There’s no denying that the 2016 Renegade is a rather cute little ute. But, don’t be fooled by those innocent looks; our new long-termer — which is derived from the Fiat 500X platform — has some serious off-road capability. Well, it is a Jeep, and ours is the Trailhawk trim, meaning venturing off the beaten track should come very naturally to it.
Sized to take on the Mini Countryman and the Skoda Yeti, the Renegade offers some unique options, such as dual removable roof panels, a heated steering wheel and a Beats sound system.
It isn’t as rugged as the Wrangler (this compact crossover is far more civilised) but it is clearly evident that it is from the same family; it has the traditional seven-slotted vertical grille, rounded headlights, and its angles even give you a little hint of the classic Willys MB.
The cabin can comfortably accommodate five adults and due to the Jeep’s blocky design, it yields good leg- and headroom for both the first- and second-row passengers. And, if you drop the back seat you get over 1,415 litres of space. But aside from all the practicality the Renegade affords, it is the little details, such as the classic seven-slot grille and round headlight silhouette, that appear repeatedly and the impression of mud splatter on the tachometer that have induced the biggest grins so far.
Extensive use of aluminium and high-strength steel give it a stiff monocoque, and the MacPherson suspension has been tuned to help reduce camber changes but it leans in the corners if you push it too hard. Power is supplied by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder and although it may not be the most potent at 180bhp and 273Nm of torque, it has enough to get the job done with minimal fuss. However, it is mated to a nine-speed ZF automatic and that feels like three gears too many. It’s early days yet, but I wonder if our opinion on the transmission will change as the weeks go by. Our tester packs a few nifty features such as a more sophisticated four-wheel drive system, disconnecting rear axle, and a unique front and rear fascia, which provides improved approach and departure angles. Hmm, wonder if we’ll still scrape the nose — Amit is getting pretty good at that sort of stuff as our previous long-termer, the Cadillac ATS-V, will testify.
The Trailhawk trim also adds extra ground clearance, protective skidplates and 17in wheels wrapped around off-road tyres. Restricting it to just the mall run then would be a crime. Hopefully we’ll get it muddy.
It has a raft of safety and driver-assist features, too, including Lane Departure Warning, blind-spot monitoring and Forward Collision Warning-Plus, which applies the brakes if it detects an eminent collision.
So far, so good.