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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Jeep Renegade Latitude Isn’t Perfect, But It’s Lovable: Review



The Jeep Renegade song played on repeat in my head as I bounced over some dusty backroad. The back tires kicked up gravel and splashed through puddles still lingering from previous days’ rain.
I felt like I was driving a real Jeep—but given the circumstances and what lead up to the creation of this quirky little vehicle, you wouldn’t of thunk it.
It was a front-wheel drive, 160-horsepower, Italian-born off-roader. But it wasn’t just the small amount of soft-roading that made it feel like a real Jeep, it was everything that the new Renegade stood, and still stands for. But we’ll get back to that.


“Personality” as Commodity
Car reviewers typically love giving cars a certain personality trait. Something like “quirky” or “lovable.” For cars like the Fiat 500 or Mini Cooper, that’s a good way to describe them. The Jeep Renegade definitely deserves a spot on that list as well.
The quirkiness of this SUV is off the charts. Under the hood of the Renegade Latitude is a 1.4-liter 160-horsepower engine that gets you to 60 mph in about…three days. But that’s missing the point.


With a manual gearbox and a bouncy suspension, it doesn’t need to be fast. On the road, it drives surprisingly well. It feels sort of like a lifted Fiat 500 (unsurprising, given it shares a platform with the Fiat 500X). Off road, it feels much more like a Jeep. Even with front-wheel drive, it’s extremely composed and doesn’t struggle over soft rubble.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t brave enough to put it through some nearby deep mud—you might need the all-wheel drive Renegade Trailhawk for that. Nevertheless, I was pretty impressed how well even how well the lower-trim Latitude did.


Chrysler Creativity (and Quality)

Looking at the Jeep from the outside-in, it seems like a really interesting vehicle. The design is creative, and while it’s definitely a love-or hate-it type of styling, it’s one that worked for me in its uniqueness.

And the uniqueness doesn’t stop on the exterior. Inside, the seats are covered in latitude markings (get it?), while the orange accents play nicely to the overall tone. It’s a really fun place to be, and there’s Jeep fascia logos everywhere—but there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to quality.


The turn signal indicator, knobs and buttons feel like they were pulled from a warehouse parts bin. Here and now in 2015, that’s something I shouldn’t have to type. The screen in the Latitude is about as small as my iPhone 6 (smaller than a 6 Plus), and doesn’t feature the likable Uconnect system. You can get it, you just have to pay more.

The doors close with a not-so-solid thud, the handles wobble, and some of the plastic bits on the door panels feel like they could be broken off by a negligent dog or unruly passenger. It’s another example of FCA skimping on certain quality aspects for reasons unknown.


Space For Days

One of the main concerns with buying a small CUV is the interior room. Some brands manage to fit a whole lot of space inside a small package. Goods news for you, the Jeep Renegade shines in this department.

With a total of 50.8 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down, that’s only second to the Honda HR-V at 58.8, and much more spacious than the CX-3 or Nissan Juke. Overall, the Renegade still feels more spacious than the Honda, likely due to its boxy design.


The Verdict

When it comes down to it, I actually really adore the Jeep Renegade. It’s tons off fun off-road (within its means), capable on-road, and gives you plenty of space for dogs, kayaks, bodies…what have you.

The one—and continuing concern—I have with all FCA products is the interior quality. Chrysler has to find a fix for that so cars like the Renegade won’t get out-shined by the more refined competition (see: Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3). But even with those initial quality concerns, the Renegade is still a great buy.

In its purest form, it starts at just $17,995. Opt for the Latitude version I was driving, and you’ll still only be paying $21,295. If you want a real Renegade with a better interior, four-wheel drive, and a Trail-Rated badge, opt for the Trailhawk starting at $25,995.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that FCA could successfully build a small Jeep based on a Fiat, and make it work. But that’s the beauty of the Renegade and Jeep as a whole, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in a segment—and succeeding.


Engine: 1.4L 4-Cylinder
Horsepower: 160
MPG: 24 / 31
Price (as tested): $21,295


Quirky design, inside and out
Off-road capable…to an extent
Feels very spacious


Interior quality feels cheap
Must opt for top-tier Trailhawk trim to be truly trail-worthy