- Cute. Like the Mini, Jeep has designed a vehicle that looks different from all the other compact crossover offerings. It’s immediately recognizable. It’s more cute than tough—which is a departure for Jeep--but it’s boxy, unique, and, like the look or not, stylish. It’s built and designed by Fiat, and shares its underpinnings with the Fiat 500X. And it looks, somehow, like exactly what you’d get if you crossed a Jeep with a Fiat.
- Versatile. It’s a small, all-wheel-drive (optional) vehicle, with a surprising amount of cargo room in the back, and even more cargo room if you fold down the rear seats. It’s boxy and tall, which maximizes interior space.
- Controls. Controls are well laid out, easy to understand, and easy to use. The heating and cooling controls are straight forward, with large round knobs. The shifter is straight forward. The larger UConnect touch screen system is one of the more logical and easy to navigate systems on the market. The smaller version that comes in the Renegade isn’t quite as good. It’s a little harder to see, and not quite as well thought out. But it’s not bad. Jeep also provides a feature we love; volume controls on the back of the steering wheel, right where your right index and middle fingers naturally rest.
- Pretty good drivetrain. The Jeep had the nine-speed automatic transmission that we really hated in the Chrysler 200. It felt improved in the Jeep. We felt some shifts, but there were none of the annoying, harsh, inappropriate shifts that we experienced in the 200. The 2.4 liter, 180 hp, four cylinder engine is not fast, but it feels adequate in most circumstances, especially in town.
- Available true, off-road capability. You can order the Renegade with the Trailhawk package, that, by all reports, can handle real off-road circumstances as well as other Jeeps (and we mean more than the unpaved driveway to your ski house).
- Two big removable sun roofs. They really open up the car. But they’re not sliding sunroofs like most cars have. They’re removable panels. So if you’re on the highway, and run into a rainstorm, or get tired of the wind, closing the sunroof will require pulling over and getting the panels out of the cargo compartment by the side of the road — or at the Denny's at Exit 8.
- Available Safety Equipment. Not all cars in this price range allow you to order pre-collision warning and automatic braking. Jeep lets you have both in a $33,000 version of this car. Blindspot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are also available, and recommended to counter visibility issues.
- Available luxury features. Our test Renegade had dual climate zones, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel.
- Ride and handling are mediocre. The ride is on the firm side. While the Renegade feels solid, road imperfections sometimes create a side-to- side motion, which leads the suddenly swaying driver to shake the steering wheel, which leads to more side-to-side motion. Cornering is fine, but nothing special. Most cars this size feel easy to drive and maneuver. The Renegade, on the contrary, drives bigger than it is, and is never fun to drive. At least on-road.
- Visibility. The Renegade has some of the largest A pillars we’ve ever seen. "A pillars" are the columns on either side of the windshield. They are thick enough to block your view of crossing pedestrians or other obstacles. The view out back is even worse. Especially out the rear sides. Backing up the car into traffic or across a sidewalk feels dangerous, even with the backup camera.
- Mileage is OK, but not great. We got about 21 mpg in more city than highway driving. That’s what EPA says you’ll get in the city. They predict 24 overall and 27 highway. Other compact crossovers, even some larger ones, do better.
- Too cute? There are little Jeep icons everywhere, and hidden Jeepy Easter eggs to be found. Sometimes it seems a bit much — like the fake mud splat (we kid you not) in the redline area of the tachometer.
- Reliability. Both Chrysler and Fiat have long had lower than average reliability scores. What happens when you put them together? Who knows. Chrysler has proclaimed several times over the years that they’ve addressed their quality issues, only to leave us disappointed. Have they done it this time? We won’t know for years, but we have to assume they haven’t until they’ve proven otherwise. The truth is there are larger, better handling compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forrester that have long records of going 150,000 fairly trouble-free miles. They don’t have the style of the Renegade, or the off-road capability if you really need that. But they have great track records of reliability.
- Range prediction. This is a small complaint. Like many cars, the Jeep has a “range” indicator, that predicts how many more miles you can go before refueling. But rather than taking your average mpg, and doing the calculation, the Jeep constantly recalculates your range depending on how hard you’re stepping on the gas. This felt less than useful, and it constantly changed. One second you have 136 miles before refueling, a second later as you’re coasting, you have 219 miles to go.