Jeep Rene­gade


Nam Wheels - - Front Page - Text Hanjo Stier Im­ages Galimoto Me­dia

Re­mem­ber that nasty re­ces­sion in 2009? Car mak­ers cer­tainly do; es­pe­cially the big Amer­i­can trio of Gen­eral Mo­tors, Ford and Chrysler.

De­spite bud­get cuts and gov­ern­ment bailouts, the au­to­mo­tive mé­nage à trois could not save all their brands and saw the end of Hum­mer, Oldsmo­bile, Pon­tiac and oth­ers.

The fu­ture of Opel / Vaux­hall didn’t look too rosy at some stage and while Ford sol­diered on (prob­a­bly due to the pop­u­lar­ity of their FSeries bakkies), the freshly di­vorced Chrysler Group quickly jumped into bed with Fiat to join forces and start some en­gi­neer­ing sharies be­tween Europe and Amer­ica.

I men­tioned all of this be­cause it ex­plains the her­itage of our lat­est test car, the brand-new Jeep Rene­gade.

The Jeep brand is part of this new Fiat / Chrysler mar­riage and the Rene­gade is their new­est at­tempt at build­ing two dif­fer­ent cars us­ing the same start­ing point. A Rene­gade is ac­tu­ally a Fiat 500X; or vice versa.

Un­like early at­tempts at badge swap­sies (like the Dodge Jour­ney a.k.a. Fiat Freemont), the 500X and Rene­gade dif­fer from each other in­side and out.

Both cars are built in Italy and, hav­ing driven them al­most back-to-back, I couldn’t spot any ma­jor re­la­tion be­tween them.

Where the 500X is round and cheeky, this Rene­gade is square and bulky. In fact, I would go so far as to de­scribe the Fiat as at­trac­tively mod­ern while the Jeep looks alien and al­most dis­pro­por­tion­ate. These looks are a strong point though, carv­ing opin­ions in two neat halves of re­coil­ing hor­ror and in­quis­i­tive joy.

Our test car’s Com­mando Green paint job didn’t do it any favours ei­ther, gath­er­ing nick­names like “Three-day-old Guacamole” and “Sev­en­ties Bath­room” on top of insults for its bizarre shape and soft-roader na­ture.

“That’s not a real Jeep” was ut­tered many times, aimed at this model’s front-wheeldrive only ar­chi­tec­ture.

Jeep South Africa cur­rently sells three mod­els – Lon­gi­tude, Lim­ited and Trail­hawk – of which only the lat­ter one fea­tures a proper four­wheel-drive sys­tem with low range and crawl ra­tio. That model is only avail­able with a 2.4L four­cylin­der petrol en­gine, while the oth­ers of­fer a choice of 1.6L petrol, 1.4L turbo-petrol or 1.6L turbo-diesel.

To make things even more con­fus­ing (let’s agree on “di­verse”) you also get an all-wheeldrive 1.4T and no less than three gear­boxes; de­pend­ing on model.

Our spinach-hued “Lim­ited” 6-speed man­ual press car was pro­pelled by the feisty (Fiat Mul­ti­jet) 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylin­der with 103kw or up to 230Nm.

As can be ex­pected, the lit­tle en­gine strug­gles be­low 1,500rpm or when asked to lug a full load up­hill; other than that, it’s a mar­vel of en­gi­neer­ing which lends this Rene­gade punchy per­for­mance and de­cent ef­fi­ciency. Drive it nicely and Jeep claims you’ll get 16.6km/l – we av­er­aged a com­mend­able 14 over our week of mixed driv­ing.

Give Rene­gade the spurs and it whooshes past 100km/h in 10.9 sec­onds - our Hulk-coloured ma­chine man­aged an im­pres­sive 10.6!

The lit­tle Jeep is easy and smooth to pi­lot; most testers en­joyed the driv­ing po­si­tion as well as the cabin’s versatility and qual­ity. Safety and lux­ury items are com­pre­hen­sive but the Rene­gade of­fers even more…

In or­der to set it­self apart from the 500X (and frankly, any other com­pact SUV / Cross-over), the ve­hi­cle is pep­pered with Jeep em­blems, car­i­ca­tures, hid­den maps and a col­lec­tion of the Rene­gade’s main logo, X. Quite a few of these are hid­den so pa­tient hunters will find that this car has more exes than Tay­lor Swift.

Yet again, our Pea Soup test car caught an equal amount of flak and praise for these adorn­ments. Same for its price of N$385,000 al­though you will find cheaper and dearer ver­sions ei­ther way. Through­out our test I grew in­creas­ingly fonder of the Rene­gade, and not just be­cause I like freaky cars and freaky colours…

There’s a good car hid­ing un­der­neath that silly ve­neer, and while it’s no Wran­gler or Chero­kee, I think it’s ex­actly what Jeep needs right now.

The be­lated mat­ri­mony be­tween this crusty Amer­i­can pi­o­neer of 4x4’s and the lively Ital­ian fash­ion­ista has pro­duced a bizarre but in­ter­est­ing off­spring. Mazel tov!

JeepsH have al­ways been rough and rugged. We tested the softer, more fash­ion­able Rene­gade.

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