instead.