Jim Morrison, head of Jeep in the United States, summed up the 2015 Jeep Renegade perfectly when he said, “It’s crazy enough to take you any place you want to go.” Yet, it also has a high level of refinement for its price.
So, it’s both crazy and refined. That’s not a bad thing to be in the growing sub-compact crossover utility vehicle class. When you’re fighting the likes of the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax it helps to be just a little bit crazy.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade is no pretender-to-the-throne. It can honestly wear the name Jeep and not be met with derision save for the most hardcore off-roading fan who might question any vehicle made in Italy that is designed to conquer Moab.
That’s why Jeep has brought journalists to the same off-road course used to introduce the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2010. At the time I called it the American Range Rover. This Renegade is no Rover but it is a comfortable off-roader.
And yes I said this Jeep is built in Italy. The 2015 Jeep Renegade and the 2015 Fiat 500X share the same platform. As one executive put it, that makes them fraternal twins of sorts but two divergent, independent vehicles.
They’re twins born of different design mothers so to speak. The Jeep Renegade, executives said, was “100 percent” designed in Auburn Hills, the Michigan headquarters for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in the United States.
Now that we have that out of the way lets focus on what the Jeep Renegade is: a true off-road vehicle that can be docile on the road. Let’s call it a refined Jeep Wrangler because that is the vehicle is most resembles in the company’s lineup.
Mark Allen, head of Jeep design, said the goal was to get as much Wrangler character and influence into the small Renegade package. (It’s a B-class SUV, which makes it the smallest Jeep in the lineup.) It has the vertical front end and what’s called a “slow” windshield as in its not aerodynamically sloped. Like the Wrangler it has a flat roof and bigger windows that form a lower belt line.
Jeep has hinted that the 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark engine, which is mated to a 9-speed automatic, will get 30 mpg on the highway. That makes sense because the bigger Jeep Cherokee is rated at 27 mpg. No estimates yet on the fuel economy of the 1.4-liter turbocharged multiair I-4 engine.
Enough talk about highways. How does this do off-road? Jeep created a special Trailhawk package for the Renegade. The final drive ratio has a 20 to 1 crawl ratio. It is lifted an inch and there are skid plates on the bottom. It also includes a necessary full size spare because a run-flat tire just won’t do in the wild.
Also has a 31-degree approach angle, 26-degree breakover angle, and 34-degree departure. (Normal is 21-degree approach.) Trailhawk also gets rock mode. In addition, it has an aggressive brake lock differential and the non-traction tire spins at the same rate of the vehicle.
All that mumbo jumbo points to a successful off-road vehicle. Driving it around the Hollister Off-Road Vehicle area in California (something every state should have), I notice little difference with the much larger Grand Cherokee. There was one section where the little Renegade struggled that I feel the Grand Cherokee could have conquered easily.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade comes in four trim levels. The Sport starts at $17,995. Consider this the stripper you’ll see on rental car lots. The Latitude is $21,195 and will probably be the volume seller. The Limited comes pretty loaded at $24,795 with the Trailhawk starting at $25,995. It’s only available in four-wheel drive while it’s a $2000 option on all other trim levels.
OK, so is everything perfect about the Jeep Renegade? One flaw is the use of an electronic parking brake. It seems to diminish the off-road capabilities not to have a hand brake.
Also, the MySky panels are great in theory but not necessarily in practice. They are lightweight panels that can be removed to open up the Renegade’s roof. I found them easy to detach and install for a nice convertible experience for around town and rock climbing. Once off, though, the ride becomes extremely noisy over 35 mph.
All for the lack of a standard wind deflector. You can buy one as an option but apparently Jeep feels it mars the sightlines of the flat roof to have it installed from the factory. You’ll never drive twice on the highway with the panels off – and like it. It’s a miscue that harms what is basically a fun idea.
Ultimately, the thing I like most about the Jeep Renegade is its strong combination of on-road comfort and off-road capability. Probably 98% of its owners will never test it on anything more trying than a gravel road. But it’s nice you don’t pay a comfort penalty the rest of the time.
2015 Jeep Renegade
Base Price: $17,995
Price As Tested: $25,995 (not including destination charge)
- Strong Offroad Capabilities
- Good Onroad Ride
- True to Jeep Heritage
- Unusually noisy with MySky Panels Off
- Electronic parking brake