Tom Crosby: 2015 Jeep Renegade jumps into small SUV market
Jeep is entering 100 global markets this year with its all-new 2015 small Renegade SUV, already a United States award winner for interior design and off-road capability. With four models outfitted with two- or four-wheel drive, the Italian-built Renegade was designed to appeal to young drivers craving off-road adventure and comfortable urban commuting. Choices are Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk with base prices ranging from $17,995 to $25,995, making Renegades one of the most economical small SUVs with decent mileage.
We test-drove an all-wheel drive Renegade Latitude with the 2.4-liter engine upgrade from the 1.4-liter engine, generating 29 extra horsepower. Options added were all-season touring tires on 17-inch wheels, a 9-speed automatic transmission with manual choice and a pair of removal My Sky moonroof panels that Jeep says add “open-air freedom” reminiscent of the original Willys MB Jeep first produced in 1941.
Outside, the Renegade’s impressive look includes black cladding surrounding the vehicle for off-roading protection; a mono-chromatic body with the only chrome from name badging and the seven slat Jeep grille with wheels splayed directly under fenders. It is an aggressive, muscular, confident look topped off by black roof rails. A fully independent suspension with active damping produced smooth highway rides with ample power, although top acceleration requests yielded some engine lag.
Tire and wind noise — typical for a Jeep — limited soft-spoken conversation. Fuel efficiency was excellent, averaging 24.5 miles in mixed highway/city driving — a plus for financially struggling first-time SUV owners. A brief off-road foray showed why Kelly Blue Book named the Renegade one of the best all-wheel drive vehicles for 2015. Transmission choices are auto, snow, sand or mud (the Trailhawk adds a rock choice). Automatic gearing down to the 4X4 drive low option created a 20:1 crawl ratio for excellent footing and control. Inside, ample space exists for taller rear seat passengers, even with the My Sky panels, and two-tone cloth seats are comfortable for all occupants.
The interior layout won one the year’s 10 best interior awards from Ward’s Automotive for the Renegade Limited with its rounded corners and Jeep’s Tek-Tonic design. The five-inch touchscreen display provides SiriusXM radio and uses GM’s UConnect for Bluetooth and media connections with MP3 or USB. A passenger grab handle is above the glove compartment, all doors have drink holders and cargo space expands with a fold-forward front passenger seat and height-adjustable cargo floor panel. Tire sealant replaces a spare tire.
LIKES: Looks, versatility, interior space, handling, price
DISLIKES: Noisy, some engine lag
BOTTOM LINE: A solid contender in the small SUV market
2015 JEEP RENEGADE LATITUDE 4X4
Base price w/destination charge $24,290 ($26,860 as tested)
Vehicle weight 3,348 lbs.
Wheelbase 101.2 inches
Length 166.6 inches
Width 79.6 inches (with mirrors unfolded)
Engine 2.4-liter, in-line 4, multi-port injection
Horsepower 189-hp at 6,400 rpm
Torque 175-ft-lbs. at 3,900 rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic
EPA Rating 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway
Range 12.7-gallons, regular
Performance 0-60 in just under 8 seconds
Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.