Family Life


6 min Read

Family Car Review: 2016 Jeep Renegade

The basics:

Base price: $20,495 + taxes
As tested: $32,290 + taxes
Fuel economy: 10.1 L/100 kms over 400 kms of mixed highway/city driving
Competition: Buick Encore, Fiat 500X, Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, Subaru XV

The review:

Smashing the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…
enter the new Jeep Renegade. First impressions will tell you this isn’t
your grandpa’s Jeep. And it’s an important moment for the company
because the Renegade is the first vehicle released under the new Fiat
Chrysler banner. It’s that conglomeration that makes this car so
interesting. The Renegade shares the same engines, transmissions and
chassis as the equally new Fiat 500X (click here to see my recent review of the 500X).
And get this, it’s made in Italy! Jeep purists have had a hard time
wrapping their heads around this departure for such an iconic American
brand. “Surely a glorified Fiat won’t be able to live up to the
off-road pedigree of the Jeep name”, they say. Well, I loaded up the
family for a trip out to my friend Brian’s family land (full of
off-roading opportunities) to see how it would do on-road, off-road and
for family life. Read on…

2015 jeep renegade trailhawk 

up, the look – while there are certainly cues from Jeeps gone by, this
is a pretty funky vehicle and I can easily say it has turned the most
heads of all the tests I’ve done this year. It kind of looks like a
caricature artist was asked to draw their cartoonish vision of a Jeep.
But this emerging sub-compact crossover segment is generally a bit more
playful and targeted toward younger buyers who are willing to make a bit
of a statement with their car. And, being squarely in that target, I
quite like it. It looks like what a Storm Trooper would use to commute
to and from work. But whether we like the look of something is about as
subjective as it gets. I’ll leave that to you.

One thing I should mention is that our tester was actually a 2015
Renegade but the folks at Fiat Chrysler tell me there will be very few
changes for the 2016 model year: you’ll be able to upgrade to a more
premium sound system, rain sensing wipers are an option and a couple of
extra couples are being added to the mix.

2015 jeep renegade 

Once you step inside the Renegade, Jeep has left very few surfaces
without its logo emblazoned upon it. The speakers, the side mirrors, the
infotainment system, the seats. It’s
a bit much. But look beyond that and the front seats are quite
comfortable, the interior is simple, utilitarian and intuitive. The
infotainment system’s screen is a little too small, the climate controls
are too low down on the dash, but otherwise, I quite like it. It has best in class
headroom for tall guys like myself too. One seriously kitschy bit of
optional kit is the My Sky system that lets you remove two roof panels
for an open air, true Jeep feel. It seems gimmicky and storage of the
panels would be a pain when a simple moonroof would’ve done the job more
elegantly. Speaking of silly extras, here’s one: you have to pay an
additional $6000 on top of the Renegade’s base price to get four wheel
drive! That’s a big premium for a company that is synonymous with 4×4. I
don’t understand why it’s even an option.

2015 jeep renegade

In the back seat, it’s tight… a little too tight. It makes fitting
a rear facing child seat a real challenge and even our little guy,
who’s now in a front facing seat, maxed out the rear seat space. For
what looks like a pretty large vehicle from the outside, it’s remarkable
how little room there actually is in the back seat and trunk area. Our
standard amount of gear for our trunk test could fit but it was a really
tight squeeze. As a family, we got the sense that this Renegade was not
designed with us in mind.

As for driving experience, the Renegade comes with the same engine
options as the Fiat 500X – a 1.4-litre turbo or a 2.4-litre non-turbo
coupled with a 9 speed automatic transmission. The Trail Hawk edition of
the Renegade that I was driving has the larger engine choice and much
like the Fiat, I found
the power more than adequate but the 9 speed gearbox kept the RPM just a
little too low so the car felt like it was shuddering its way along
much of the time. Jeep has been updating the software for this
transmission in an effort to make it smoother but it still needs
tweaking. There’s also quite a bit of wind noise at highway speed
because of its boxier design. Fuel economy was a decent but not amazing
10 litres per 100 kilometres on a mix of city and highway driving. But
it was off-road that the Jeep impressed me most. It has best in class
ground clearance, an optional Jeep active 4×4 system which includes a
low range setting for crawling your way through the really tough
conditions. This little Jeep took whatever I threw at it on a snowy,
slippery fall day in the woods.

2015 jeep renegade

And while all this off-roading made for a fun afternoon and makes the
Renegade stand out from what’s becoming a crowded segment, here’s the
thing: not many of us are ever actually going to use those hardcore
off-roading functions. And for the true off-road crowd, they’re likely
to look at a bigger, more powerful Jeep anyway. What you’re left with is
a cool looking vehicle, with decent but not amazing on-road
performance and some pretty limited capacity. But if you want to turn
heads like only an Italian-made car can (never thought I’d say that
about a Jeep), the Renegade may be for you.

The takeaway:

Family Wheels pros:

  • unique exterior style
  • strong off-road capability
  • comfortable front seats

Family Wheels cons:

  • tight backseat
  • limited cargo
  • 4×4 is a $6,000 extra on the base price
  • noisy at highway
  • optional 9 speed transmission keeps engine revving too low at

Family Wheels target: second car for one (maybe two) child families with kids already out of rear facing child seats

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels rear passenger score: 2.5/5

Family Wheels trunk test score: 3/5

Family Wheels driveability score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels fuel economy score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels value score: 3.5/5

Family wheels final score: 19.5/30

~ Paul Karchut is the award-winning journalist behind Check-out his site for more reviews and find him on Twitter @FamilyWheels.

a man carrying two children

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