2017 Jeep Rene­gade Sport 4X4 Jesse Bishop

Motor Trend (USA) - - Long-term Test | Verdict -

AVG FUEL ECON 21.9 MPG

A breeze whis­pers through the as­pens, the rustling of the golden leaves telling furtive tales of changes soon to come. Not far ahead, a faint rip­ple of a stream chuck­les at an old joke. I ease into the throt­tle, and the crunch of rocks un­der­tire breaks the quiet. We’ve lin­gered long enough; a trail­head awaits, just a few thou­sand feet higher. This is what the Jeep Rene­gade is made for.

The sub­com­pact Rene­gade is Jeep’s en­try-level of­fer­ing, start­ing at about $20,000, and the base Sport trim is about as bare-bones as mod­ern ve­hi­cles get; even adding air con­di­tion­ing is a $1,495 up­grade, and you can for­get about things like power seats or driver-as­sist tech­nol­ogy, both of which re­quire a step up to the Lat­i­tude trim.

As a re­sult, it doesn’t of­fer much in terms of note­wor­thy fea­tures, but in a sense, that’s re­fresh­ing.

Ser­vice life / 12 mo/10,431 mi

Base price / $20,990 Op­tions / Power & Air Group ($1,495: Air con­di­tion­ing, heated power mir­rors, cruise con­trol); 2.4L Mul­ti­air ($1,330: 2.4-liter I-4 en­gine, 3.73:1 dif­fer­en­tial ra­tio, en­gine oil cooler); My Sky ($1,095: Re­mov­able roof pan­els); Satel­lite and backup cam­era ($845: GPS an­tenna, Ucon­nect 5.0, 5.0-inch touch­screen dis­play, in­te­grated voice con­trol w/ Blue­tooth, Charge-only USB port, one-year sub to Sir­iusxm, six speak­ers, rearview cam­era); Sport Ap­pear­ance Group ($625: 16-inch alu­minum wheels w/ 215/65R16 LBL all-sea­son tires, side roof rails in black, dark­tint sun­screen glass); pas­sive en­try ($205: Key­less en­try/ig­ni­tion, re­mote-start sys­tem)

Price as tested / $26,585

Avg econ/co2 / 21.9 mpg/0.89 lb/mi

Prob­lem ar­eas / None

Main­te­nance cost / $67.35 (oil change, tire ro­ta­tion, in­spec­tion)

Nor­mal-wear cost / $0

3-year resid­ual value* / $18,100 (67.7%)

Re­calls / None Given the Rene­gade’s small size and no-frills na­ture, it’s easy to en­vi­sion a tar­get mar­ket of mil­len­ni­als and oth­ers look­ing to up­grade on a car they’ve driven for nearly a decade, con­sumers for whom any new car is nicer than what they al­ready drive. (This is the de­mo­graphic where I hap­pen to re­side.) Rather than toss­ing in half-baked bud­get ver­sions of mod­ern tech to en­tice con­sumers, the Sport ap­peals to those swayed by sim­plic­ity—the one sig­nif­i­cant op­tion on our tester, the My Sky roof, re­quired a ded­i­cated wrench and man­ual la­bor to re­move. Rare were the days when I wished my Rene­gade weren’t as ba­sic as it was. (That said, many con­sumers will prob­a­bly find they’ll be hap­pier with a higher trim and a few more good­ies; I wish the Sport at least of­fered heated seats.)

Power is pro­vided by a 180-hp 2.4-liter I-4, stan­dard on the Limited and Trail­hawk trims but a $1,330 op­tion here, and it comes paired with a nine­speed au­to­matic. In pre­vi­ous test­ing, our ed­i­tors fre­quently crit­i­cized the trans­mis­sion, find­ing it clunky and eas­ily con­fused about the prefer­able gear. How­ever, short of one failed at­tempt at a late free­way pass and oc­ca­sion­ally frus­trat­ing on-ramp ac­cel­er­a­tion, the trans­mis­sion never gave me any is­sues. If you know your car, know your­self, and pay at­ten­tion to your sur­round­ings, the Rene­gade’s

pow­er­train should be ad­e­quate in all but the most ex­treme cir­cum­stances. “Ad­e­quate” doesn’t quite de­scribe our av­er­age fuel econ­omy, though; over the course of the loan, we saw 21.9 mpg, which is barely bet­ter than the much big­ger and much older Ford Ex­plorer I had been driv­ing be­fore. I would ex­pect a bit bet­ter for such a small ve­hi­cle, and in­deed, many of the Rene­gade’s sub­com­pact peers, such as our long-term 2016 Mazda CX-3 (28.1 av­er­age mpg) and 2016 Honda HR-V (27.8), will beat it hand­ily at the pump.

That mpg av­er­age would’ve been even lower with­out a 2,000-mile road trip to south­west Col­orado, where I made a few pass­ing at­tempts at “Jeep things.” We’re not talk­ing Easter Jeep Sa­fari here, but the Rene­gade did com­fort­ably tackle trails that I wouldn’t have even con­sid­ered in my old Ex­plorer (and would’ve given pause to a 2008 CR-V, my other per­sonal daily driver). Most mod­ern SUVS with off-road pre­ten­sions would likely han­dle sim­i­lar trails with sim­i­lar aplomb, but for those in the mar­ket for their first new car—or first in a while— the Rene­gade could be an up­grade in this re­gard, open­ing up new op­tions for ad­ven­tur­ers who pre­vi­ously stayed on glamp­ing paths.

There’s a limit to how much we can say about the Rene­gade’s long-term dura­bil­ity. Our goal is 20,000 miles on the odome­ter af­ter a year. I only got about halfway there. My one long trip ended with an en­gage­ment, and I spent the rest of the year sav­ing for the wed­ding, not splurg­ing on week­end get­aways, so I ac­cu­mu­lated the ma­jor­ity of our miles on my short daily com­mute. As such, I can’t say whether a door han­dle would’ve fallen off at 23,000 miles, as hap­pened to our last long-term Jeep. I also can’t eas­ily com­pare main­te­nance costs to other ve­hi­cles we’ve had in our fleet. I spent $67.35 out of pocket for the sin­gle re­quired ser­vice stop. Had we made it to our 20,000-mile goal, the Rene­gade’s sec­ond ser­vice would have re­quired a new cabin air fil­ter, putting main­te­nance costs in the same ball­park as our HR-V ($149.29 for two ser­vice stops over 20,348 miles). Our CX-3 racked up $534.34 in rou­tine main­te­nance, but that was over 35,386 miles and four ser­vice stops.

It’s tempt­ing to harp on this en­try-level Jeep for what it’s not. It’s not all the mod­ern tech in a bud­get pack­age. It’s not a roomy peo­ple hauler, and it’s not a sporty util­ity ve­hi­cle you can race down wind­ing back roads. Some have even said it’s not a “real” Jeep. It’s more in­struc­tive, how­ever, to fo­cus on what the Rene­gade ac­tu­ally is. My 2017 Rene­gade Sport 4x4 was re­fresh­ingly sim­ple, with am­ple room for a young fam­ily or a small group of friends. You won’t be carv­ing canyons in it, but you can prob­a­bly ex­plore them. If you’re look­ing for a ve­hi­cle where the drive is the story, the Rene­gade might not be for you. But if you’re seek­ing an af­ford­able pro­logue for a tale you in­tend to write your­self, you could do much worse. n

Aside from oc­ca­sional Blue­tooth frus­tra­tions (it can be painfully slow to con­nect), the Jeep Rene­gade’s cabin was sim­ple, straight­for­ward, and trou­ble-free.

The Rene­gade’s re­mov­able roof al­lowed for some open-air moun­tain ex­pe­ri­ences.

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