The mere mention of 4×4 vehicles would conjure up images of bruised Land Cruisers, rodeo Pajeros and dusty Defenders. Just the rides for off-road adventures, but rather out of context in an urban environment. Jeep, part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), aims to change that perception of 4×4 vehicles with its first-ever compact sports utility vehicle – the Renegade.
It’s based on the platform of the 500X, a compact crossover, but the rest of it is pure Jeep.
The car cuts a tall and boxy profile, similar to that of the Kia Soul, only more rugged. Jeep design elements include the upright seven-slot grille flanked by circular lights, and those boxy protruding tail-lamps, X-marked to resemble the jerry cans of the original Willys Jeep.
If you enjoy open-top motoring, there’s even a so-called My Sky panoramic roof option – a pair of X-embossed lightweight panels that can be completely removed and neatly tucked in the boot.
The Trailhawk “rock climber” version gets more prominent black resin cladding for the sills and wheel-arch surrounds, plus high-clearance bumpers integrated with Trailhawk-specific red tow hooks.
The Renegade is available in bright shades such as Jetset Blue, Colorado Red, Omaha Orange and Solar Yellow, plus a couple of military-inspired hues that will surely please both trendy and outdoorsy types.
Completing the hipster-adventurer appeal is the vehicle’s Tek-Tonic cabin design, which is a blend of durable plastics, soft-touch materials and anodised surround highlights (for the door speakers, vents and centre console). There’s even a Wrangler-style dash grab handle for the front passenger.
For the Facebook-Twitter generation, there’s a 6.5-inch Uconnect infotainment system, connectable via USB or Bluetooth to your smartphone. If you like to play your music loud, there’s also a nine-speaker BeatsAudio option. Hard to beat that.
The driver sits high, but might still think he is behind the wheel of a sporty hatchback, because of the snug supportive seat and chunky leather-stitched steering wheel laden with buttons. “Watch-face” satin, chrome-rimmed instrument dials flank a 7-inch colour display in the highest-spec versions. The “splashed” rev meter adds a cheeky touch.
Show the Renegade a tough trail and it will easily keep pace with its bigger 4×4 siblings. What’s unique is that on less demanding roads, the car’s 4×4 system will disengage and go two/front-wheel-drive, seamlessly, so as to save fuel.
I’d leave the Selec-Terrain in Auto, even though I can dial in Snow, Sand or Mud traction modes. The Trailhawk variant gets an additional Rock mode and a low-ratio locking rear axle.
What really surprises me is the car’s near hot-hatch verve. The ride is firm and composed, but perhaps a mite jiggly on broken surfaces at low speeds.
Once you get used to this automobile’s high posture, it can take to bends like a duck to water. Just let the electronic nannies determine the amount of traction to the wheels on the ground. Of course, the all-terrain tyres on the Trailhawk aren’t meant for track days, so they will squeal at any over-exuberance.
The quick and accurate steering inspires confidence, and makes light work of tight spots. Coupled with the car’s compact size and good frontal visibility, this automobile will be equally adept in an urban jungle.
A first in this segment is the Renegade’s ZF 9-speed automatic. It’s the same device in the Cherokee and also the Land Rover SUVs. Nine is a lot of gear ratios, but all the better to optimise engine response, while improving fuel efficiency. There are no paddle-shifters, but manual select is just a left flick of the car’s gearlever.
The vehicle I tested is a US domestic model with the 2.4-litre Tigershark engine. It’s the same naturally aspirated workhorse that serves the Cherokee in Singapore and gets the job done.
More relevant to our cc-sensitive market is the 1.4-litre MultiAir 2 turbocharged engine, mated to the 9-speed auto. This puts out a zesty 170bhp and 18Nm more torque (250Nm) than the larger-capacity Tigershark motor.
This automobile has a dual identity. It’s still a true-blue 4×4 off-roader for Jeep die-hards, but it’s also a fun compact car around town – streets ahead of the Nissan Juke in pace and practicality. But then it should, to justify its higher sticker price. That said, this vehicle will even give higher-priced crossovers such as the MINI Countryman a run for the money.
I reckon the Renegade paired with the smaller, lighter and more fuel-efficient 1.4 turbo motor might just double Jeep sales on our island. Budget permitting, this vehicle can also be optioned up with all the high-tech bells and whistles found in its big brother, the Cherokee.
Jeep’s trans-Atlantic rebel with a cause will come to town in the third quarter.
Jeep Renegade 1.4 (A)
Type Inline-4, 16-valves, turbocharged
Bore x stroke 72mm x 84mm
Compression ratio 9.8:1
Max power 170bhp at 5500rpm
Max torque 250Nm at 2500-4000rpm
Power to weight 117.7bhp per tonne
Gearbox 9-speed automatic with manual select
Driven wheels All
0-100km/h 8.8 seconds
Top speed 196km/h
CO2 emission 160g/km
Front MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear Torsion beam, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Front / Rear Ventilated discs / Discs
Type Goodyear Wrangler SR-A
Size 215/65 R17
Traction aids ABS, ESC
Kerb weight 1444kg
Turning circle 10.76m
Price incl. COE To be announced
Warranty 3 years/100,000km
+ Go anywhere 4×4 capability, hot-hatch verve, extensive equipment list
– Polarising exterior design, cramped backseat, limited oddment stowage