First Drive 2015 Jeep Renegade: An iconic American vehicle built in Italy

The 2015 Jeep Renegade (FCA)

The 2015 Jeep Renegade (FCA)

We’ve all seen the movies about our victorious men in WWII. The history is known now of course; the Americans and her Allies are triumphant over the evil Axis powers, sailors kiss the pretty girls in Times Square in celebration and everyone retires to suburbia. One constant we always see in photos and in those movies is the iconic little workhorse that carried the GIs to victory, the Willys MB Jeep.  More than any other vehicle, save maybe the Pershing tank, the Jeep is the vehicle that is most often associated with our WWII exploits.

Which is why we found it a little odd that the latest offering from Jeep is actually built in Italy; and why we found it somewhat ironic that we would get Jeep’s latest offering  during the week we remembered V-J Day.

That latest offering is the Renegade.  It’s the smallest in the line, a mini-SUV with a quirky sort of look that fits in with the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, and Mini Countryman.  The Renegade can be had in four different trims, Sport (base MSRP $17,995), Latitude ($21,295), Limited ($24,795), and Trailhawk ($25,995).  The Sport, Latitude, and Limited trim levels all have the Active Drive system available while Trailhawk models come standard with the Active Drive Low system that includes a 20 to 1 “crawl ratio”.  With the four-wheel drive systems, you get the Selec-Terrain system controller with Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud settings, and the Trailhawk adds a Rock mode. The Latitude and Limited are available as 4X2 or 4X4 models.

The exterior look is a tall one, with an identifiable trademark grill, and protruding taillights with an X shape that Jeep says are based on the X stamped in the old 5-gallon Jerry cans carried on the back of the iconic Jeep from WWII.  Overall, the Renegade looks like what it is, the little brother to the Wrangler.   Inside the cabin is spacious and filled with what Jeep calls Easter eggs; Willys Jeep silhouettes seemingly all over the place including the speaker grills, and a topographical map of off-road Moab, Utah molded into the rubberized tray under the infotainment screen in the center console.

Jeep calls this interior “Tek-Tonic”, and says the interior is “defined by the intersections of soft and tactile forms with rugged and functional details.”  What it reminds us off however is the same vehicle the Renegade shares a platform with the Fiat 500L.  That’s not a bad thing, we liked the 500L, we really did, and we like the Renegade; however, we felt as though we could have liked it a great deal more.

Here’s why.  Not only are 4X4 models available in the line, but there are such niceties that are options such as a   “My Sky” removable roof panels along with a 7-in. color multiview TFT display, a 6.5-in. touchscreen, GPS navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, SiriusXM Travel Link, SiriusXM Radio, and HD Radio.  Also available is LaneSense Lane Departure Warning-Plus, Rear Cross Path detection, and a driver’s seat with eight-way power adjust with two-way power lumbar adjust.

We had none of that.

We instead had a cloth ceiling overhead, manually adjusted seats, Uconnect 5.0 AM/FM with 5.0-in. touchscreen, SiriusXM Radio and Bluetooth and our tester was a 4X2; sorry no off road excursions for us.  We found all this to be a bit odd, perhaps we have been spoiled through the years, but it seems that if a manufacturer wants an automotive writer to see the very best they have to offer, they should give us something that is the best they have to offer; put on your Sunday go-to-meeting clothes. That’s not to say we didn’t like the Renegade, it just seems that we saw only a sliver of what this new vehicle can be.

But we digress.

There are two powerplants available, a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine delivering 160 horses with 184-lb.-ft of torque and the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with 180 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft of torque.  Power is delivered though a new nine-speed automatic transmission, or with six-speed manual transmission.

You can guess what our tester had for the week; yup, the 1.4 liter with the six-speed manual.  To us this seemed even more odd since in the 4X2 configuration the Renegade is best suited for city driving, something that can be a pain when manual shifting is involved.  Like the Soul , 500L and Juke, the Renegade is being marketed to the younger generation and that can be evidenced in part to not only by the interior styling, but the six speakers and 180-watt amplifier sound system which sounds great and easily rivals those found in vehicles costing a great deal more.

On the road the 160 horses were fine, the body roll was minimal and the shift points easy to find. Yes,  the Renegade gets an impressive 31 highway, 24 city and 27 miles per gallon when combined, but with only a 12.7 fuel tank it seems as though you are filling it up as much as any other vehicle you drive. So what’s the point in having great fuel mileage if you can’t pass a gas station at least once a week?

Overall though  the Renegade is  a fine vehicle. Despite the odd configuration we had, with the right set-up the little Renegade will appeal to those looking for such a thing.  And with prices that can fit nearly any budget.

At the end of the day we get it.  As the world changed after WWII so too did American car manufacturers after the Great Recession in the mid-2000s. In order to survive alliances were formed and the once mighty Chrysler merged with Fiat to become FCA.  That merger has worked out well for Jeep. In the last four years, Jeep went from selling 300,000 units in 2010 to over a million units in 2014. So who are we to knock that? After all, when all is said and done it’s all about selling vehicles, and after its rebirth that’s something FCA and Jeep are doing quite well, and with this latest offering , the Renegade, should do for some years to come.

The 2015 Jeep Renegade Latitude FWD
Base MSRP: $21,295
MSRP (as tested with Customer Preferred Package 21J): $22,365
Engine (as tested): Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-4, 1.4 L. 160 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 184 lb.-ft. torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
Fuel Mileage (EPA estimates): 24 mpg City/31 mpg Hwy/27 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions):  25 mpg
Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
Passenger Capacity 5
Passenger Doors 4
Transmission: 6-Speed C635 Manual
Base Curb Weight (lbs) 3044

Interior Dimensions
Front Shoulder Room (in) 55.9
Second Hip Room (in) 51.9
Front Head Room (in) 41.1
Second Leg Room (in) 35.1
Passenger Capacity 5
Front Hip Room (in) 53.1
Front Leg Room (in) 41.2
Second Shoulder Room (in) 55.1
Passenger Volume (ft³) 100.1
Second Head Room (in) 40.5

Exterior Dimensions
Track Width, Front (in) 60.6
Width, Max w/o mirrors (in) 74.2
Liftover Height (in) 29.8
Wheelbase (in) 101.2
Track Width, Rear (in) 60.6
Height, Overall (in) 66.5
Length, Overall (in) 166.6
Min Ground Clearance (in) 6.7

Cargo Area Dimensions
Cargo Volume to Seat 3 (ft³) 18.5
Cargo Volume to Seat 1 (ft³) 50.8
Cargo Area Width @ Beltline (in) 40.1
Cargo Volume to Seat 2 (ft³) 18.5
Cargo Box Width @ Wheelhousings (in) 37.6


Basic Miles/km 36,000
Basic Years 3
Corrosion Miles/km 100,000
Corrosion Years 5
Drivetrain Miles/km 100,000
Drivetrain Years 5
Roadside Assistance Miles/km 100,000
Roadside Assistance Years 5

Greg Engle