Jeep Renegade

US-designed, Italian-built baby SUV prepares for war

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

THE Renegade is one of those cars you really want to like.

Unmistakeably Jeep in style, it manages to distil many of the design elements many of the design elements the brand holds near and dear, and packages all that into a neatly sized, super-cool little SUV.

Measuring 4232mm long and riding on a 2570mm wheelbase, the Renegade sits smack-bang in the guts of the baby SUV class.

Available with front- or all-wheel drive, when it lobs here later this year the range will kick-off with an 82kW 1.6-litre ‘EtorQ’ atmo petrol four, and will include either a 1.6- or 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four. The front-drivers we drove in California, however, sported a version of the 1.4-litre ‘MultiAir’ turbo-petrol four that does such a fine job in Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta.

Tied to a sweet six-speed manual ’box (a six-speed dualclutch will be optional), the entrylevel Renegade Sport weighs a solid 1372kg, but manages to feel sprightly in its lower gears thanks to the 1.4 turbo’s generous 119kW/250Nm outputs.

Riding three-up through steep country, the Renegade Sport can feel a little flat-footed in taller ratios, but with just the driver on board, the front-drive Renegade is punchy and keen, with a gutsy mid-range. Jeep claims “under 10 seconds” for the 0-100km/h sprint for both the 1.4 turbo manual and its 2.4-litre ‘Tigershark’ atmo sister tied to an auto, and we wouldn’t argue with that.

No real complaints about the Renegade’s on-road dynamics, either. Running fully independent suspension with struts at each corner and ‘Frequency Selective Damping’ by Koni, the Renegade feels confident and mature on challenging surfaces. The FSD dampers still transmit some suspension jiggle on California’s rippled concrete freeways, but on country roads the Renegade’s road-noise refinement is impressive.

It handles neatly, too, with well-contained body movement and a level of fluidity that most people wouldn’t expect from a Jeep. Indeed, with the peppy 1.4 turbo and snappy manual shift, the front-drive Renegade is quite a fun little thing, even on allseason 215/65R16 Continentals.

The Renegade’s only real weak link is its electric steering, which is too light and lacking in feel around the straight-ahead position, though it improves once you start to apply lock.

Move up through Renegade’s Sport and Longitude trim levels and you come to the Limited.

Wearing 225/55R18 Kumhos, the Limited is grippier, without too much detriment to its ride. But in the mountains, the Tigershark 2.4 with nine-speed auto needs to be driven manually – via a correctly configured forward for downshift, back for upshift gate – to prevent the auto from hunting up and down its vast ratio set.

On flatter ground, however, it’s a different story. The 137kW/236Nm Tigershark needs revs to perform, but its plethora of ratios helps. And while it isn’t the quietest thing around, it’s more enjoyable to listen to than some of the horrid offerings in rival SUVs.

Finally, to the Renegade’s robust interior. Well-built and quiet, it offers competitive levels of space and plenty of scope for customisation. The baby Jeep also scores with a sizeable 525-litre boot, though to ensure near foldflat cargo flexibility, the rear seat cushion is mounted too low.

Either way, the funky, chunky little Renegade deserves to gain a following. If you think ‘Jeep aesthetic, European size and flavour’, then you’ve nailed it.

Now, here’s hoping punters are brave enough to choose the olive, orange and 70s blue colours.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Jeep Renegade Sport 1368cc 4cyl, sohc, 16v, turbo 119kW @ 5500rpm 250Nm @ 2500-4000rpm 6-speed manual 1372kg 9.0sec (estimated) 6.0L/100km (estimated) $24,000 (estimated) Q3 2015

PLUS & MINUS

Flat rear seat; over-light and inconsistent steering at straight ahead Styling; refinement; fluid handling; likeable engines; off-road ability

01 JEEP, JEEP

Cabin littered with neat design details like a little Willys-Jeep figure tracing its way around the windscreen, and a map of Moab, Utah, where Jeep first tested the Trailhawk model offroad, ahead of the gear lever.

02 SAFE HANDS

Class-leading tech includes ‘Uconnect’ touchscreen and full-colour instrument display; available safety gear includes forward collision and lanedeparture warning, blind-spot monitoring and seven airbags.

03 AMERICAN SKY

Seven-slot grille, trapezoidal wheelarches and army-inspired details including ‘jerry-can’ taillights combine with optional ‘My Sky’ lift-out roof panels (manual or powered) for a Wranglerrivalling open-air feel.

Having an off

YOU can genuinely go off-roading in the allwheel- drive Trailhawk. It boasts a Terrain Selector with a ‘Rock’ mode, low range, hill-descent control and 220mm of ground clearance. While Trailhawk’s 1586kg makes the 2.4-litre Tigershark work hard for its money, a lower final-drive ratio (4.33:1 versus 3.73 in other models with the same engine) goes some way to making up for it, as does Trailhawk’s matte-black bonnet bulge, funky 17s and toughened styling (with bespoke bumpers to enhance its approach and departure angles, and exposed red tow hooks).

OR TRY THESE...

Holden Trax LS $23,990

ALMOST identical in size, weight and wheelbase length to the Renegade, Holden’s base-model Trax is a packaging maestro, but loses out big-time for refinement.

It’s also unlikely to ride as well as the Jeep, and the hippy Trax can’t match the Jeep’s cool factor.

Mazda CX-3 $24,000 (estimated)

SET to launch in mid-March, Mazda’s latest SkyActiv wonder matches the Renegade’s all-wheel drive but has neither low range nor its off-road smarts. CX-3’s chassis is a peach, and packaging is also a strong suit, though refinement could be its kryptonite, especially compared to the hushed Jeep.

CORNERING AND ROCKHOPPING IN THE RENEGADE

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