We play with a new Jeep Renegade up close and personal

Sections: Chassis, Fuel Economy, Powertrain

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Jeep Renegade front end Brett Solomon photo

Jeep Renegade’s front end is pure Jeep. (Brett Solomon photo)

All of us on the site are jazzed up about the new Jeep Renegade. To us, as the Wrangler has grown is size and stature (especially the four-door), we can appreciate what small and nimble can mean in the world of off-roading. And your pocketbook when it comes to filling up the tank.

But it is boxy. In a good way. The rake of the windshield is not as fast as the windshield angle on the Grand Cherokee, but not as upright as the Wrangler. It’s a perfect compromise. Coupled with the square grill with round headlights you will not mistake for anything but a Jeep.

According to the engineers, the Active Drive four wheel drive system on the larger-engine automatic version will automatically decouple the rear wheels from the equation and only add power when needed. The final fuel economy numbers have not been released yet, but expect the automatic to be 30 MPG highway, and the manual 1.4 to come in even higher.

The Renegade will offer the MultiAir 1.4-liter turbo with a six-speed manual transmission only. Fiat and shifting lovers rejoice! The automatic is a nine-speed slushbox- a similar unit to the one in the Cherokee designed by Jeep and ZF.

Jeep Renegade side view Brett Solomon photo

Jeep Renegade’s side profile shows its boxy, utilitarian form factor. (Brett Solomon photo)

Jeep Renegade speaker grille Brett Solomon photo

Jeep Renegade’s speaker grille adds a dash of color to the interior door panel and brings the audio system to the forefront of interior design. (Brett Solomon photo)

As a must-have, the Renegade will specifically have voice capability and voice texting capability. Considering the young active demographic Jeep is trying to lure, this is a really cool feature.

Also available are two fully removable roof panels that will fit in the trunk. T-top lovers rejoice. In my old age, I must admit I like pushing a button to activate the sunroof. That will be an option as well, just the portal will not be a large.

Jeep Renegade dash Brett Solomon photo

Here’s a look at the Jeep Renegade’s dash, including its infotainment setup. (Brett Solomon photo)

We can’t wait to try one on and off the road!

Jeep Renegade profile Brett Solomon photo

The Jeep Renegade gets its formal introduction at a recent press event. (Brett Solomon photo)

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  • MacGyver Lee

    The first picture says that the front end is pure Jeep. As a Jeep nut, I say pure lies. It looks more like a Honda Element/Nissan Cube from the front. I do applaud the “two removable roof panels [you need pictures of that], but I’m no fan of the overall look.

  • pete

    It looks great, but 30 mpg,really! Won’t sell in large numbers in Europe. Most new car buyers are looking for 50 mpg even 60. If I’m lucky I get 30 mpg from my 2.8 crd Cherokee. It’s big, heavy and 9 years old. 30 mpg from the new Renegade is terrible, sorry.

    • Lyndon Johnson

      You’re right, it’s not great. But in the realm of tiny boxes with truncated, upright rear hatches, aerodynamics are working against you. My wife daily drives a 2010 Nissan cube that was EPA rated at 30 MPG highway. It’s worth mentioning that we do quite a bit better than that, averaging 36 MPG, but I know many cube owners who get in the 28-to-30-MPG range with their cubes. The Renegade is the Nissan cube of Jeeps, I’d reckon.

      And here is where I mention that both the Renegade’s engine choices are far more powerful than the Nissan cube’s 1.8-liter, 122-horsepower mill — not to mention the tiny Jeep will be offered with all-wheel drive that’s not an option on the cube, with bigger tires and wheels you can’t get on the cube, and with a towing capacity of up to 2,000 lbs that the cube can’t touch. In fact, Nissan recommends owners DON’T tow with the cube in America. Litigious society we live in, etc. etc.

      As you can probably tell, with the cube rumored to stop importation to America from Japan for the 2015 model year, my wife and I have been doing some new-car dreaming. We had plans to put our 2010 cube on “reserve duty” by effectively making it my knockaround car, sell my 2006 Ford Ranger that I barely drive anymore, and buy my wife a new 2015 cube. With tentative plans to add a second child to our family, my regular cab Ranger wouldn’t cut it for baby-hauling duty during the times when I don’t have a car to review or when the review car I have for the week happens to be a two-seat sportscar. So this plan would have solved a lot of potential problems for us for the next five years.

      When my wife learned the cube was not likely to be part of Nissan’s lineup in 2015 just this week, she said she didn’t think she’d ever find a car she loved as much as she loved the cube. So I searched the web for small, boxy form-factor cars. Scion xB? Too big, too expensive, too thirsty. Honda Element? Long out of production. Mini Cooper? Not enough doors in its most attractive and affordable form (the base Cooper), and way too expensive for our budget in four-door models. Plus, there was some consideration given to the cost of routine maintenance and minor repairs to the Mini, which can be very much like owning a BMW — not surprising since BMW owns Mini, I guess. The same thought process worked for Fiat’s 500L. No dealer support within 90 minutes of home, spotty TrueDelta reliability record on the Fiat 500 two-door with which the 500L shares some powertrain commonality, and as expensive as buying any number of midsize sedans if equipped with the options we’d want. Finally, given how it has stolen the thunder of our cube in America, and taking into account our mediocre experience with one of the automaker’s previous cars we owned several years ago, we just cannot bring ourselves to seriously consider buying a Kia Soul.

      So it was looking kind of hopeless to find my wife the small, boxy, easy-to-park, fun-to-drive type of car she has grown to love since we bought the cube. Then Brett posted this article and reminded me that Jeep may ride to the rescue with the Renegade. I showed photos of the Renegade to my wife, who loved it. She’s always said she wouldn’t mind having a Jeep if their fuel economy wasn’t so bad compared to the subcompact cars she’s used to driving. Well, this is just about perfect. The measurements outside and inside are even very similar to the cube’s. If the production timeline stays the same as we’re hearing, the Renegade will be hitting Jeep dealers just about the same time the last of the 2014 U.S.-spec cubes are disappearing off dealer lots in Spring, 2015.

      About six or eight months from now, I predict some very interesting times for us as we car shop.