First impressions matter but what really counts is the lasting impression. So how did this characterful Jeep finally fare?
Goodbye to our retro-hued SUV
WHY WE RAN IT
To assess whether Jeep, the grandaddy of off-roaders, can take a place at the top table of compact SUVS in 2017
Akey reason for conducting long-term tests is because impressions and opinions of a car can change over time. What can seem like minor quirks on a first drive can grow into major irritations when you spend an extended period of time in a vehicle. And that’s exactly what happened with our Jeep Renegade.
When I first jumped into it, I loved its character and some of its quirky features. But as the novelty and newcar smell wore off, many of those features became tiresome. My initial impressions were that the car might be worth more than the 3.5-star rating our road testers gave it (28 October 2015), but, as time passed, I realised their criticisms were spot on.
A good starting point: our Renegade was a special 75th Anniversary edition, with design notes that harked back to the 1941 Willys MB, from which all subsequent Jeeps have developed. The retro styling stretched to our car’s vivid green paint scheme, although cheekily that was a £750 option. I loved the design and the styling, which sticks to the spirit of Jeep’s roots and stands out from the crowd of other small SUVS.
But those initially shiny 75th Anniversary add-ons served to detract from the interior over time. The fact that some air vents had a chrome finish while others were bronze seemed a mishmash.
Then there was the chunky steering wheel. At first, I liked its weight and feel, but I found it hurt my hands over long periods of time. I never got used the buttons on its back, either, and I don’t understand why they couldn’t be on the front.
Despite the unnecessary additions, the interior was pretty pleasant in the front. The seats were nice, spongy and absorbent and there was lots of space between them and the doors. Our electric seats were worth the extra £465, offering good controls and a superb range of movement.
The infotainment screen was a decent size although it was sited too low on the dash for my preference. There were other irritations, too. The Uconnect app was rubbish and the maps loaded into our Renegade (a 66-plate car) were from 2015 and you have to pay for the latest update. I stuck with trusty Google Maps.
Another frustration related to the twin USB ports. Even if I
simply wanted to charge my mobile, it automatically switched the infotainment to my phone’s music when I plugged it in. It also confused itself when dealing with phone calls. It couldn’t decide whether the USB or Bluetooth connection should take priority. And on the subject of sockets, I wasn’t impressed by the £500 Function 2 Pack. The key selling point was a 230V plug socket – but it comes with a European port, so I had to remember my plug converter for trips around the UK.
Although I did like the Renegade’s interior from the driver’s seat, it was let down by a distinct lack of storage space. For example, the grab handle on the passenger side of the dashboard proved pointless and the space it took up would have been better used as extra glovebox space.
It was also pretty tight in the back. It was a struggle to fit a grown-up in behind a taller driver and, for a small SUV competing for a family market, the boot just didn’t cut it. There was nowhere near enough width for a child’s buggy and the accompanying paraphernalia that small kids need. Plus, if you have a spare wheel (it’s £200 extra for a full-sized spare, which is great value), it occupies the flexible boot space. You’re left to choose between the space or the risk of going without the spare.
You might forgive the Renegade some of these problems if the ride and handling were great but that wasn’t the case. The 138bhp 2.0-litre engine was noisy, too, and the modest fuel economy meant frequent stops to fill up. It felt like it lacked power, which, I reckon, was due to the nine-speed gearbox. That ’box also occasionally remained in seventh gear, rather than shifting up to eighth or ninth, at 60mph, which didn’t help the fuel economy. Cabin noise was a big issue, too: at 70mph, it was probably one of the loudest cars I’ve been in.
I tried a bit of soft-roading. With ‘Auto’ driving mode engaged on the Selec-terrain traction management system, it coped relatively well with rough surfaces, although beyond parking in a muddy field or driving to the beach, I would not want to push my luck on really harsh terrain.
I really wanted to like the Renegade, with its individuality and quirkiness. And in a more basic form at a cheaper price (entry-level Sport models start at £18,250), I’d forgive some of its foibles and faults and embrace that individuality. But at £30,460, our Renegade was pitched against rivals that it simply can’t match, limited edition or not.
I loved the design and styling, which sticks to the spirit of Jeep’s roots
Cabin is easy to like from the driver’s seat; less so from the back
Roof rails and rope sent an old mattress to the big bed in the sky
Boot can struggle in daily family use, never mind tasks like this