The all-new Jeep Renegade compact SUV is a product from the Jeep alliance with parent company Chrysler and their partnership with Fiat.
Built in Italy the Renegade is the first Jeep in the brand’s 70-plus year history to be built outside the USA and then sold in its home country.
The new Renegade uses elements of the modular platform from the Fiat 500L and will share this version with the new Fiat 500X SUV to be introduced shortly. The Renegade also uses a wide range of Fiat family group petrol and diesel engines and is available with two and four wheel drive model options. In size, at 4,236mm in length, the Renegade sits between the small B-segment supermini sized Nissan Juke and the larger C-segment Nissan Qashqai sales leading crossover ranges.
Renegade prices start at £16,995 and rise to £27,995. Jeep expects to sell around 6,500 to 7,000 units a year in the UK. It replaces their previous compact SUV – the Compass, but is lighter in weight and has smaller but more fuel efficient engines – it’s also cheaper to buy.
Since their absorption into the Fiat-Chrysler family, Jeep’s fortunes in the UK have improved significantly with sales up by 75% last year over 2013 and the growth has continued so far this year with a further 93% increase over the same period last year. But we are only talking about relatively small numbers as Jeep remains a rugged but niche brand. Their total UK sales in 2014 were only 3,909 units but 10,000 units is the target this year said Steve Zanlunghi, Head of Fiat Group Automobiles UK. He added, “Global Jeep sales last year were an all-time record at 1.02 million compared to Land Rover which sold 380,000 units globally. The Jeep brand now accounts for 25% of Fiat Group’s 4.0-million annual global sales.”
He added, “In 2012 in the UK with just 50 dealers covering 58% of the country with poor sales we could have closed the door. But with the arrival of the Cherokee and now the Renegade we instead decided to expand our operations – we now have 76 dealers giving us 88% coverage of this country. In 2012 our dealers were losing an average £131,733 a year. Today they are they are making £130,000 a year. We are growing from today’s four model ranges and by 2018 we will have six.”
The new dynasty of Jeep models consists of the Renegade five-door, the Cherokee mid-sized five door SUV, the large Grand Cherokee five-door SUV and the long-serving and hard-core Wrangler three and five door models.
A significant growth in sales of SUVs and Crossovers, not just in the UK but in Europe as well, has prompted a huge increase in the number of manufacturers offering such vehicles. The new Renegade embraces Jeep’s heritage of no compromise bold and rugged styling. Whereas the Nissan Juke and others are promoted with an urban-chic image the Renegade retains Jeep’s rural hard-core, go anywhere image even though in SUV terms it is a lightweight. Being a Jeep of course some Renegade 4WD models retain their famous ability to take the rough with the smooth.
Damien Dally, Head of Jeep in the UK, said at the media launch, “Of the 6,500 to 7,000 sales I expect the Renegade to achieve in a full year, around 85% of those will logically be 2WD models – according to market sector sales figures. But with Jeep’s heritage for 4×4 vehicles we could in fact see a 50-50 split between 2WD and 4WD versions. This new model will certainly appeal to the fleet and business user-chooser market sectors where Benefit-in-Kind tax considerations are important so the lower CO2 emitting variants might well keep 2WD models as the main sellers.”
He added, “I expect to see a 50-50 sales split between retail customers and fleet users and a high proportion of sales will be to conquest customers. I also see a 50-50 sales split for petrol and diesel versions. With 18 variants to choose from the pricing structure covers 86% of the SUV/Crossover segment and the new Renegade is the only genuine SUV in the segment.”
Rob Lake, Jeep’s UK Senior Product Manager expects retail, fleet and business customers to choose the lower CO2 emitting 1.6-litre turbodiesel models and some retail customers already seem to be ordering higher specification 2.0-litre turbodiesel 4WD versions. Of the levels of specification on offer he said the middle two, Longitude and Limited will account for over 70% of sales, the starter Sport level around 15% and the Trailhawk hard-core variants to arrive in a few months time should be of interest to around 7-8% of customers. There is also an Opening Edition spec level of just 200 units available.
The engine line-up is wide ranging with Fiat Group petrol 1.6-litre 110hp, 1.4 MultiAir 140hp and 170hp units plus turbodiesel 1.6-litre MultiJet 120hp, 2.0-litre MultiJet 140hp and 170hp units. The choices continue with 2WD, 4WD and manual and automatic options available depending on the model chosen. The Renegade becomes the first compact SUV to feature a nine-speed automatic gearbox option in its line-up.
Styling wise the Renegade is no tall version of an existing ‘supermini’ sized hatchback which most current Crossovers/SUVs in this compact sector are. It is a chunky, boxy, rugged and purposeful, no nonsense looking 4×4 with short front and rear body overhangs with high ground clearance even in 2WD form. At the front there is the traditional seven slot Jeep grille with a short bonnet. There are flared wheelarches accommodating 17 or 18-inch alloy wheels and a high waistline with four passenger doors. At the rear is a wide opening tailgate. The boot has 351-litres of space but with the split folding rear seats down this goes up to 1,297-litres. A big plus point is the leg room for rear seat passengers, much better than others in this sector and headroom throughout is good as well. Definitely a case of function over fashion!
Inside the specification is typically Jeep being comprehensive and the design of the interior is again chunky and solid looking. Some of the plastic trim is on the hard side, I could say durable, but it all looks very solid. It is just a pity that it doesn’t have more soft-feel finishes for the door cappings for instance. The Renegade has Jeep’s Uconnect system which provides communication, entertainment and navigation functions. For Sport and Longitude models it has a 5-inch screen, others versions have a 6.5-inch screen. Air conditioning, electric side windows, electric door mirrors and on-board computer are all standard. The likely best selling Limited versions also have cruise control, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, lane departure warning, traction control and forward collision warning to name just a few items. As I said all versions seem to be very well equipped in true Jeep tradition.
During the media test drive session based from Edinburgh with road routes to and from the East Coast of Scotland I spent most of the on-road driving time with the likely best selling single version, the 1.6-litre MultiJet 120hp turbodiesel with a manual six-speed gearbox , with 2WD and with the Limited level of specification. The price of this version is £22,895.
The Fiat engine we know, it is free-revving and relatively responsive providing full use is made of the six-speed gearbox during open road driving on winding country roads. There is 320Nm of torque (236lb ft) on offer from 1,750rpm but the engine needs to be kept in its ‘happy’ powerband to make the most of its response and flexibility. Top speed is 111mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is 10.2-seconds. The official Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 61.4mpg but on my test driving at a relatively relaxed pace it returned 42.6mpg. The all important CO2 emissions figure is 120g/km which means VED road tax from April will be £0 for the First Year rate and then only £30 for Year Two onwards. As for company car drivers the Benefit-in-Kind tax will be 22%. Insurance for this version is rated as Group 12E.
In the ride comfort and handling department the Renegade feels like a proper SUV rather than the more commonplace car derived Crossovers. The vehicle rides tall on its MacPherson strut independent front and rear suspension so there is bodyroll evident during cornering. The vehicle can wander at times due to side-wind gusting on open roads but generally it felt secure and predictable. The suspension shrugged off potholes so the intrusion into the vehicle of impact shocks was very low an as was road noise.
For off-road driving over a sandy beach and rocks plus some further mud-plugging in-land away from the Scottish coast, Jeep provided 2.0-litre, MultiJet 140hp turbodiesel models of course with 4WD. It uses a clever new for Jeep electronically controlled drivetrain system to distribute traction between the front and rear wheels on demand as needed.
Off-road the Renegade with its car components might potentially seem like a lightweight SUV in ability terms. It isn’t – it is a true Jeep undaunted by deep sand, slippery rocks, steep muddy hills, crawling over logs or wading through mud. It was nimble, agile, gave good traction with precise steering. It might be smaller than the Jeep Cherokees but it is just as big for off-roading ability. It was more impressive in many ways off-road than it was on-road.
MILESTONES: Jeep Renegade 1.6 MultiJet Limited 120hp, manual, 2WD, 5-door compact SUV. (Likely best selling model). Price: £22,895. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel, 120hp, 320Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual, 2WD. Performance: 111mph, 0-62mph 10.2-seconds, 61.4mpg Combined Cycle (42.6mpg on test), CO2 120gh/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 Year Two wards, BIK company car tax 22%. Insurance group: 12E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,236mm, W 1,805mm, H 1,667mm, load space 351 to 1,297-litres, braked towing weight 1,000kg. For: Brings rugged go anywhere styling and performance to the compact SUV/Crossover sector, very well equipped, roomy rear seat legroom, wide range of models to choose from, impressive off-road performance. Against: Spare wheel should be standard not an option for an SUV, body-roll during cornering, vague handling/steering at times on-road, not enough soft-feel interior trim – the hard plastic looks low-cost. Miles Better News Agency