Do new engines and style mods lift the Renegade up the small SUV rankings?
Jeep seems to be putting a bit of effort in these days. They’ve got some electric cars and a new A-class SUV in the pipeline.
That new product can’t come soon enough for the firm’s British arm, though. Its 2017 UK results were poor, showing a massive 55% market share drop through 2016. Only 6380 cars were sold in that year, down from 14,090 – and the relatively small and affordable Renegade SUV was responsible for around 7 in every 10 of those sales.
Read more: Review: Volkswagen T-Roc
To keep the ship afloat until the new vehicles come on stream, Jeep has given the Renegade a big refresh. Externally, the changes include LED headlights and tail-lights, new 19in wheels and ‘urban and lifestyle appeal’-boosting bumpers, whatever that means.
The biggest differences are in the engine department, with the drafting-in of two new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles-developed turbocharged petrol engines designed to enhance both efficiency and driving pleasure. The old (and pretty puny) 108bhp naturally aspirated 1.6 engine is replaced by a 118bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol three-cylinder unit, while the old 138bhp 1.4 makes way for a new 1.3 petrol in 148bhp or 169bhp formats.
With a promise of 46mpg plus a wodge of lower-revs acceleration, the new 1.0 engine looks good on paper. No prices are available yet, but it should be attractively accessible.
Jeep Renegade Limited 1.0 T3 120
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol
Torque: 140lb ft
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Kerb weight: tbc
Top speed: 115mph
Fuel economy: 46.3mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
Rivals: Seat Arona, Volkswagen T-Roc, Mini Countryman
Unfortunately, the power isn’t. The torque kick you’re expecting the turbo to deliver at 1750rpm never materialises, and there’s no real reward in booting the engine up into the higher rev range either.
Thankfully, there’s much more grunt available in the 148bhp 1.3-litre version, which provides class-acceptable performance and much greater flexibility at lower rpm. The Renegade will never win any prizes for its aerodynamics: a garden shed might cut through the air just as well. Even so, a 1.3 Renegade will gallop nicely enough up to 80mph and beyond. The price you pay is a wall of wind noise from the big door mirrors and the stubby front-end styling.
Having bigged up the new 1.3’s power and torque, we do have to knock points off for its less than seamless and basically dozy dual-clutch six-speed automatic gearbox. It’s too hesitant with its gear selections in town and less than well matched to the engine when cruising, or rather not cruising, as the engine hangs onto its boost too long, presenting unrequested acceleration and a real challenge in trying to drive smoothly. We’re hoping that the 178bhp 1.3 range-topper with a better suited nine-speed automatic gearbox (not available at this launch, but due later in 2018) will provide a better solution.
Other than the new 19in alloys, no chassis or suspension changes have been made to the Fiat 500X foundation on which the Renegade is built. That’s a shame, because it means the Jeep is burdened by that platform’s notchy-feeling, too-light steering. The ride on typical town roads on those 19in wheels is nervy and jostling too, and a good deal less impressive in terms of compliance and accuracy than cars the Seat Arona or Mini Countryman.
Despite Jeep’s claims about ‘increased functionality and greater comfort’ we struggled to notice any real changes between the old and new Renegade cabins. Again, the Mini Countryman a few steps above it in materials quality, as is the Nissan Qashqai. Too many hard plastics are on view in the Jeep.
On a more positive note, there are no complaints about the quality, logicality and sharpness of the Renegade’s optional 8.4-inch-screened Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system. Its useful shortcut buttons are complemented by the provision of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing the use of smartphone apps like Google Maps and Waze.
We like this aspect of the refreshed Renegade, and its cheeky styling. The entry-level 1.0 engine should give reasonable fuel economy too. But, unless it comes out with a surprisingly small price tag, this small Jeep won’t be on our shortlist of small SUVs. If you want a better drive and a wider choice of petrol engines, pick a Seat Arona. If classiness and refinement are your targets, try a Volkswagen T-Roc.