Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin- Benvenuto Renegade
When Jeep rolled out the diminutive, all-new, five-door Renegade in the 2015 model year, parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) left little doubt the one-time niche automaker now embraces a multicultural world view.
Renegade's underpinnings borrow heavily from Fiat's smallish 500L, a stretched version of the pragmatic 500. The elongated 500L delivers a polarizing, almost cartoon-like exterior. Happily, Renegade inherited familiar Jeep cues including the seven slot front grille, tall stance, squared wheel wells and round headlights. Plus Renegade stands taller (with ginormous interior head room) than Fiat 500L.
Despite its upright stance, Renegade kept wind noise at bay even with the cruise control set at 72 miles per hour along the Northwest Tollway spiriting towards the Wisconsin Dells.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles markets Renegade throughout 100 countries, not just in Jeep's one-time home market. Adding to the international intrigue, Renegades sold in the U.S. are assembled in Melfi, Italy.
Renegade is the go-to choice for those seeking in-the-moment benefits of light off-road capabilities in a subcompact crossover format (Jeep labels it a 'Multipurpose vehicle'). Be aware, these additional capabilities swell bottom line pricing. Subcompact dimensions and maneuverability ideally suit in-town travel, too.
Unlike the ho-hum, camouflage hue gracing World War II era Jeeps, our tester took green to the extreme. Think Day-Glo neon green, or a Teletubby shade (the green varmint was Dipsy, right?). In any event, Renegade's "hyper green clear coat" stood out among parking lot peers, but felt oddly at home traversing the eclectic, all-too-cheesy Dells region.
Renegade softens hard angled corners found in the patriarchal compact Jeep Wrangler. Renegade channels its inner funk, reflecting a few cues shared with Kia's urban-wannabe, Soul.
For 2017, Renegade continues offering four trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited. Renegade's trims carry unique distinctions in regard to off-road capabilities.
Key 2017 updates include two new sub trims, including our Renegade 'Altitude' tester. Jeep already offers the Altitude sub trim in its larger vehicles, focusing on cosmetic noir visuals including 18-inch gloss black wheels, black window framing, black roof rails and an interior with premium manually sliding front cloth black seats. Interior door handles and shift knobs include gun-metal silver-like accents. Renegade's darkly mystic Altitude sub trims are optional in mid-grade Latitudes.
Framing bottom doors, wheel wells and lower bumpers; a plastic-composite material to minimize dings from small stones or gravel. Extra-large side view mirrors provide driver's with wide visibility, which assists in sometimes pesky side blind spots and small rear window.
Renegade's second new spin for 2017 is 'Deserthawk,' based on the off-road intended Trailhawk trim. Expect exterior hood and rear panel decals, rock rails and inside light frost stitching and accents. The Trailhawk trim graces other Jeep offerings, representing the most off-road capable trim in the lineup with skid plate and front and rear tow hooks.
Under hood, two engines are available. Standard in Sport and Latitude trims; a 1.4-liter inline turbocharged four cylinder cranks out a respectable 160 horses. Trailhawk and Limited come calling with a 2.4-liter, naturally aspired inline four upping horses to 184.
Enjoy the connected thrill manual transmissions provides? A very smooth, non-notchy six-speed manual comes standard with the 1.4-liter turbo. A segment-first nine-speed automatic borrowed from Chrysler's 200 sedan comes standard in Trailhawk and Limited. The 2.4-liter engine with automatic trans is optional in Sport and Latitude.
Our 4 x 4 Renegade Latitude included a base price of $23,495. The Altitude package added $695. Other extras included an upgraded, in-dash GPS navigation with UConnect and larger 6.5-inch touch screen ($1,345) and removable roof panels ($1,495). The bottom line totaled $28,025 with $995 destination charge. An attractively competitive $17,999 starting price awaits front drive Sport editions.
UConnect provides easy pairing with Smartphone (Apple Carplay, Android Auto) Apps and includes a one-year Sirius XM satellite radio subscription.
Inside, the dash top remains relatively flat save for top-side center dual air vents resembling a pair of fighter pilot goggles. Shot gun riders enjoy a horizontal grab bar above the glove box.
An easily workable mid-size 6.5-inch multi-function touch screen resides below center vents. Renegade pays forward FCA's excellent secondary audio volume and station pre-set button structure, with a local on the three-spoke steering wheel's back side. It's a natural position for fingers to play.
Two distinct 4 x 4 systems are available. Sport, Latitude and Limited offer an optional Active Drive 4 x 4, automatically and seamlessly switching between two wheel and four wheel drive with no driver Input. The off-road-intended Trailhawk comes standard with crawl-like 'Active Drive Low,' ideal for slow-speed slogs through the flora.
All 4 x 4 models come with a dashboard centric "Selec-Terrain" dial with multiple choices for managing the ground below depending upon current circumstances. Our Latitude trim included snow, sand, mud and default auto mode, all tested during treks through natural Dells wonders. Off-road Trailhawk trims add a rock mode.
The Select-Terrain dial resides below the effective yet simple ventilation area, consisting of three large, tactile, easy-to-grab dials, a user-friendly design never out of style. To Select-Terrain's right: auxiliary ports and a 12-volt outlet to plug in portable electronic devices.
Renegade retains Jeep's open-air, 'fun factor,' donning optional, fiberglass-polyurethane dual removable roof panels ('My Sky' in Jeep speak). Each in-line square panel (separated by a horizontal roof frame) frees up easily once unlatching a central, manual pulldown lever. Relatively lightweight tops then push up and out (and must be stored). Situating panels back into place takes slightly more precision.
Exhilarating open air ambiance is nice, but identical-sized two-panel power sliding moon roof panels serve a similar purpose, eliminating stow and tow.
The fuel tank holds a rather diminutive 12.7 gallons of fuel. While Renegades featuring the 1.4-liter four-cylinder accepts regular 87-octane, premium 91 octane is recommended for optimal performance. The naturally aspirated four utilizes 87-octate exclusively. When filling either, a cap-less, self-sealing fuel lead welcome self-service fillers.
The Renegade name has appeared periodically throughout Jeep's history. From the early 1970s until the mid-1980s, a compact Renegade, with removable soft top, graced dealerships. Later, a eco-friendly Renegade concept vehicle toured the 2008 Auto Show circuit with exterior nuances of a dune buggy powered by a gas-electric diesel hybrid engine.
Whether by design or happenstance, Renegade's 2015 model year debut was well timed. Sales of crossovers and sport utilities of any size or shape are booming. Renegade measures shorter and wider than the compact five-door Jeep Compass, also making news of late.
Compass once called nearby Belvedere Illinois its production home. The next generation 2017 effort finds Tulca, Mexico its new assembly base (for models sold in North America). While losing Compass (and the discontinued Jeep Patriot) production, Belvedere gains mid-size Jeep Cherokee assembly.2017 Jeep Renegade
Price as tested: $28,025
Wheelbase: 101.2 inches
Length: 166.6 inches
Width: 74.2 inches
Height: 66.5 inches
Engine: Inline turbocharged four-cylinder
Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles
City/Highway economy: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway