One out of the box


The en­try-level Rene­gade — the $26,000 Sport — uses an 81kW/152Nm 1.6-litre atmo/ five-speed man­ual pow­er­train combo, but for the auto the $31,000 Sport up­grades to the Mul­tiAir DDCT en­gine.

Stan­dard fea­tures in­clude seven airbags, re­vers­ing cam­era, sta­bil­ity con­trol with rollover mit­i­ga­tion tech, Jeep’s Ucon­nect 5.0-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen, Blue­tooth tele­phony and au­dio stream­ing, air­con­di­tion­ing, and cruise con­trol.

The Lon­gi­tude adds cli­mate con­trol air­con­di­tion­ing, bet­ter au­dio sound, a leather-clad steer­ing wheel, rear park­ing sen­sors, au­to­matic head­lights and wipers, a two-way pow­ered driver’s seat and 17in al­loys. Where it stands out is in­side. It’s chunky, hard-wear­ing and very Jeep which has “tough­ened up” the ur­ban com­pact-SUV cabin.

It’s re­fresh­ing with ob­vi­ous 4x4 mo­tifs around the in­te­rior, in­clud­ing an army-era ‘Since 1941’ script be­low the air­vents, mil­i­tary Jeep on the corner of the wind­screen, front pas­sen­ger dash­board grab han­dle, a seven-bar grille em­blem on the door speak­ers and lower con­sole and mud­like graph­ics on the tachome­ter.

The ba­sics are good with easy en­try and exit, a com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion with a reach/height ad­justable steer­ing col­umn, ex­cel­lent in­stru­men­ta­tion (in­clud­ing a large dig­i­tal aux­il­iary speedo), sup­port­ive front seats, plenty of space for taller peo­ple, suf­fi­cient stor­age space up­front and ad­e­quate ven­ti­la­tion. The rear has an abun­dance of space, es­pe­cially head­room and fur­ther back the cargo area’s floor, while quite high up, is flat and ac­ces­si­ble.

DRIV­ING On pa­per the 1.4-litre FIRE four-pot turbo-petrol looks to be an en­tic­ing propo­si­tion, par­tic­u­larly as it’s mated to a six-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion. Fiat knows how to make rorty pow­er­trains.

While weigh­ing less than 1400kg, the en­gine seemed to strug­gle with the weight or it could be the laggy and de­layed re­sponse from the DDCT gear­box.

There is a bit of a wait be­fore the Lon­gi­tude moves off the line, then the power comes on strongly.

It takes pre­ci­sion to drive it smoothly around town.

Out on the high­way the en­gine is bet­ter but over­tak­ing must be judged care­fully as it takes a while to re­spond.

The steer­ing in the Rene­gade is well-weighted but there is a large turn­ing cir­cle.

It’s not a sports car on our range roads but rides nicely on the open road. It can be a bit firm and jig­gly around town. Fuel econ­omy is not bad. I used 7.7 litres per 100km over 300km. Jeep claims 5.9. In Europe the Rene­gade has scored a five-star euro NCAP rat­ing, but it is yet to be tested in Aus­tralia.

DE­CID­ING The Rene­gade has more char­ac­ter than most of its ri­vals and backs that up with a solid feel on the road. Price is now far more rea­son­able. Noth­ing looks like it. If you just want a small SUV with rugged looks in­side and out, a rea­son­able drive train, com­fort and dy­nam­ics, the Rene­gade ticks the box.

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