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First Drive: Jeep Renegade

By / 4 weeks ago / Medium, Road Tests, Small / No Comments

The junior Jeep is taking a step towards a diesel-free future, explains Alex Grant

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SECTOR Compact SUV PRICE £19,200-£30,805 FUEL 42.8-60.1mpg CO2 127-173g/km

Jeep might once have looked like an odd fit under Fiat ownership, but the Renegade is a brilliant meeting of automotive cultures. A chic, Italian re-imagining of classic American off-road styling, it’s taken at least three-quarters of Jeep’s UK volume every year since launch and given the brand its first foothold in fleet.

Mid-life upgrades align it with the new Wrangler, of which it is essentially a caricature, and follow the old three-grade trim structure, but it’s only high-spec versions that get the new LED lighting or 19-inch wheels. The focus has been on meeting changing market demands; diesel engines are on the way out for Jeep, so the 1.6 and 2.0-litre units are almost unchanged, apart from AdBlue injection to cut harmful emissions, and it’s the petrols which have had the most attention.

The Renegade debuts two all-new turbocharged petrol engines; a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 118bhp, and a 1.3-litre four-cylinder with 148bhp, both with particulate filters and significantly lower SMR costs than their predecessors. Anti-diesel taxation means, despite coming in at 138g/km for the 1.0-litre and 144g/km for the 1.3-litre, they could be cheaper for some drivers than the nearest-equivalent diesel. But pick carefully; the smaller engine works well in town but quickly runs out of breath at higher speeds, at which point even the lower-powered 1.3-litre offers much quieter, easier progress, potentially with minimal effect on real-world economy.

Despite that move towards the alternatives, prior experience suggests the 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel remains the best all-rounder for drivers covering any distance, as it’s quieter and livelier off the mark than the larger diesel, and more efficient than either of the petrols. It can also be equipped with the new dual-clutch automatic transmission. And while rivals are launching without four-wheel drive, the Renegade offers genuine off-road ability for the less than 10% of UK buyers who opt for it. This is standard fit on the 2.0-litre diesel, which produces 138bhp in top-spec Limited guise, or 168bhp in the raucous, go-anywhere, Trailhawk spec.

Off-road prowess aside, boxy Jeep styling also provides a surprisingly spacious cabin and boot, while Android Auto and Apple CarPlay now mean the sometimes-fiddly infotainment can be bypassed. Still distinctive, even in a segment where rivals include the Hyundai Kona and Nissan Juke, sometimes odd fits work even better than they first appear.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.