Jeep Renegade

Jeep Thrills

"Italian-made Renegade aims to grab large chunk of SUV segment"

"The roof is far enough overhead that even if you're extra tall, you could drive in a top hat like guitarist Slash wears"

"The Renegade does appear to have that built-in appeal to the sought after younger and active lifestyle buyers, the groovy young things that rule JBR coffee shops or downtown in Beirut" said Phil

"It brings a healthy dose of toughness to the segment" 

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know the small SUV segment is crowded, but Jeep folk reckon the Renegade has what it takes to make a major impact. From our brief sojourn to hook up with the vehicle in Italy, it appears to be a substantial and legitimate offering.

And yep, those pesky Italians are making Jeeps nowadays. As Jeep is now owned by Fiat, so the Renegade is based on the 500L (née Punto).Well, it might have the good ol' boys choking on their grits in the US, but the Jeep Renegade seems to have what it takes.

OK, it's a good vehicle, the major question is, who will buy it?

The idea is to stay true to the adventurous lifestyle and 4x4 capability Jeep is known for while recruiting new punters to the brand. There's even a big push to woo female buyers.

Mike Manley, Jeep's president and CEO, is one of the most savvy and straight-shooting auto bosses. We asked him to put his hand on his heart and say that female buyers will suddenly want to be Jeep drivers as opposed to something a bit more, er, girlie. Jeep is not really known as the Victoria's Secret of the auto scene.

Manley says they will. "The feedback in the US has really surprised in terms of demographics."

But is it still a real-deal Jeep?

"Make sure you take it off road," Manley says.

Manley acknowledges that Jeep "lost focus" a few years back but those days are long gone.

The new models are resonating with the public big-time and sales are going through the ‘My Sky' roof. The brand's goal is 1 million in global sales for 2014. The Fiat Chrysler gig is working a treat.

Manley points out Jeep is doing well in the Middle East and the Renegade will top it off.

"For us, this is one of the segments that is growing, so we think the Renegade will open a set of buyers shopping for entry levels."

The Renegade is being made in Southern Italy. It gets 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine under the hood, mated to a nine speed automatic transmission. The base Renegade Sport model comes in front wheel drive format, while the Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited models are all wheel drive platforms.

For customers who demand the most off-road capability from their Jeep vehicles, the Trailhawk beckons.

Trailhawk model delivers Trail Rated 4x4 capability. The Trailhawk has 8.7 inch ground clearance, 20:1 crawl ratio, and a rock drive mode added to the standard 4x4 drive modes: Auto, Snow (well, you never know) and Sand-Mud. Full power can go to any single wheel in the Trailhawk.

Expanding the brand's open-air freedom that originated with the legendary 1941 Willys MB Jeep, the all new 2015 Renegade offers class exclusive My Sky open-air roof systems.

The new Renegade is six inches shorter than the Patriot and thus becomes the smallest member of the Jeep family.

Climb up into the Renegade and it feels huge. The roof is far enough overhead that you could drive in a top hat like guitarist Slash wears.

Inside, the Renegade contains the latest in Jeep's Uconnect technologies and offers a peek at future Jeep interiors. The dashboard is of reasonably high quality, with soft feeling surfaces which are well matched.

Both the taillights and My Sky panels have x-shaped design features, throwbacks to Jeep's military and Willys history. The cross was a signature on the petrol cans on Willys.

The Renegade does appear to have that built-in appeal to the sought after younger and active lifestyle buyers, the groovy young things that rule JBR coffee shops or downtown in Beirut. But it also brings a healthy dose of toughness to the segment. About AED86,000 will get you into one.

We didn't exactly flog it on our pleasant day near Milan which is known for its gorgeous models of another type, but the vehicles cruised nicely enough on the highways and gravel and did the necessaries on a dedicated off-road course. There's clearly some compromise on-road due to the Renegade's off-road ability, but not enough to cause concern.

We're constantly told that customers are far more interested in on-road acumen than being able to genuinely do the business off-road. But Jeep is touting that this is the only genuine SUV in the segment. Is that enough to generate big sales? You betcha.

Pros: It's a real SUV, loads of space, plenty of tech goodies.
Cons: Adequate drive on the tarmac but there's a bit of comprise due to high off-road standards. No manual for GCC.
Rivals: Mini Countryman, Audi Q3, Mitsubishi ASX
Engine: 2.4 14 FWD/4WD 184 hp, 240 Nm (For GCC)
Transmission: 9 speed auto
0-100 kph: 8.5-9.0, Top speed: 174 kph
One word: Fine

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