When you have a brand that markets itself as tough, brutish, and capable on any road, don’t be surprised if traditionalists are put off when a small crossover is launched. Don’t get me wrong, Jeep doesn’t have to prove anything at this point, already having created some of the most capable off-road vehicles to ever come out of North America. In an effort to enter the small crossover market, Jeep decided to carry on with a nameplate that has graced their CJ models and even Rubicon trims, the Renegade. Sounds every bit as intimidating as the Cherokee and the Rubicon. Except the Renegade I got was in bright yellow. And it was undeniably cute. And I kinda fell in love with it.
The Jeep Renegade was introduced in 2014 around the world, and is the first Jeep product to be produced outside of North America. Jeep Renegades can come from Italy or China, and are actually produced alongside the Fiat 500X. No surprise there as Jeep and Fiat are subsidiaries of FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), and the platforms are identical. The similarities end there, however.
The Jeep Renegade handed to me as a tester for a few days was in Solar Yellow, and, much to my surprise, had only one trim level, the Limited. Nevertheless, it was a charming little thing, and the color suited the mostly black plastics and silver body accents. If there was ever a vehicle that could pull off this color exceptionally well and most grown men wouldn't be ashamed of driving, this would be it.
It’s boxy and very retro in design, with the headlights and the ever present vertical grille (a standard on every Jeep) lending to the Jeeps of yesteryears. I very much like how they played around with the rear lights, as they’re pretty cool to look at, plus that cool spoiler and aluminum looking plastic guard beneath the bumper that has two exhaust pipes. When viewed from the side, the high beltline and tall, straight windows make it a box on wheels, and that’s okay since it’s a look that draws people into buying Toyota FJs and the like. The proportions just feel right with the Jeep Renegade, despite those 17-inch alloys which I think would’ve been better if they were a size bigger.
After admiring the fearless butch design, a step inside the Renegade immediately tells me that this Jeep still has all the details and touches to stand out. First, there’s the dash grab handle on the passenger side, then there’s the use of a mix of fabric, leather, and nicely textured plastic. Everything’s black, but that’s the safest choice with an exterior that draws attention. It’s a tightly put together interior, too, as it felt and looked premium and rugged. A chunky steering wheel with buttons for cruise control, audio, and paired mobile devices, felt nice to hold and offered good adjustability.
The seats are manually adjustable and offer good fee and support, and it helps that since the Renegade does offer a tall roofline, headroom and the feeling of spaciousness is on the good side. The rear seats also offer a surprising amount of room, especially for my height. The best part are the nice details that you can admire when taking a closer look, namely the front fascia of a Jeep subtly etched onto the door speakers. There’s even a neat touch as the center cupholders mimic the rear taillights; that’s pretty good attention to detail. Ambient lighting is standard and the huge mirrors and windows offer great visibility.
The seven-inch Uconnect 4 (Jeep’s multimedia system) infotainment system is decent, offering a good range of options to customize your vehicle parameters and settings, as well as pair devices. Apple CarPlay is standard, and there are 6 speakers to play your tunes. When in Apple CarPlay, I did find the interface to be too small, as the screen scales down and adds a border, but it is usable nonetheless. It’s responsive enough and can be a bit finicky, but it gets the job done. Some people like bigger screens, and the screen on the Renegade might be a downer to some. What’s good is the center multifunction display between the gauges, offering several pages of information such as a compass, cruise control and limit settings, and even various temperatures and speed. The gauges are also playfully designed with a silver aluminum looking plastic outer ring with bold, clear, white numbering. There’s even a splash of color to signify engine redline.
Once you start up the Jeep Renegade and the 1.4L turbocharged gasoline engine comes to life, it’s an effortless drive. Maneuvering is easy thanks to a short wheelbase and nicely weighted electronic power steering. The 1.4L makes 135 hp and 230 Nm of torque, and it’s quite quick once you put your foot down. The engine is mated to a 6-speed dual clutch, and, while it performs well at speed, feels awkward in traffic and when reversing or driving off from park. There’s a very noticeable delay, and it almost feels as if the transmission needs some time to get going. It takes some getting used to, but finessing the pedal to prod it along does just fine. Honestly, a standard torque converter automatic would’ve been a better choice, especially for our market. There’s a 9-speed automatic in other markets, maybe offer it as an option?
The Renegade feels composed when on the road, with minimal fuss even at highway speeds. It’s a well mannered crossover that drives surprisingly well and even offers up some sportiness when you start to push harder. Road noise is handled nicely, and engine noise is decently masked. Steering is also nice and planted at any speed, and it almost feels like you’re driving a hatchback. Understeer only happens when going at unreasonable speeds and when you’re pitching the car into corners, but this is a crossover, so that’s not going to be something it was meant to do, anyway. What it does do is offer a good ride that’s comfy and just happy going along at a good pace. Good fuel economy seems to be a standard, too, as I was able to get almost 13 km/l in combined driving conditions. That’s from EDSA to Laguna on a weekday afternoon.
I’d also have to give the Renegade high marks for standard equipment, besting other small crossovers from other brands with higher price tags. You get parking sensors and a reverse camera as standard, throw in six airbags, add in forward collision mitigation, and even lane keep assist (audible and correctional), and you have one of the safest and kitted out small crossovers for a bit over P2 million. You even have cornering lights, trailer sway mitigation, stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, and it’s all completely keyless. That’s pretty darn good and shows that Jeep packaged this car well for our local market.
Now for the elephant in the room, no, this is not four-wheel drive. This is a front-wheel drive small crossover without a differential lock or selectable terrain modes. To be fair, most people will go to the Rubicon for that, and this just sits a few hundred thousand from the more capable brother. But for those looking for a charming small crossover that has all the Jeep heritage but have no need for the off-road performance, this is the ticket. And it also happens to be competitively priced for the amount of standard kit. And it’s yellow! Any of the Jeep dealerships, EDSA Greenhills, Alabang, and Cebu have them on display so you can drop by and see the rest of the interesting colors on offer.
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