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First Drive: Jeep Wrangler

A true off-roader that feels more at home away from the tarmac, says Craig Thomas.

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SECTOR SUV PRICE £40,000 (TBC) FUEL 35.7-38.1mpg CO2 195-201g/km

The Wrangler – or more accurately, its ancestor, the Willys Jeep – is ground zero for the current trend for SUVs, so the launch of a new generation is a notable event.

The all-new version is still sturdy, rugged, and all-American – although that’s something of a double-edged sword. Design-wise, it’s still strong, with the emphasis on classic elements such as the seven-bar grille, flattened wheelarches and boxy styling leaving no doubt that this is built to tackle something tougher than a stretch of tarmac. It’s all very familiar, while at the same time updated and modernised.

It’s the same story with the interior, with soft-touch materials, a touchscreen infotainment system, connectivity, and apps. There’s also decent cabin space, even in the rear of the two-door version (although getting in there does require some physical flexibility), but boot space is as little as 192 litres in the two-door – comparable to a city car – though it can be extended by folding the seats.

On the road, the Wrangler is sadly nothing to write home about: unresponsive handling, a jittery ride and a lot of wind and road noise mar the driving experience. This lack of refinement is also apparent on the 2.2-litre engine that will initially power the Wrangler (a 2.0-litre petrol producing 268bhp is due in early 2019, followed, intriguingly, by a plug-in hybrid in 2020). This 198bhp unit is somewhat noisy and its fuel economy and emissions figures aren’t fleet-friendly, either: 35.7 to 38.1mpg and 195 to 201g/km.

But for all its drawbacks, the Wrangler does have a very strong strongpoint: its off-road abilities. For fleet users who need to head off the beaten track, the four-wheel drive system is a real bonus and will get its occupants wherever they need to get to, to deliver or be in a position to fix stuff – particularly with no Land Rover Defender as an alternative.

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Craig Thomas

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