I doubt that alt-rockers X Ambassadors had Jeep in mind when they wrote “Renegades,” but the song ran through my head for a week straight as I drove the Jeep Renegade, the newest and most diminutive member of the brand’s lineup. Slightly reminiscent of Kia Soul’s boxy, yet bulbous body style, built in Italy on a Fiat platform, Renegade is clever, quirky, stylish, worthy of its name, and true to its brand heritage.
“Long live the pioneers. Rebels and mutineers. Go forth and have no fear.”
Jeep has a legendary heritage dating back to 1941, with impeccable off-road credentials, capability, versatility and several models to carry drivers on whatever adventures they desire. I drove the Renegade Sport 4×4, but it is also offered in Latitude, Limited, and trail-rated Trailhawk models. Available with either a 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower engine paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, or a 160-horsepower, 1.4-liter mated with a six-speed manual, even the base Renegade Sport 4×4 performs well both on the road and in moderate off-road conditions. With the Selec-Terrain system, you have the option to manually select from three off-road modes —snow, sand, mud — or set it to auto and let Renegade do the thinking. Trailhawk models get an exclusive rock mode, increase ground clearance to 8.7 inches, and can ford water up to 19 inches in depth.
The optional My Sky roof system gives you the Jeep Wrangler-esque ability to enjoy the open air as you undertake your off-road reverie. The fiberglass polyurethane panels stow neatly in the cargo area and feature an “X” debossed into the roof, playing on the brand’s history. Thankfully, removing the panels is a much simpler task than de-roofing the cloth-topped Wrangler. The interior is stylish and contemporary, yet utilitarian; comfortable and supportive seats have the word “Jeep” woven into the fabric, one of many design Easter eggs that make the Renegade quirky and fun. Look for embellishments that mimic the distinctive Jeep grille, topographic maps, and tiny Jeep silhouettes.
“Run away with me. Lost souls and reverie. Running wild and running free.”
If there’s any vehicle that inspires you to get out and have fun, it’s Jeep. The Solar Yellow exterior color itself, one of many available eye-catching hues, makes it impossible not to smile when jumping behind the wheel. Renegade offers features once limited to only the most premium SUVs, including the Uconnect infotainment system, 70 available safety and security features, and a Beats premium audio system. In addition to best-in-class off-road capability, Renegade delivers class-leading fuel economy.
There’s not a lot to dislike, as Jeep aims to be all things to its target audience. Renegade is authentic to the brand, user-friendly, fun without being too “cute,” affordable, and highly capable, particularly in the Trailhawk iteration. Like the song says, “Go forth and have no fear… Living like we’re renegades.”
Price as tested: $24,470, including the optional My Sky system, Power and Air package, and Uconnect with backup camera.