It looks a bit... cute for a proper Jeep, no?
True, the Renegade might be a bit bug-eyed-friendly, but it can definitely do the off-road business.
In regular 4WD Limited spec, on standard road-biased tyres, it got me over rocky obstacles and up and down mud-slathered slopes, along some steep side inclines, and wound between trees as its tyres clawed over cross-axle holes and slippery roots. The tight turning circle and small size actually get it places that would wedge a bigger SUV.
And there's more: in a few weeks you'll be able to order a Trailhawk version. That comes with a dual-range transmission, 30mm extra ground clearance and underbody protection, and chunky-treaded tyres. That's pretty serious wilderness spec.
You're saying all of this matters?
So far, about half the Renegades ordered across Europe have been 4WDs. That will probably tail off over time to favour the FWD-only spec, but even so it's far higher than with most of the small crossovers. Mainly, 4WD is important because, y'know, this is a Jeep.
It might be small, it might be built in Italy, but heck it's got to live up to the name. If Jeep is to continue aligning itself with ‘freedom to roam', there has to be the substance to back up the claim.
Back in the urban wilderness, what about the FWD ones?
They look pretty much the same as the 4WD. All that's missing are the '4WD lock' and terrain calibration buttons on the centre console. On the road, they feel pretty much the same.
Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter. Look out for your regular round-up of news, reviews and offers in your inbox.
Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.
And exactly how is that road drive?
Very tidy. The suspension is taut, so there's a fair amount of vertical movement even at speed. But there's little of the shimmy, rock and wobble that affects too may crossovers. In return for the firm springing, you get agile and responsive cornering.
The steering has an oddly artificial, almost magnetic-feeling, self-centring action, but you do get used to it and then it's an accurate and trustworthy control. The body feels very solidly built, with nary a shudder even over big pot-holes. They must have beefed it up well for the off-road duty.
Main issue with the FWD is that the stiff anti-roll bars mean it'll lose traction if you floor it out of a tight bend, and then the electronic control hacks down the power pretty sharpish.
The ones that matter are the 140bhp MultiAir petrol, which is flexible enough but needs (and enjoys) revs if you want to get a move on. It sounds a trifle dieselly at mid revs but chirrupy and Italian nearer the red-line.
Then there's a 1.6 diesel for the CO2/tax-conscious. Most expensive is the 2.0 diesel in 140 and 170bhp forms. It's not the very quietest of its kind, but it's drowned at speed - as all the engines are - by the noisy tyres. Let's face it, Renegade buyers probably aren't looking for the quiet life.
Certainly not in the styling department...
Especially in the brighter colour options, the whole ensemble can rather set your visual cortex a-quiver. The design reverberates with the brick-outhouse riffs of classical big American SUV, but scaled down for the European streetscape.
It means a host of blocky design elements and jewellery all crammed together. But rather than shouting over each other for your attention, they harmonise quite well.
Again, there's a lot going on visually, but it's carried through with conviction and built with up-to-class thoroughness. Most versions get good graphical displays including sat-nav, and there's a decent range of standard and optional safety kit.
The driving position is very sound, and the Renegade is decently roomy in the back - there's not an ocean of knee room but the high seats mean plenty of foot space. Besides the tall roof is good for rear headroom, which you can't say of its relative, the Fiat 500X.
Ah yes. Which should I buy?
The 500X comes down the same line and has the same chassis, engines and technologies, except it lacks the hardcore off-roading options. And of course it has a very different approach to style - it speaks to the visual traditions of Fiat's home in Turin rather than Jeep's in Toledo, Ohio. It's unlikely people will cross-shop...