The Jeep Renegade is an all-new compact utility vehicle for the 2015 model year. Combining Fiat's expertise with small, fuel-efficient vehicles into Jeep's reputation for ruggedness and iconic design, the model lands in an increasingly crowded market of small and carlike yet tall and often boxy vehicles, such as the Kia Soul, Subaru XV Crosstrek, MINI Cooper Clubman, and the Nissan Juke—and even the existing Jeep Patriot (which, Jeep maintains, the Renegade won't directly replace). But with true off-road ability available, it'll have an ability set that's wider than that of those other models.
The Renegade throws out both the very creased, angular look of products like the Patriot and Liberty, as well as the somewhat softer look of the Compass, Grand Cherokee, and new Cherokee, and instead strikes a new look that is chunky and rugged-looking, yet sophisticated and just a little playful. With its upright slotted grille and somewhat upright windshield, the Renegade nods to Jeep tradition; yet in its curved rear flanks, and a beltline that swoops down at the middle, the Renegade eschews flat sheetmetal. Furthermore, an 'X' that repeats on the headlights, taillights, and even roof on some versions, adds up to another interesting styling cue.
Inside, the new 2015 Jeep Renegade is less radical in its design statement; it's a subtle look, but one that's finished with plenty of soft-touch materials around the front seats, plus some body-color details, as well as 'clamp fastener' anodized accents. An upright seating position in front, combined with the rather low beltline, should add up to great visibility, and back-seat space should be adequate for a couple of adults. Cargo space is 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seatback up, or nearly 51 cubic feet with it flipped forward.
Although conceived as a small global SUV with an exterior that's compact enough to be popular in the most space-challenged European and Asian cities, the Renegade is a size that will definitely play well in the U.S. At less than 167 inches long, it's about seven inches shorter than the Patriot—though it's slightly wider and taller than the Patriot.
Powertrains for the U.S. are limited to a 160-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, or a 184-hp, 2.4-liter four. With the latter engine you get a nine-speed automatic transmission, although for now the 1.4T will only be offered with a six-speed manual. An independent rear suspension and Koni frequency-selective dampers should help provide responsive handling with ride quality that can stay composed on rougher roads (the four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes offer tough-road detection, too).
Off-road ability is the selling point on a lot of Jeep vehicles, and in the Renegade's case, it holds true to the reputation in a way that might be unexpected: You can even order a Renegade with the brand's Trail Rated badge (signaling a higher level of off-road ability). That comes with the so-called Active Drive 2 system, which adds a 20:1 crawl ratio, skid plates, higher ground clearance, and hill descent control, among other things, Meanwhile, there's also an Active Drive 1 for those who need an all-weather all-wheel drive system.
Feature content on the Renegade will include a Uconnect system that can read text messages and even send dictated messages, and with integrated Sirius Travel Link and Uconnect Access services, it'll have one of the most advanced sets of connectivity and infotainment options in its class when it reaches dealerships in the third quarter of 2014.