IT’S based on a Fiat 500L yet it wears a Jeep badge? It needs to be on-road friendly yet off-road capable. That’s bound to be an interesting combination. To find out just how interesting, I spent some time with the quirky new Jeep Renegade.
Let me explain where this little fun-box fits into the segment, in case you’re confused. You see, the Jeep Renegade expands the brand's vehicle line-up, entering the growing small sport-utility vehicle (SUV) segment, while staying true to the adventurous lifestyle and 4x4 capability that Jeep is known for. The new Jeep Renegade is also the first vehicle of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group to be jointly developed by Italian and American designers as well as engineers and the first model in the brand's history to be built in Italy.
It seems to be a model packed with a strong stylistic personality - agile and spacious. It’s perfect for errands across town and with its off-road capabilities it is ready to explore the great African bush. This is not a Wrangler though, so don’t go bashing into rocks! The car that I tested was not the 4x4 version yet it did havesufficient ground clearance for most gravel roads.
In my opinion, the interior is definitely more Italian than American. It features a rugged and energetic appearance that builds upon the brand's heritage yet it’s new and quirky. According to Jeep, when the designers began the interior design process, they started with a fresh canvas and a simple design brief, which was to create a small SUV that they themselves would aspire to own. This objective is apparent in the Renegade's dynamic lines, hand-sculpted forms and emotional character. I found the interior a very pleasant and interesting place to be. There are a number of ‘Easter eggs’ as they are known hidden all over the car. These are basically design elements of the grille that can be found throughout the cabin. It’s a nice touch that will keep the kids entertained. It’s also quite roomy inside and the car that I drove was fitted with a large sunroof, which gives the interior a great atmosphere when open.
The infotainment system is easy to use and will accommodate just about any USB and Bluetooth device. All information is displayed on a seven-inch screen, which is easy to navigate and displays information clearly.
As for the engine, well, Jeep is only offering one model for now, 103kW and 230Nm 1.4-litre MultiAir II Turbo petrol engine. The car that I drove was fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox and it delivers smooth changes. It’s easy to use in traffic and the clutch feels good. Now on the launch, my editor, Sean Nurse, achieved a fuel consumption figure of 6.8 litres/100km. I on the other hand, achieved a 9.4 litres/100km average throughout my time with the car.
The Jeep’s major competitors are mostly from Japan and Korea with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai. I want to make a war joke but I won’t. I spent some time driving on dirt and on the highway. I sat in traffic and went to the mall with the Renegade. It is definitely set up for the job at hand but at a starting price of R375 990 it’s not cheap. Another problem with it was that every time I saw a guy in a big, proper Jeep Wrangler, I wondered to myself… what is he thinking, looking at me in my little Italian/American fun-box?