Road test: Jeepers – a small 4×4 that can really cut it!

Jeep's Renegade

Renegade, it says on the tin. And renegade it is among compact SUVs.

Like some of the others, the Jeep Renegade comes with full-fat 4×4. But where it rebels is by getting serious with both low range gearing and the ability to lock up the transmission to keep it in 4×4 rather than selecting for itself.

Where it falls flat is under the boot mat. Here you’ll find just a puff and paste tyre repair kit, not even a get-you-home spare wheel. That’s not good enough for a car that can get you into some serious rough territory. Such cars need to be able to get you out of trouble more easily than they can get you into it. Just one blackthorn can destroy a tyre, even one designed for off-road use, as we found with a Range Rover some years ago.

Mentioning a Range Rover here might not really be the done thing. After all, it was the pioneer of the off-road estate – or was it? Truth is, it wasn’t. Jeep was selling its Wagoneer in London before the first Range Rover prototype was built. We like to think that Land Rover led the way but it has followed Jeep’s wheel tracks in everything it has done. Some British people are so determined to give it a leading role it has appeared in Second World War films when it didn’t exist, even as a figment of someone’s imagination, back then.

The Jeep did, of course, hence the “Since 1941” legend on the fascia. Sometimes it really is OK to boast.

The Renegade is actually not that much different in dimensions from the original Range Rover, which was more equivalent in size to the current Evoque, just taller.

These days the Renegade is small but then so is a full-size Range Rover compared with the Jeep Cherokee Chief we drove at the end of the ’70s, when a Jeep importer was operating out of an Andover industrial estate.

That venture flopped, but when Jeep returned in the mid-90s with the Cherokee it was here to stay, although it has changed ownership several times and now belongs to Fiat.

You get the feeling the Renegade is built to withstand some harsh treatment, despite the cream and orange combination on the seat facings. It’s unusual among modern cars in having dark brown plastic for much of its interior trim, maybe to remind you just how muddy it might be when you get out.

Another curiosity was small running boards under the doors embossed “No step”, which made them really rather pointless. Worse than that, they were a mud trap to soil the clothes of any unwary passengers as they alighted.

Inside the Jeep Renegade

The Renegade looks chunky and the 13,600 mile Press car sent for test, probably around 16 months old at the time, was proof enough that it can withstand some harsh treatment. Someone had obviously loaded some pretty hard gear into the boot, judging by the scuffs on the trim, but on the whole it was doing well.

There’s good interior space front or rear, while the £465 extra cost electric seat adjustment on our Limited trim car made finding a comfortable driving position easy. You feel deep-set and securely wrapped, maybe not a bad thing for a car that needs to protect you from both the surroundings and any excess of your own enthusiasm.

American cars have had a hard time historically for UK sales but Jeep’s perseverance has paid off with almost 25 years of continuous sales. There has been a wide variety of different models in that time, some huge, some small, and some not very good at all. But the Cherokee has been a mainstay all the way through, joined later by the Grand Cherokee that’s still going strong.

The lack of American love for diesel engines is perhaps illustrated best by the at-times coarse two-litre oil burner under the bonnet of the test car. It could feel quite uncouth although even coupled to an automatic gearbox it gave the car real urge.

At first, getting a decent fuel average seemed elusive but by the end of its week with us the car was up to 41 mpg. That may not be the best for a car of its size but its physique made up for it.

Equally, the Jeep’s small price when compared with many more economical rivals means there’s quite a bit of spare budget to pay for fuel.

On top of that, you never worry it’s too fragile to do what you want it to.

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Jeep New Renegade 2.0 MultiJet II 140hp Limited 9-Speed Automatic Low Range 4WD

Does it fit your ego…

0-62 mph: 10.2 secs

Top speed: 113 mph

Bhp: 140 @ 3750 rpm

Torque: 258 lb ft @ 1750 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £29,050

Combined: 48.7 mpg

CO2 emissions: 150 g/km

Best bits: tough as they come



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