Cars - Jeep

Road tests and reviews of the latest Jeep models available in South Africa

2016 Jeep Renegade 1.4T Limited road tested

2016 Jeep Renegade Limited

By Franky Johnson

The new Jeep Renegade is the first Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ vehicle to be jointly developed by Italian and American designers and engineers and is the first model in the brand's history to be built in Italy. A few years ago I don’t think anyone would ever have believed that an All-American Jeep would be built in Italy? However, I must say that the end result comes off very well.

Although the Renegade is Jeep’s first entry into the Small SUV segment, the design never-the-less incorporates certain elements, dating back to its 1941 roots, with the Jeep Willys MB, and still present today with the current Jeep Wrangler.

Based on the same underlying body structure that serves as the basis for the Fiat 500X the Renegade is indeed small – some 40 centimeters shorter than the Cherokee, but about 3 cm wider to provide more interior space, making the Renegade wide enough for a three-passenger rear seat and adding useful cargo capacity.

The new Jeep Renegade is offered with two trim levels - Longitude and Limited – which is the one we feature in these road impressions - and both are powered by the fuel-efficient 1.4l MultiAir powertrain and manual transmission.

Viewed from the front, the Renegade is decidedly Jeep with its signature seven-slot grille and large circular headlights, twin roof rails and a rear roof mounted “B” sting antenna, short overhangs and rubber-lipped wheel arches which are large and trapezoidal, while the bumpers on both ends are stamped to show off their strength.

Below the grille a two-piece front fascia is aerodynamically tuned with a body-coloured upper and moulded-in-colour lower, a raised belt line which recalls the Wrangler icon’s half-doors, and the press vehicle Renegade was fitted with 10-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone 225/55R18 tyres, that nicely filled the wheel arches. And joy for buyers - it has a full sized alloy spare.

At the rear is the familiar Jeep shield-shape that ties in the rear windscreen and Wrangler-like rectangular taillights with an "X" pattern which we are told is inspired from those that were stamped into World War 2 fuel cans to strengthen them. Adding to the off-road image are twin roof rails, and the more up to date items include a rear wash and wipe system, a rear “B” sting antenna and rear parking sensors.

The interior boasts a distinctive, fresh distinctive look which Jeep designers have titled “Tek-Tonic.” The dashboard and console are a little more robust than expected in a subcompact. There's hard plastic over larger surfaces, soft-touch vinyl where passengers may come into contact with a panel, and slightly oversized controls.

The two centre air vents sit in a little pod on top of the dashboard and the ventilation knobs are large, round, silver, and easy to understand even at first glance. Seen through the top half of the steering wheel, the instrument cluster includes a large analogue speedometer and tachometer, and there are also some arty touches like the mud splatter graphics on the gauges that originated from one of the Jeep design team’s weekend paintball adventures.

Straddling both gauges is a 17 cm TFT display that provides full-colour vehicle information and feedback so the driver can keep his hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Major surfaces, such as the sculpted soft-touch instrument panel, are intersected with bold functional elements like the passenger grab handle – useful for off-road adventures and borrowed from the Jeep Wrangler. Unique “protective clamp fasteners, anodized design accents and inspired colours are derived from extreme sports equipment.

Additionally, the Renegade has an efficient and flexible interior package that includes a fold-forward front-passenger seat and removable, reversible and height-adjustable cargo load floor.

Standard equipment includes a unique heated steering wheel with a thick rim section incorporating audio, voice and vehicle controls, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded driver information display with the clamp surrounding it embossed with “Since 1941,” paying homage to the Jeep brand’s legendary history.

Also standard are electric windows, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, funky orange, black and grey upholstery, sliding driver’s seat also adjustable for height, 40/20/40-split folding rear seat with pass-through and a remote rechargeable flashlight.

The seats are comfortable and well bolstered with plenty head. leg and shoulder room up front, while rear-seat room is acceptable for two adults, provided the front occupants are willing to move their seats toward the dash, but three-across seating is possible thanks to the extra width.

There's ample luggage space behind the rear seat, which folds flat, as does the front passenger seat—allowing long items to be carried inside diagonally from dashboard to rear corner.

Safety equipment includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control, six airbags, hill start assist, a rear-view camera, a blind spot monitoring system, a rear cross-path alert system, a lane departure warning system, lane keeping assist, a frontal collision warning system, rear parking sensors, electric parking brake, passenger grab handle and the Uconnect Access which uses embedded cellular technology to provide emergency and roadside assistance, remote door locking and stolen vehicle location services.

The Jeep Renegade is powered by a Fiat developed Powertrain 4-cylinder 1.4 litre MultiAir II Turbo petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. From a total displacement of 1 368 cm3 it produces 103 kW at 5 500 rpm and torque of 230 Nm at 1 750 rpm and incorporates “Stop/Start” technology that some drivers like but others like myself find irritating.

In acceleration tests, keeping the loud pedal to the floor right to the 6 500 rpm red line before changing up, the renegade achieved a time of 11 seconds for the 0 to 100 km/h sprint, which is good for a small capacity motor propelling a smallish SUV, and top speed is around 180 km/h.

The Renegade will most likely spend most of its time on town and suburban roads where the front wheel drive model is nimble and easy to park while its small size and quick, direct steering make it very carlike to drive, with the added ride height giving it an off-road feel. However, the electric power steering is on the light side and doesn't provide much feedback.

On the highways the Jeep Renegade is relatively quiet and refined for such a tall vehicle but it travels comfortably at the 120 km/h speed limit with almost no wind noise. The 1.4 litre MultiAir II Turbo petrol engine, with its good low down torque powers the Renegade up most hills without having to change to lower gears. Even for overtaking, dropping down just one cog will in most cases get you safely by.

The Renegade holds the road well and proved to be slightly faster on winding roads than you might expect from a tall and boxy vehicle, however the high seating position for passengers tends to increase the sensation of body roll in sharp corners. All-in-all the Renegade is fun to drive and is roomy and comfortable for the family.

Pricing

The recommended retail price as of July 2016 for the Jeep Renegade 1.4 litre Limited 6-speed manual as tested is R406 990, which includes a standard 3 year/100 000km warranty and class leading 6 year/100 000km maintenance plan.

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