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Test Drive: 2017 Jeep Renegade

Test Drive: 2017 Jeep Renegade

By Philly Murtha, September 28, 2016
The Jeep Renegade first saw daylight as a 2-seat, off-road dune-surfing concept vehicle in 2007. The current real-world incarnation, which debuted as a 2015 model, is a fun and feisty small SUV with available advanced technologies in addition to Jeep’s off-road capability. The 5-seat utility was designed by Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s (FCA) U.S. team, but shares the same platform as the Fiat 500X. Both are built in Melfi, Italy.

Under the Jeep brand, the Renegade appears athletic yet boxy with a few modern curves, and still bears the 7-bar grille that is a Jeep standard. In my test drive, I found that the Renegade Limited, which is fully equipped, has nicer road manners than the Jeep Wrangler. It also has true off-road DNA when outfitted as the Jeep Trailhawk variant—one of four trim levels. The Trailhawk comes in 4-wheel-drive (4WD) with hill-descent control and traction management.

Jeep, with the iconic Wrangler compact SUV and stylish Grand Cherokee midsize SUV, remains a dominant player in the high-demand small SUV segment. In latest sales figures collected by J.D. Power, the Renegade is one of three top-sellers in the small SUV segment—along with the Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass. The 2017 Renegade is competitive with other entries in the segment, too, which include the Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Crosstrek, and Chevrolet Trax.

The Renegade offers many new options for 2017, depending on trim level. Keyless Go is featured on all trims; HID headlights are available; and the new UConnect infotainment system features a large, full-color instrument panel. Jeep acknowledges that the 2017 Renegade is available with as many as 70 advanced safety and security features.

Based on my drive in a fully equipped, leather-upholstered Limited at FCA’s Chelsea, MI, test grounds, and a second trek in the off-road-ready Trailhawk variant, this small SUV should appeal to Millennial consumers who want an athletically quirky and durable utility that can become a sporting off-road vehicle to challenge even the famous Rubicon trail in a budget price range.

Inside, the Renegade Limited’s cabin offers nice touches. Optional heated, leather-trimmed black front seats and a heated wrapped steering wheel provide coziness in cold climates. Trim is lean and sporty with light stitching and brushed aluminum accents. Cargo space is limited but improves when the 60/40 split-folding rear seat is flattened; the front passenger seat also folds forward for more room. A height-adjustable rear cargo floor is standard on all trim levels.

The cockpit of the Renegade features an integrated stack with a 7-in. full-color driver instrument information display. Steering wheel controls can scroll through navigation, terrain selection modes, and even direct rear park assist. The easy-to-use UConnect 6.5-in. touch screen is set up in the Limited with AM/FM radio and voice command hands-free phone plus GPS navigation.

2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk side profile photoThere are two engine choices offered for the 2017 Renegade. The Sport and Latitude trim levels come standard with a turbocharged, 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque when matched with a 6-speed manual transmission. That powertrain is EPA-rated to average 27 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

More pep is supplied by the alternative 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that is mated with the new 9-speed automatic in upscale Limited and Trailhawk off-road variants. This powertrain provides 20 more horses (180 horsepower) and 175 lb.-ft. of torque and averages an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

My favorite ride was in the Trailhawk variant, which is offered with two 4x4 systems. The off-road course at FCA’s proving grounds in Chelsea, MI, simulates part of the Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with challenging log piles, mud, stair steps, descents on sandy hills, and steep inclines.

2017 Jeep Renegade Limited dashboard side photoIt’s easy even for a novice to navigate by putting the SUV into Active Drive Low, which includes a designated 20:1 crawl ratio and Jeep Selec-Terrain system that features five modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud, and Rock). The Trailhawk can trek over most topography since it has 8.7 inches of ground clearance. A plethora of off-road equipment is available for sport off-roaders as well as a tow package that enables the Renegade to haul or pull 2,000 lbs.

Likes
The Jeep Renegade Trailhawk meets off-road tests better than many small SUVs. So far, 75% of the customer base for the Renegade is made up of new buyers, according to a Jeep brand manager, who also points out that one-fourth of Renegades are bought in the Southwest and Western regions, which have more rugged terrain.

The price can be right since the base basic Sport version with the smaller turbo engine and manual has an MSRP of less than $18,000, although the off-road-ready, fully equipped Trailhawk with the larger 2.4-liter powertrain has a suggested list price of $27,195.

2017 Jeep Renegade Limited rear quarter left photoAdvanced driver-assistance features are available to make the Renegade one of the more secure and safe small SUVs on the market. The Limited that I drove included blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic and lane-departure alerts, and forward-collision warning among advanced assistance systems. Optional My Sky dual roof panels were closed on the vehicle that I drove, but these panels can be opened or completely removed and stored in the cargo area for a fresh-air experience.

Dislikes
As it is a smaller SUV, there’s not a lot of extra seating room in the Renegade, but then it is geared for Millennial and sports-minded consumers. In the Trailhawk, the 9-speed automatic doesn’t seem bothersome in off-road settings, but may be a little clunky on the road. Legroom in the back is nearly nil, but again the rear seat is meant for two and only in a pinch three people.

Conclusion
Rugged styling, an easy-to-use infotainment system, and lots of safety and comfort features are available on the Renegade small SUV that is one of the most capable utilities—on- and off-road—in the segment. Two choices of 4x4 systems are available and the Trailhawk meets all Jeep off-road standards. The Renegade is offered at attractive price points and is fun to drive despite less-than-optimal fuel efficiency and one engine choice that is only partnered with a manual transmission. The 9-speed automatic may be a little rougher, although it most likely helps boost fuel economy.

Additional Research:

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