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Renegade is a brave Jeep move

Created on 04/01/2016 @ 11:51
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Test Drive by Graham Breeze

The Renegade is probably Jeep’s bravest move yet as the company goes all out to tackle a crowded small SUV sector.

And size is the first thing you notice about the Renegade, because it’s much smaller than anything Jeep has made before, with bosses recognising a gap for a true four-wheel drive vehicle in the busy crossover market.

There’s an immediate similarity to Skoda’s Yeti thanks to the boxy shape but the Renegade is chunkier, is made of stronger stuff and is clearly recognisable as a Jeep with its circular headlights and famous grille.

Renegade is the first Fiat Chrysler Automobiles car to be jointly developed by Italian and American engineers and the first Jeep to be built in Europe but sold in the USA.

It is also the first small SUV to feature rear axle disconnect. It’s also unique in class thanks to the My Sky sunroof that gives occupants a true open-air driving experience.

The Renegade will stand out in any company but for those who see personalisation as a key option it is available in 11 colours with six wheel designs. There are six powertrain combinations, two MultiAir II petrol engines, a pair of MultiJet II turbo diesels and a 1.6-litre eTorque petrol.

There are also five and six-speed manual gearboxes, the Dual Dry Clutch Transmission and the nine-speed automatic gearbox. Available with two or four-wheel drive the Renegade boasts two new, advanced 4x4 systems: Jeep Active Drive and Jeep Active Drive Low.

On test was the 2.0 Multijet Longitude 140hp 6-speed manual model with a 4x4 system supplying just the right amount of torque for any driving situation and one of four models in the range.

The rear axle disconnect system seamlessly switches between two and four-wheel-drive to guarantee traction and keep running costs to a minimum. There’s also a choice of driving settings to suit individual preferences.

The test model had a surprising top speed of 113mph and got me to 62mph in 9.5seconds while averaging 55.4mpg on the combined cycle. For such a beast it was surprising that CO2 emission levels were only 134 g/km.

You expect a Jeep to sound a bit on the noisy side and the Renegade didn’t disappoint, and there’s something comforting about the roar of the engine on this model which means you are prepared to put up with the sound.

For an on-the-road price of £23,395 you can expect 17” aluminium wheels, LED lighting, roof rails, body coloured door mirrors and handles, trailer sway damping, All speed traction control, a security alarm and a stop/start system.

The test car came with a special paint job, spare tyre, parking sensors, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats and steering wheel and a function pack which included keyless entry, height adjustable cargo floor, under seat storage and electrically folding door mirrors - all pushing the price up to £26,195.

You could also add an array of advanced safety features including Forward Collision Warning Plus with Crash Mitigation which automatically prevents or reduces the impact in low-speed shunts; ParkSense Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist that automatically parks the car; LaneSenseTM Lane Departure Warning Plus; and Adaptive Cruise Control.

The Renegade leaves the rest of the class in its trail once you step inside. The high seating position means there’s great vision all-round and if I was buying one the panoramic sunroof would be a must at £1,100 extra.

The Renegade has Jeep's Uconnect system which provides an interface between vehicle occupants and communication, entertainment and 5” navigation touchscreen with voice control.

Impressively the Uconnect system enables handsfree calls from Bluetooth phones while compatible smartphones can send from a list of 18 pre-defined text messages. The system also announces the receipt of a message, identifies the sender and ‘reads' the message aloud.

Music can be streamed wirelessly while MP3 players can be connected to the premium media hub via the standard auxiliary jack or USB port and charged. The AM/FM DAB radio can be controlled by voice commands.

The Renegade also boasts a full-colour instrument cluster which sits in front of the driver, displaying information using a combination of graphics and text. The sort of impressive technology you don’t normally associate with Jeep.

It’s a brave step by Jeep to drop a vehicle into the SUV sector and the company is likely to attract a lot of buyers unable to afford to get into the big four-wheel-drive market.

Jeep sales are booming in America and Europe with Renegade popular in Italy, France and Austria as has picked up awards in the UK, Italy, France and Spain.

Renegade has the looks and the performance to be a big player in the SUV sector.

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