For ur­ban jun­gles

There are cues to the orig­i­nal Jeep but a 2WD Rene­gade is mostly city friendly — and it’s an ex­change rate ca­su­alty

Herald Sun - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE ED­I­TOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

DON’T be fooled by the looks. Jeep’s mini-SUV isn’t the rougharound-the-edges, goany­where off-roader it ap­pears.

Yes, there is a Trail­hawk edi­tion that will take you off the beaten track but the ma­jor­ity of Rene­gades will be 2WD city-friendly mod­els more suited to the mall than the Ru­bi­con Trail.

That’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. The new-breed Jeeps, a lot more civilised than their pre­de­ces­sors, will ap­peal to the large chunk of buy­ers who spend most their time in the city.

There’s a slight prob­lem, though. The fall­ing Aus­tralian dol­lar has meant this lit­tle Jeep comes with a big price tag. En­try to the mini-SUV class starts with the Mazda CX-3 at $21,990 but the mid-spec Rene­gade Lon­gi­tude in the Cars­guide garage costs $34,500.

DE­SIGN

The Rene­gade may be a de­par­ture from Jeep DNA in its engi­neer­ing but the de­sign plays heav­ily on the com­pany’s her­itage. The cabin is full of re­minders of what you’re driv­ing, from the lo­gos on the seats to the Jeep grille mo­tif stamped on the cen­tre con­sole and the X in the tail-lights re­call­ing the stamps on the jerry cans car­ried on the orig­i­nal wartime Willys ex­am­ples.

The Rene­gade cabin is a mix of func­tional de­tails, funky colours and mod­ern ma­te­ri­als. There’s a grab han­dle on the dash for the pas­sen­ger, while the seat cover ma­te­ri­als look durable and hard wear­ing.

Jeep says the in­te­rior is in­spired by ex­treme sports gear and there is a Swiss Army knife feel about it.

That ex­tends to the twin sun­roofs that can be de­tached and stowed in the rear load area to give an open air feel.

There are still plenty of hard plas­tic sur­faces. Not ev­ery­one is go­ing to like the splashes of bright colour on the dash, doors and cen­tre con­sole but the look is a refreshing change in an in­creas­ingly vanilla au­to­mo­tive land­scape.

It also feels roomier than oth­ers in its class, al­though when you com­pare mea­sure­ments it is no longer than its ri­vals.

The feel­ing of space comes from the up­right front and rear wind­screens.

ABOUT TOWN

Stan­dard Rene­gade spec brings only a re­vers­ing cam­era for nav­i­gat­ing the ur­ban jun­gle and the Lon­gi­tude model adds blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing, park­ing sen­sors, auto head­lights and rain-sens­ing wipers.

The blind-spot mon­i­tor can be a pain. Other ver­sions sim­ply flash a sym­bol in the side mir­rors but the Rene­gade’s emits a beep. If two lanes of traf­fic are turn­ing to­gether, the alarm goes off. Fre­quently. The cen­tre screen and cam­era dis­play are on the small side but the menu is easy to nav­i­gate and the graph­ics are mod­ern and sharp. A lock­ing glove box, cargo cover and false floor are handy for stor­ing valu­ables.

The 1.4-litre turbo en­gine feels zippy off the mark but the dual-clutch trans­mis­sion is frus­trat­ingly jerky when you’re creep­ing for­ward in stop-start traf­fic.

The en­gine stop-start is also slow to kick back in when you lift your foot off the brake, so the car can roll back­wards if it’s on an in­cline. The elec­tric park brake is a deft touch, though.

ON THE ROAD

The Rene­gade uses a joint Fi­atChrysler plat­form, which means it drives less like a Jeep and more like a hatch­back. De­spite its off-roader looks, it sits as close to the ground as some sedans, which pays div­i­dends on the bi­tu­men — it leans less in cor­ners and sits flat­ter on the road.

On the open road, the lit­tle Jeep feels quite ag­ile. It is rel­a­tively un­flus­tered by patchy bi­tu­men and has sur­pris­ing grip and poise, while the sus­pen­sion shows a good bal­ance be­tween con­trol and com­fort, soak­ing up bumps with­out be­ing too softly sprung.

The steer­ing isn’t ra­zor­sharp but has enough feel for fam­ily du­ties at the speed limit. A dig­i­tal speedo helps keep you out of the clutches of speed cam­eras.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The lit­tle 1.4-litre turbo punches above its weight. Its power out­put of 103kW is mod­est but it has a good sup­ply of torque avail­able at low revs, which means it feels brisker than most of its tiny-tot SUV ri­vals.

It also feels re­fined, with­out any of the harsh­ness you

typ­i­cally get with smaller en­gines in the up­per reaches of the rev range.

At lower speeds, the du­al­clutch trans­mis­sion grum­bles but on the high­way it shifts smartly and cleanly, wring­ing the most out of the en­gine.

Jeep claims fuel consumption of 5.9L/100km — drive the Rene­gade en­thu­si­as­ti­cally around town and that fig­ure will climb into the teens pretty quickly.

VER­DICT

A good car ham­strung by an un­favourable ex­change rate, the Rene­gade has more char­ac­ter than most of its ri­vals and backs that up with a solid feel on the road. At $34,500, it is in dan­ger of pric­ing it­self out of the mar­ket.

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