You’ve got to admire Jeep for putting out a car that it knows, which it has to know, will cause controversy and debate. While most car makers are trying to smooth out the styling of their compact crossovers, Jeep is swinging for stylistic left field like Lou Gehrig in a bad mood (did Lou Gehrig ever have bad moods?). So while some will hate the looks of this new Renegade (I’ve heard more than one person liken it to a supporting cast member from Finding Nemo) we actually kinda like it – it’s chunky, squared off and simply couldn’t be anything other than a Jeep. Better that than some melted-down-soap-bar of a shape, anyway…
Inside, things are much more conventional. Quality is pretty decent, and in fact it feels a touch classier inside than the Fiat 500L with which the Renegade shares much of its structure and mechanical package. The seats are generous, as is the cabin space, and the trunk is square, flat and can swallow a useful 18-odd-cubic-feet. Less successful is some of the finer detailing. The ‘Since 1941’ log stamped into the passenger grab handle just looks gauche while the muddy-splatter effect of the rev-counter’s redline is just silly – c’mon Jeep, we’re all grown-ups here.
The engine you’ll want is the 170hp 1.4-litre Turbo, which has the sort of vim and vigor that you’d expect from a four-pot designed by excitable Italians. Chrysler-Jeep being purchased by Fiat has led to many benefits for the damned Yankee side of the equation, and access to Fiat’s engine-making expertise is probably the best bit. Ignore the wheezy 2.4-litre option and bemoan the fact that we’re not getting the European 1.6- or 2.0-litre diesels. Of all the Renegade versions, the Trailhawk is the one to go for. It’s a proper Jeep, trail-rated out in Moab, Utah and capable of tackling dry sand, lumpy rocks and sticky mud with ease. You may never need its abilities, but it’s nice to know they’re there.
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