2019 Jeep Renegade Review
Paul Horrell’s refreshed 2019 Jeep Renegade Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Infotainment, Practicality, Verdict and Score.
IN A NUTSHELL Jeep’s chunky-looking little crossover comes as either a capable off-roader or an urban pretender. Here we test the latter
2019 Jeep Renegade 1.3 (European spec)
Price N/A Warranty 5 years/100,000 km Engine 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 110kW at 5500rpm Torque 170Nm at 1850rpm Transmission 6-speed DCT auto Drive front-wheel drive Body 4236mm (l); 1805mm (w exc mirrors); 1667mm (h) Turning circle 11.1m Towing weight 1450kg (braked), 600kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1320kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 48 litres Spare NA Thirst 7.1-7.4 l/100km combined cycle WLTP
Baby crossovers are all the rage, but the Renegade is one of the very few that can actually claim to be an off-roader. It’s available in fairly serious and capable 4×4 version with bash plates and longer-travel suspension than the normal ones. And you can read our off-road review of the current Renegade here.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. This is the one with a new 1.33-litre petrol engine, front-wheel drive and a dual-clutch auto box. This new Renegade will arrive Down Under towards the end of this year but, beyond that, Jeep locally is keeping quiet on the local Renegade line-up, although with the sales of compact SUVs firmly leaning towards front-drive variants, it’s very likely we’ll see this particular model offered locally.
What is the Jeep Renegade? This very slight facelift is supposed to echo the new Wrangler, with a bigger seven-slot grille than before, and Wrangler-style LED and tail lamps on the mid-to-top specs.
Otherwise the basic 2015 design continues unaltered. Jeep slathered the Renegade in the design cues and symbolism of its American off-road freedom iconography. See the boxy silhouette, trapezoid wheel-arches. The tail-lights’ embedded cross-shape evokes an external jerry-can, as you’ll doubtless have spotted (not).
Also for the facelift model, you’re protected by new safety systems for crash avoidance. Inside, a new infotainment system brings things up to date.
Oddly, much of what’s under the Jeep – the hidden bodywork, engine, electronics, seat structures, electronics – is shared with the cuddly Fiat 500X, and they’re built down the same line in a factory in Italy.
This year’s small engine is brand-new. It uses a third generation of FCA’s MultiAir tech, which varies the valve lift and opening profile, and direct fuel injection. All 16 valves run off a single camshaft now. A cast-aluminium block helps make it an impressively lightweight motor.
We drove this engine in 110kW trim with a six-speed DCT transmission and front-drive. There’s also a 132kW version of same, married to a nine-speed torque-converter auto and all-wheel-drive. The AWD versions take a significant proportion of Renegade sales, which is unusual for a baby ute, and testament to the kind of people Jeep attracts.
In Europe you can even get this engine in a three-cylinder version of 1.0-litres and a manual box. That one doesn’t sound very Uncle Sam, does it now.
What’s the interior like? The front seats support you well in a driving position that’s ache-free, if upright. From the driver’s seat the boxy body panels give a reassuring sense of the vehicle’s outline, and that’s useful when threading down cramped city streets as well as between outback trees.
For the rear seat, the tall roof-line gives good headroom, and there’s also lots of foot space under the front seats. Even so, the VW T-Cross and Citroen C3 Aircross have the legs of it. You get a USB socket out back but no adjustable vents. The centre armrest has cupholders embedded in it, but when you drop it a hole opens up to the boot, allowing small stuff to fall forward.
Up front there are storage nets, a phone shelf, more trays, and a deepish console bin under the front armrest. Having an electric park brake helps free up space.
The boot is square-sided and bigger than a supermini’s but laughed at by say a Hyundai i30. There’s some underfloor space but only if Jeep in Oz decides not to supply a spare wheel.
You can easily reach and find the controls. Switchgear is chunkily styled, presumably to boost a Jeep-appropriate sense of workmanlike ruggedness, and the effect is to make everything easy to use. Simple and well-made climate knobs and buttons help.
The only hidden buttons are a couple of stereo controls – volume and track/tune – on the back of the steering wheel spokes, and once you know they’re there, your fingers intuitively locate them.
The instruments, a mix of actual and TFT virtual, are clear too. You get loads of handy choices of what information to emphasise – stereo, trip computer, navigation arrows. Nothing very innovative, but it’s neatly done.
As with the exterior styling, indoors you get all manner of little signs and symbols to remind you it’s a Jeep you’re in. Look at the speaker surrounds, with their embossed grille/headlamps motif, or a little silhouette of a Willys stencilled into the bottom-right corner of the windscreen.
What’s the infotainment system like? Two screen sizes are available, 7-inch and 8.4. Both of them get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, so that’s the basics of live travel covered right there.
The test car ran a crisp 8.4-inch centre touch display, with logical menus and handy shortcuts. Like a phone you can drag and drop the icons so your most-used functions are front and centre.
Its built-in navigation displays are based on TomTom with live traffic. Using that instead of phone mirroring lets you get turn-by-turn instructions in the instrument console, so you can use the centre screen for entertainment display. And of course you don’t need a phone signal to plan a route. Even so it’s a not a huge reason to upgrade over the non-nav system.
Download a Jeep UConnect app to your phone and that brings in Deezer, Facebook and Twitter to the screen (outside the phone-mirror system). It’ll also let you remotely check consumption and service info. An optional Beats Audio stereo is powerful but the sound’s an acquired taste, with strange emphasis of certain frequencies.
What’s the performance like? The 110kW engine doesn’t quite have the fizzy Italian sound of the 1.4L in the pre-facelift model. But it has a decent spread of torque and revs smoothly. Fuel consumption is better too.
By manually calling the shifts and holding onto a high gear, you can spot turbo lag below 3000rpm. But in auto mode the transmission gets you round the issue, being well-calibrated to make the most of what the engine offers, and shifting with slick dexterity too. Flat-out acceleration is 9.4 seconds 0-100km/h, but as speeds ride you realise this car wasn’t shaped with drag in mind. The rate of progress tails off as it battles through the air.
What’s it like on the road? In general, small crossovers don’t have the sweetest dynamics. And the best of the class have moved on since the Renegade was first launched.
It suffers from being chucked off course by bumps. It’s not unsafe, but you do find yourself making a lot of little steering corrections when going straight down a lumpy road. Or you can just hold the wheel still and let the thing use up a little more road space.
On smooth roads things are better. Accurate steering and a fairly swift rate of turn, plus decent roll control, mean it’s not badly equipped for a series of bends. It turns notably more keenly than the diesel versions because the engine’s so light.
While the ride is agitated on a small scale, the decent suspension travel means that for the passengers it actually copes fairly well with big bumps and potholes. The body feels good and strong too – few clangs or resonances. But a background of tyre noise is always there at main-road speeds.
What safety features does it get? The airbag count is six. A five-star score for the original Renegade from ANCAP is reassuring, but remember the test has been made more stringent since 2016. Still, there’s also extra crash-avoidance and safety-assist equipment on the new model.
Traffic sign recognition keeps an eye on posted limits and warns the driver. If you want, it’ll set the intelligent cruise to match those limits, this is something we’ve tested in the new Ford Focus and something Europe is pushing to make mandatory across all new cars.
Forward collision warning and AEB has been upgraded for the facelift, using radar and camera. Blind-spot warning and rear cross path is on the list too. Our experience is that the lane keeping assist works pretty well in nudging the Renegade back into a path between the lines.