Jeep Rene­gade

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


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

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