Subcompact crossover SUVs are huge these days…metaphorically speaking. As Americans reassess their needs and budgets, small SUVs are an increasingly popular answer. Smartly drafting off that cultural momentum we decided our long-term fleet needed a Jeep Renegade. Battling the Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3, among others, the fashionable yet functional Renegade is a particularly intriguing take on the subcompact formula.

Embracing the Renegade’s look-at-me charm, we opted for a mid-level Latitude trim bathed in garish but delightful Omaha Orange paint. Inside the cabin sports a Bark Brown and Ski Grey motif along with practical cloth seats. It is possible to buy a Renegade Latitude for as little as $24,390 but to better assess the wide array of available features we went nutty with the option list, driving the total price to $32,385. That’s a hearty sum for such a small SUV but it does include some sweet gear. Stand outs include a 6.5-inch Uconnect infotainment system, My Sky power-retractable roof panels, a Beats premium audio system, and an advanced Technology package with lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and rear parking sensors. Frankly it’s amazing all those goodies fit in such a tidy package.

We opt for the 2.4-liter I-4 and 9-speed auto

When selecting our Renegade one major topic of discussion among our editors was the powertrain. Some of us thought the standard turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission combination was the way to go but eventually the optional 9-speed automatic transmission which comes paired exclusively with a 2.4-liter engine, prevailed. Loveable editor/curmudgeon Bob Nagy will no doubt appreciate that choice during his interminable LA commutes along interstate 5. By selecting the 2.4-liter our Jeep boasts a 20 horsepower advantage over the 1.4-liter engine (180hp vs. 160hp) but a slight deficit where torque is concerned. If for some foolish reason we decide to actually tow with the tiniest of Jeeps perhaps we’ll wish we’d stuck with the 1.4-liter.

Despite its cheek-squeezing cuteness the Renegade is a surprisingly capable SUV. Cargo space is good as are passenger accommodations, meaning we have no excuse not to road-trip our Jeep. I mean, how better to verify its EPA-estimated 21city/29hwy fuel economy ratings? We also have no excuse not to venture off road. Granted our Latitude trim lacks the elevated ride height and 20:1 crawl ratio of the dirt-focused Renegade Trailhawk but it includes four-wheel drive nonetheless. At the very least the next year should include treks onto a few fire roads or the occasional dry lake bed.

Renegade vs. HR-V

Aside from frivolous excursions away from society what do we hope to accomplish with this loan? Well, just like any long-termer we have questions about the Renegade’s reliability. Riding atop a Fiat-derived platform we’re eager to see if the Renegade remains rattle-free and mechanically sound over time. We’re also curious if the early infatuation sparked by the Renegade’s adorable yet rugged design remains after one year. Eventually style fades. Will pragmatic excellence step up to fill the void? Finally, by happy coincidence our long-term fleet currently includes a Honda HR-V. Comparison tests are always revealing but the opportunity to compare Jeep and Honda’s sub-compact SUV entries over an extended period should prove especially enlightening.

Enlightenment is wonderful but so is adventure. If we play our cards right our little orange Jeep should help us find a bit of both. Welcome to the family, Renegade. We’re looking forward to a good year.

More 2016 Jeep Renegade...

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