Latest Jeep is smallest ever

With styling at once rugged and endearing, the newest member of the Jeep family is the smallest model ever offered with the nameplate. And, as we’ve come to expect from Jeep, the Renegade is also wholly capable of extreme off-road sojourns. In other words, yeah it’s cute, but it deserves to wear the legendary seven-slot grille too.

With that said, the folks at Jeep know a lot of people are going to be attracted to the Renegade more for its look than its capability. To that end, the Renegade Trailhawk is offered for those who are more into dust busting. This model boasts four-wheel drive, a taller ride height for added ground clearance, all-terrain tires, and a more rugged suspension system. The Trailhawk also features selectable drive modes and low-speed gearing. We’ve tried it on trails and it works.

However, this review is of the pavement-oriented Renegade Limited. While still capable of dealing with all but the most extreme off-road excursions, the Limited wants passengers to focus more on its soft-touch materials, leather upholstery, heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and touchscreen interface, along with remote locking, unlocking, and starting. WiFi hotspot capability is part of the package as well.

Renegade’s removable “My Sky” roof panels offer the potential for semi open-air motoring, but removing and storing them is a bit of a pain. Plus, if the weather suddenly turns inclement, you have to stop to put them back in. As a result, we don’t see people using them as often as they would a traditional sunroof.

Interior comfort is ensured by lots of headroom and legroom for front-seat passengers. Three adults will fit in the back seat but legroom is limited, so they might not be comfortable on long excursions. Cargo capacity measures 38 cubic feet behind the second row and 50.8 cubic feet with it folded.

Renegade’s base powerplant is a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder with 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. A nine-speed automatic transmission optional, as is all-wheel drive. The bigger engine is a 2.4-liter inline four that develops 180 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. Transmission offerings match that of its smaller sibling. The 2.4L is standard with Limited and Trailhawk models. Combined fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg with the 1.4L; 25 mpg with the 2.4L and FWD; and 24 mpg with the 2.4L in 4WD.

Front-drive Renegades, with their lower ride height and street-tuned suspension systems ride and handle better on pavement than their four-wheel-drive siblings. That being said, our four-wheel-drive Limited rode nicely on the highway, was reasonably quiet, and offered commendable comfort. It was also reasonably agile in turns. While the nine-speed transmission is great for fuel economy, if you need a burst of strong acceleration on the highway it can take a while to work its way down to the appropriate gear. This can be somewhat disconcerting when you’re anxious to pass.

Still though, taken in total, the Renegade is a nice addition to the roster of compact SUVs.