What does the new Jeep Renegade have to offer? Mark Stone finds out.

AS all-American as Mom’s apple pie! Regrettably, that’s no longer the case, but it’s safe to say Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler and its associated brands has ensured Jeep is still in business. And it’s the rather quirky new concept Renegade that has been the Jeep’s saviour, this lifestyle-orientated SUV catching the imagination of the younger, image-conscious buyer. While the Renegade represents the first Jeep to be built outside the USA, the second-generation model rolling out of Fiat’s plant in Melfi – now powered by a Fiat engine – is, when it comes to off-road ability, still more than worthy of carrying the legendary Jeep name.

Forestry Journal:

Built on the Fiat 500X platform and proudly carrying the famous Jeep seven-vertical-slat grille, the modern Renegade has attracted a completely new customer base for the Jeep brand. The modern, chunky, almost square looks, high-cut arches, smiley face contrasting with ‘go anywhere’ capabilities and a family-friendly cabin personifies the rugged reputation this brand has always embodied. And with the range-topping Trailhawk, all the vital Jeep attributes are there by the spadeful.

Deep-set, split-lens LED headlights sit either side of the still traditional black sports grille, with small spots and side-marker lights. Ample side protection runs the length of the sides, the underneath protected by skid plates. 17” alloys with 215/60 rubber add to the adventurous looks, while a full-depth tailgate allows easy access to the Renegade’s cargo space, all enhanced by the independent suspension and 210 mm ground clearance. In other words, the Trailhawk looks like it’s off-road when it’s on-road, one of the model’s appealing factors.

Forestry Journal:

Move inside the cabin and the Jeep’s appealing style and practicality continue. Trimmed in thick leather, the high-backed seats provide decent, comfortable support over extended distances. There’s ample room for five occupants, with good head, shoulder and leg room. Besides the concise instrumentation and thick-rimmed sports-style steering wheel, the Wrangler-style dash is dominated by the rather obviously Fiat-sourced 8.4” colour touchscreen with the auxiliary controls located beneath. Large enough to operate easily, you do however have to take your eyes off the road to ensure you’re deploying the one you require.

Forestry Journal: A 2-litre Fiat diesel delivers decent power and economy.A 2-litre Fiat diesel delivers decent power and economy.

Housing the noticeably comprehensive satnav, Apple Car Play, Google Connectivity as might be anticipated, the entire infotainment system incorporates Fiat’s easy-to-use Uconnect, the app-laden screen guaranteed to keep the most tech-orientated buyer fully satisfied and occupied. Stowage is passable, though the door bins are miserly. A single bottle of water is about as much as one holds. Cup holders, small cubbies and glovebox provide for decent enough stowage, while major and minor grab handles allow passengers to cling on when the going gets interesting. Cargo-wise, with the seats up you can pack 523 litres of cargo expanding to a decent 1,438 litres with the rear 60:40 split seats folded, while the twin-floor boot adds extra space and out-of-sight security.

Forestry Journal: The Trailhawk runs on distinct 17” alloys and 215/60 rubber.The Trailhawk runs on distinct 17” alloys and 215/60 rubber.

With 2WD and 4WD options available, motive power comes from a selection of petrol and diesel engines ranging from a 120 bhp 1,000 cc to the 2-litre 170 bhp diesel on test. Mated to a smooth 9-speed automatic transmission with on-demand sequential, the Trailhawk also provides the driver with high and low transfer hill descent along with reprogrammable settings of mud, snow, rocks and sand, all quickly deployed by simple push button or rotary control.

Consumption-wise, a complete cross section of motoring easily returns a more-than-acceptable 43 mpg average, near enough to the factory-suggested fuel return figures. And while Jeep – or should I say Fiat – doesn’t quote an actual fuel tank capacity, you should see around 500 miles per refill, all of which adds up to reasonable running costs for a 4x4 of this capability.

Forestry Journal: The interior combines style with practicality.The interior combines style with practicality.

The Renegade offers a smooth ride both on- and off-road or until the terrain becomes demanding. Visibility is good, lock-to-lock is just over two and a half turns of the well-weighted power-assisted steering wheel, though the occasional propensity to tramline on well-worn road surfaces can, at times, catch the driver off-guard. Apart from this sporadic trait, this smallest of Jeeps has no noticeable vices or negative handling issues, while the 350 Nm of torque means the largest of the diesel engines has more than ample low down power, especially useful when venturing off-road. And while the lesser Renegades are more ‘looks over ability’, the Trailhawk is a genuine off-road 4x4, more than living up to the Jeep name and reputation.

Forestry Journal: Instrumentation is clear and concise, but certain controls aren’t particularly convenient to find.Instrumentation is clear and concise, but certain controls aren’t particularly convenient to find.

Prices start at around £22,405 for the 1-litre 2WD with the popular Longitude model weighing in at around £24,805, dependent on specification. But at £31,400 for the basic Trailhawk or £33,850 for the one seen here with a few toys added, the top-of-the-range Renegade is sensibly priced, especially when you evaluate exactly what you’re getting. As lifestyle as the rest of them, if the opinion of your friends and neighbours actually counts for anything, this diminutive Jeep really ‘can do’ and if you’re going to drive a Jeep, that really does matter.