Over the last few years, the Jeep brand has ventured further into the traditional SUV market by expanding its lineup. One of its newest additions is the Renegade. With Jeep’s legendary off-road equipment, fun styling and roomy interior, the Renegade could be pound-for-pound, the best value in the compact SUV class.
The compact SUV class is largely known for the Toyota RAV4 and the Ford Escape SUVs. These vehicles are great alternatives to compact cars since they offer better use of cargo space and are easier to enter/exit. However, they have long been knocked for lacking true off-road capability and/or better handling when the weather turns nasty (even with some offerings coming with all-wheel-drive). This is the niche Jeep is aiming at with the Renegade – a true off-road capable compact SUV.
In order to address this niche, Jeep gave all models the choice between two highly-capable 4wd systems: Jeep Active Drive on Sport, Latitude and Limited models and Jeep Active Drive Low on Trailhawk models. These systems feature simple turn-dial operation and each of them feature a rear axle disconnect system. The rear axle disconnect system allows for better fuel economy since power isn’t being sent to all four wheels in everyday driving.
For Trailhawk is for the more avid off-road driver with an impressive 20:1 crawl ratio when using 4wd low.
The next to address the niche market, Jeep styled the SUV to be more fun while also being a stark contrast against its competitors. While styling opinions vary, the goal to be different worked. During my week with the SUV, I found it stood out in parking lots and on the road against the backdrop of other manufactures look-a-like styling. In fact, I never had to roam the parking lot when looking for our test model.
Another difference, compared to other SUVs, is the roominess of the cabin. With its more squarish exterior, the interior gets the benefit of having additional head room. This openness makes the small SUV seems bigger than it really is as well as helps increase visibility. In fact, this roominess is such a stark contrast from other SUVs, it takes some time to adjust to having so much room.
While there is a lot to like inside the cabin, little things bugged me like the front cargo lights that shine onto the dash, not really handy for looking around in the dark. Also, no sunglass holder is a bit of a head scratcher these days. Finally, there was no separate time and outside temperature display on my test model. I had to turn on the radio to see what time it was. While this was a bit irritating, discovering the outside temperature was even more aggravating since it was found only through hitting the “more” button via the radio controls. These items may seem nit-picky, yet driving through wintry conditions on a long road-trip, I find them necessary for being extra vigilant against black ice and planning out when to stop.
During my week of driving, I was not only able to put the 4wd system to work thanks to a snowstorm, I also was able to really test out the powertrain with challenging driving conditions. First, the 4wd system, like most Jeep products, worked flawlessly as we drove through snow drifts and stopped remarkably well on ice. No problems there.
Second, the 2.4L four-cylinder engine (an optional upgrade over the base 1.4L turbo), mated to a 9-speed transmission (base is six-speed manual) did an admiral job while driving head-first into 40-MPH wind gusts. For this drive across Wyoming into Cheyenne then Denver, I climbed nearly 3,000 feet in elevation while facing those winds and set cruise to 80 MPH (the speed limit). While at times, the SUV had to downshift quite a bit to maintain the speed, I never felt it was truly outmatched for the conditions, yet I did wish for a bit more power.
For certain, it isn’t a zippy drive by any means. The powertrain often works overtime getting the slightly more than 3,000 lbs of weight moving from a dead-stop and passing at higher speeds takes more patience. However, the better fuel economy outweighs this concern for many drivers.
While my driving conditions were challenging, the returned fuel economy of 23.3 MPG was pretty good in my opinion. For reference, this was just slightly off the EPA rating for the Renegade – 21/29/24 city/highway/combined. While the majority of my drive was highway, I really pushed the SUV with the conditions.
Finally, the best part of the Jeep Renegade has to be the price. Our test Latitude trim-level model rings up at $26,980 with $2,690 in optional equipment. For reference, the base Sport Model starts at $17,995 in 2wd. Moving up to the Latitude gives you bigger 16-inch aluminum wheels, a back-up camera and other interior upgrades.
Model: 2015 Jeep Renegade Latitude 4wd
Engine: 2.4L four-cylinder
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 21/29/24
- Popular Equipment Group (dual-zone climate, power seats, upgraded speakers, fold-down second-row seats) – $795
- 2.4L Four-Cylinder Engine – $1,400
- Passive Entry/Keyless Go – $295
- Remote Start System – $200
Price: $26,980 with $995 destination charge
- 4WD system
- Interior head room
- Driver visibility
- Light on Horsepower
- Slow off the line
- Various interior items