Subcompact SUV Comparison: 2016 Jeep Renegade
The most honest SUV in our test.
Starting MSRP: $18,990
Above Average: Austere, but inexpensive base model. The only possible off-roader in the bunch.
Below Average: You won't hear any bragging about fuel economy, resale value or too much power.
Consensus: A good, solid, safe bet for the least amount of SUV you can buy. And even though it's car-based, you can still get one with legit off-road aspirations.
700 Miles in 108 Words
While the 2016 Jeep Renegade shares its platform, engines and transmissions with another SUV in this test, the Fiat 500X, there's nothing Italian about the Jeep Renegade's character. The little toy-Jeep-looking SUV played calmly in traffic and on open roads. Best of all, if you think real Jeeps should be off-road ready, you can pick up a Renegade Trailhawk (starting at around $27,500) and you'll have a trail-rated SUV with more ground clearance, more all-wheel-drive capability, skidplates, and gutsier tires. That matters because the only time any of the other SUVs in this comparison test have ever been off-road was when they sat on the showroom floor.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Even though the 2016 Jeep Renegade and the Fiat 500X share a Fiat car platform, the two are in no way identical twins, inside or out. Jeep built varying degrees of Jeep personality into the Renegade, with more success than anybody had a right to expect. Is it pure Jeep? Absolutely not, but neither is this subcompact SUV defined by its weaknesses. See for yourself.
Highway Driving A 9-speed transmission should be the same thing as a license to accelerate at will and pass on the highway with minimal effort. This is not the case with the Jeep Renegade Latitude and its 9-speed automatic transmission. Mated to the up-level 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine (180 horsepower, 175 lb-ft of torque) the 9-speed transmission needs help with decision-making as to its gear choices.
In truth, the 6-speed manual transmission mated exclusively with lesser models' 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (with 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque that comes on 1,400 rpm lower than the 2.4-liter) is probably a better choice if you plan to use your Renegade as a highway dweller.
Beyond that consideration, the Jeep Renegade stands solid mid-pack as a highway cruiser among the five players in our subcompact SUV comparison. It's neither the noisiest, nor quietest -- but it won't get on your nerves as the long miles accumulate. Likewise, it's neither the buckboard, nor the magic carpet of the group -- but you won't feel beat up after a long day's drive from L.A. to Phoenix either.
City Driving The Renegade's blocky profile makes driving in tight traffic a fairly easy task, thanks to a good sense of where the vehicle's corners are along with a broad view to the front and sides. Backing up can be a challenge, however, as the view to the rear can be compromised by large headrests and a thick rear pillar.
Both engine/transmission combinations are suited to easy day-to-day city work, and while neither setup is a fuel-economy champ, the 1.4-liter delivers consistently better fuel numbers, especially in the city.
Sporty Driving If by "sporty" you mean carving up mountain roads, there are admittedly better choices in this subcompact group. If you mean climbing mountains, however, the Jeep Renegade should be your first choice. That's not just because it offers all-wheel drive throughout the lineup -- all of these extra-small SUVs do. No, it's because Jeep offers the Trailhawk version of the Renegade which adds serious off-roader genetics like 8.7 inches of ground clearance, "rock-crawl" low gearing, plus front and rear tow hooks.
Interior Appeal Inside the Renegade, you'll discover an easy-to-get-used-to layout of knobs and buttons. The marginally supportive driver's seat remained surprisingly comfortable and kind to our bodies over several hundred comparison-test miles. The view out the tall front window is expansive for such a small vehicle. Headroom and legroom are good throughout the cabin.
Infotainment Standard in-car information and entertainment on the base Renegade is a simple 4-speaker AM/FM radio setup. Every step up after that, however, is a boon for audiophiles. One step up the infotainment ladder is the 6-speaker Uconnect 5.0 layout, which includes a 5-inch touchscreen, satellite radio capability, and Bluetooth phone/voice-command/streaming audio connectivity. If the Dre mood really strikes you, a 9-speaker Beats Audio system with a 6.5-inch subwoofer and 506-watt amplifier should do a good job of scaring everybody in the SUV park.
And the whole world adores having volume and tuning knobs for the audio system.
Rear Seat The 2016 Renegade seats five. The three rear-seat passengers will enjoy good headroom all the time, and very good legroom as long as the driver and front passenger aren't power forwards in the NBA.
Cargo Utility With the 2nd-row seats folded down, Honda's interior designers somehow found room in the HR-V for an extra eight cubic feet of your stuff versus the Jeep Renegade's 50.8 cubic feet. Nevertheless, the Renegade's cargo area is roomy for a subcompact SUV. Additionally, the Renegade benefits from a fairly low liftover height and a wide, nearly flat load floor with an adjustable height to customize your cargo area.
Fuel Economy Lowering your fuel costs shouldn't be a primary reason for you to consider a 2016 Jeep Renegade. Of the two 4-cylinder engines available, the 1.4-liter turbo is the more fuel miserly, achieving a 24/31 city/highway-mpg rating in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive form. Again, this engine comes exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Carrying on with its 9-speed automatic transmission, the front-wheel-drive 2.4-liter Renegade is rated at 22/31 mpg and the all-wheel-drive model gets 21/29 mpg. These mile-per-gallon numbers place the Renegade toward the bottom of the pack.
Resale Value You should be able to score a pretty good deal on a new Jeep Renegade, and while you can expect it to maintain its value better than the Buick Encore and Fiat 500X, don't expect it to hold up as well as the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3.
Inside and Out: 2016 Jeep Renegade Latitude
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