IT TAKES a lot to shock a COTY judge, us being such world-weary cynics and all, so imagine our surprise when the Jeep Renegade caused us to choke on our coffee. It’s day one of testing and the chunky, brightly coloured Renegade has just rolled in for its static reveal. And things are going well.
Love or hate it, all of the judges applauded the Renegade for its bold styling and its utter commitment to stand out from the small SUV pack.
But then the elephant in the room spoke and the Renegade’s pricing was revealed. Our faces were then set to ‘stunned’.
Starting at $29,500 for an undernourished little atmo 1.6, the Renegade range is significantly more expensive than its rivals, two of which are also up for COTY honours – the Mazda CX-3 which starts at $19,990 and Honda’s HR-V, from $24,990. Even inside Jeep’s own range the Renegade’s pricing is perplexing, with the 1.4 turbo Sport costing almost as much as a (larger) top-spec Patriot and Compass.
Value, then, is not the Renegade’s strong suit, which is a shame given there’s plenty to like.
Riding on an all-new platform shared with the Fiat 500X, the American-styled, Italian-made Renegade impressed with its controlled, well-damped ride over Lang Lang’s section of large, evenly spaced ‘yumps’, which is an area where both the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V struggled.
Engine performance from the 103kW 1.4-litre turbo with six-speed dual-clutch was eager when pushed, though not with a load. And while the gutsier 2.4-litre atmo four in the Trailhawk, mated to Jeep’s nine-speed auto, brings extra sparkle, neither are outstanding engines.
Fluid handling and overall chassis balance were also Renegade strengths, especially in the AWD Trailhawk, which boasts serious off-road credibility thanks to a raised ride height, skid plates and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain System (see breakout). And while COTY’s testing regime didn’t explore the full range of the Trailhawk’s abilities, it felt more stable and surefooted on the off-road section.
However, none of the judges liked the Renegade’s electric steering, which felt sticky and lacking in crispness – especially on winding country roads – or the snappy handling in wet conditions, both on bitumen and gravel. So while the Renegade’s chassis is essentially sound, both the FWD Sport and AWD Trailhawk lack finesse.
Interior squeaks and rattles also earned criticism, as did flat seats, hard cabin plastics and an overly fat steering wheel. So as likeable as the Renegade’s character is, it simply doesn’t have the maturity to support its pricing strategy.
Think of the Renegade, then, as the motoring equivalent of a reality TV star – destined to be popular with an undemanding audience, but lacking the substance and talent to be truly great.
Jeep deserves kudos for daring to be different with the Renegade’s bold styling, inside and out, but the Aussie powertrain line-up isn’t what it could be, and those opportunistic asking prices kill its value.
And that simply doesn’t cut it at COTY.
Type 5-door wagon, 5-seat Boot capacity 351 litres Weight 1295 – 1550kg
Layout front engine (east-west), FWD/AWD Engines 1598cc 4cyl (81kW/152Nm) 1368cc 4cyl turbo (103kW/230Nm) 2360cc 4cyl (137kW/236Nm) Transmissions 5-speed manual; 6-speed dual-clutch; 9-speed automatic
Tyres 215/65R16 – 225/55R18 ADR81 fuel consumption 5.9 – 7.5L/100km CO2 emissions 137 – 175g/km Collision mitigation OPT (Limited only) Crash rating 5-star (Euro NCAP) Prices $29,500 – $41,500
It wouldn’t be a Jeep without off-road cred, right? The Trailhawk version adds a full-time 4x4 system with 20:1 crawl ratio, a 20mm higher ride height (220mm of ground clearance) and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system, which includes a Rock mode as well as the regular Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud. There’s also hill-descent control, a fording depth of 480mm, 17-inch all-terrain tyres and a tow rating of 907kg.