Does the facelifted Jeep Renegade offer enough to be a credible SUV?

Traditionally, Jeep has never been known for small cars. The brand itself becomes a byword for what many others may technically refer to as an SUV – large hulking objects of steel powered by multiple-litre engines. However, the rapid dilution of the SUV genre, coupled with a growing adoption of the body style, has seen Jeep experiment with smaller offerings. The Renegade spearheads this push to convert car users into Jeep-lovers, while offering an alternative for hard-core enthusiast to get their day-to-day driving fix.

Like it’s sibling, the Jeep Compass, it’s based on the Fiat 500X platform, and shares a low-capacity, tax-friendly 1.4 engine from the Italian stable. However, the only Italian influence you’ll find in the styling is a small inscription of a spider proclaiming “Ciao”, just inside the fuel-cap. This “easter-egg”, as Jeep calls it, is one of many dotted around the car and the rest revolve around Jeep’s heritage.

As such you’ll find an original Willies Jeep ascending a small hill in the corner of the windscreen, as well as the signature Jeep grill and headlight combination dotted in inconspicuous locations inside and out. You could be mistaken for thinking that the American brand may be overcompensating for the less-than-traditional basis of the Renegade, but they needn’t do so: The Renegade can hold its own as a fully-fledged family member, at home taking the kids to school as it is crossing a muddy field.

If you’re expecting trail-blazing heroics, you may need to look elsewhere, but the AWD variant features several modes to deal with various terrains. That’s so long as you remember that a Wrangler or Cherokee this is not.

Towing the line between utilitarian and family friendly, the Renegade offers an almost “my-first-Jeep” approach to the small crossover-SUV genre, and blends attributes from both to make it appeal to a broad spectrum. Take the interior design for instance. Its fairly flat-faced facia features durable materials, chunky grab handles, and knobs and buttons that can easily be operated with gloves on, lending it a touch of ruggedness expected from a Jeep.

Yet the improved infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Car Play ensures that modern conveniences aren’t sacrificed. The seating position offers the commanding style appreciated in SUVs, even if the Renegade itself is less than imposing from the exterior.

The smallish dimensions and compact packaging actually lend well to piloting around city streets, although compromises are found in the load capacity and seating – if you’re looking for either a load luger or something that can take more than four adults comfortably, you may need to look at other options in the category.

But as far as small-SUVs go, the Renegade stands out as a rather compelling option due to its unique take on a segment that has seen it all.

By retaining the Jeep-like qualities that many enthusiasts appreciate, and making the entire package as car-like as possible, the Renegade neither alienates conventional car users, nor disappoints thoroughbred purists. As an alternative to the norm, it ticks the right boxes to be taken seriously.

Priced at LKR9.9 Million rupees on the road, the Renegade is around the same price as it’s sibling the Compass, and basically in the middle of the crossover pricing spectrum in the Lankan market.

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All-wheel-drive and visual appeal gets it the nod over the similarly-priced 2WD Compass (The AWD model coming in pricier), but really, you can’t go wrong with either of them.


Specifications

Engine: 1.4 litre, 4-cyl, turbo, 170bhp
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic
Performance: 200kmph
Fuel Economy: 13km/l

Sam D. Smith is the Editor-in-chief of BBC TopGear Sri Lanka, and a contributor to Echelon, EconomyNext’s sister magazine

(Colombo, February 03, 2020- Update II)

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