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.