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THE NEW JEEP RENEGADE 4x4 LIMITED AUTOMATIC
26 Mar 2018
Julian Lurie Edited by Liam Mothilall
When you hear the name Jeep, you immediately think of off-road-capable SUV's such as the Jeep Wrangler which is based on the original Jeep, and the Grand Cherokee, with luxury added to its all-round performance. However, in 2014, Jeep introduced their Renegade, their all-new entry level model, which is even smaller than the compact Cherokee, to compete in the growing subcompact crossover SUV class.
The new Jeep Renegade is the first Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicle to be jointly developed by Italian and American designers and engineers and is the first model in the brand's history to be built in Italy. A few years ago, I don’t think anyone would ever have believed that an All-American Jeep would be built in Italy. However, I must say that the end result comes off very well. Although the Renegade is Jeep’s first entry into the Small SUV segment, the design never-the-less incorporates certain elements, dating back to its 1941 roots, with the Jeep Willys MB, and still present today with the current Jeep Wrangler. Based on the same underlying body structure that serves as the basis for the Fiat 500X, the Renegade is indeed small – some 40 centimeters shorter than the Cherokee, but about 3 cm wider to provide more interior space, making the Renegade wide enough for a three-passenger rear seat and adding useful cargo capacity.
The model featured in these road impressions is the Renegade 4x4 Limited 9-speed Automatic. Viewed from the front, the Renegade is decidedly Jeep with its signature seven-slot grille and large circular headlights, daytime running lamps, twin bright aluminium roof rails, short overhangs and rubber-lipped wheel arches, while the bumpers on both ends are stamped to show off their strength. Below the grille a two-piece front fascia is aerodynamically tuned with a body-coloured upper and moulded-in-colour lower, a raised belt line which recalls the Wrangler icon’s half-doors and the press vehicle Renegade was fitted with 10-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone 225/55R18 tyres that nicely filled the wheel arches. And it comes with a full sized alloy spare. At the rear is the familiar Jeep shield-shape that ties in the rear windscreen and Wrangler-like rectangular taillights with an "X" pattern, which we are told is inspired from those that were stamped into World War 2 fuel cans to strengthen them. Adding to the off-road image are twin roof rails, and the more up to date items including; a rear wash and wipe system, a rear “B” sting antenna and rear parking sensors.
The interior boasts a distinctive, fresh from language which Jeep designers have titled “Tek-Tonic.” The dashboard and console are a little more robust than expected in a subcompact. There's hard plastic over larger surfaces, soft-touch vinyl where passengers may come into contact with a panel, and slightly oversized controls. The two center air vents sit in a little pod on top of the dashboard and the ventilation knobs are large, round, silver, and easy to understand even at first glance. Seen through the top half of the steering wheel, the instrument cluster includes a large analogue speedometer and tachometer, and there are also some arty touches like the mud splatter graphics on the gauges that originated from one of the Jeep design team’s weekend paintball adventures.
Straddling both gauges is a 17 cm TFT display that provides full-colour vehicle information and feedback so the driver can keep his hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Major surfaces, such as the sculpted soft-touch instrument panel, are intersected with bold functional elements like the passenger grab handle – useful for off-road adventures and borrowed from the Jeep Wrangler. Unique “protective clamp fasteners, anodized design accents and inspired colours are derived from extreme sports equipment. Additionally the Renegade has an efficient and flexible interior package that includes a fold-forward front-passenger seat and removable, reversible and height-adjustable cargo load floor.
Standard equipment includes a unique heated steering wheel with a thick rim section incorporating audio, voice and vehicle controls, dual-zone automatic- climate control, entry remote control, electric power steering, electric park brake and an upgraded driver information display with the clamp surrounding it, embossed with “Since 1941,” paying homage to the Jeep brand’s legendary history. Also standard are electric windows, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, leather upholstery, sliding driver’s seat also adjustable for height, 40/20/40-split folding rear seat with pass-through and a remote rechargeable flashlight. The seats are comfortable and well bolstered with plenty head. leg and shoulder room up front, while rear-seat room is acceptable for two adults, provided the front occupants are willing to move their seats toward the dash, but three-across seating is possible thanks to the extra width. There's ample luggage space behind the rear seat, which folds flat, as does the front passenger seat—allowing long items to be carried inside diagonally from dashboard to rear corner.
Safety equipment includes antilock brakes, ABS and electronic stability control, traction and stability control, six airbags, hill start assist, a rearview camera, a blind spot monitoring system, a rear cross-path alert system, a lane departure warning system, lane keeping assist and a frontal collision warning system. Also standard are rear parking sensors, electric parking brake, passenger grab handle and the Uconnect Access which uses embedded cellular technology to provide emergency and roadside assistance, remote door locking and stolen vehicle location services.
The Jeep Renegade 4x4 Limited is powered by a Fiat developed Powertrain 4-cylinder 1.4 litre MultiAir II Gas Turbo petrol engine, and drive is to all four wheels through the 9-speed Automatic transmission. From a displacement of 1 368 cc it produces 125 KW at 5 500 rpm and torque of 250 Nm at 2 500 rpm and incorporates “Stop/Start” technology that some drivers like while others like myself find it irritating, however thankfully it can be switched off.
In acceleration tests, leaving the automatic in drive mode to do its own changing and keeping the loud pedal to the floor on take-off, the Renegade achieved a time of 11 seconds for the 0 to 100 km/h sprint after three gear changes, but which is good for a small capacity motor propelling a SUV, and the top speed is around 195 km/h. Fuel consumption according to the trip recorder, was 8.8 litres per 100 km’s, which is very good for a 4x4 and the tank holds a handy 48 litres.
On the freeways, the Jeep Renegade is relatively quiet and refined for such a tall vehicle but it travels comfortably at the 120 km/h speed limit with the engine spinning at just 2 200 rpm and with almost no wind noise. The 1.4 litre MultiAir II Turbo petrol engine, with its good low down torque powers the Renegade up most hills without having to change to lower gears. Even for overtaking, dropping down just one cog will in most cases get you safely by. The Renegade holds the road well and proved to be slightly faster on winding roads than you might expect from a tall and boxy vehicle, however the high seating position for passengers tends to increase the sensation of body roll in sharp corners.
Off road, with the increased ground clearance, it performed exceptionally well, and the adjustable drive mode dial that toggles between settings such as snow, mud and sand, works great, when you need the extra traction. It climbs and descends tough inclines without too much trouble, distributing torque smoothly between the wheels on ground. However, the electric power steering is on the light side and doesn't provide much feedback.
The recommended retail price for the Jeep Renegade 1.4 litre Limited 6-speed manual as tested is R R501 900.00 which includes a 3 year / 100 000 km warranty.
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