When we think of the name Jeep, images of the Wrangler climbing up rocks and logs are what come to mind. However, their latest addition to the range isn't anything like it. It doesn't even come with four-wheel-drive.
But hang on; Jeep is practically the pioneer of the off-road vehicle, you say. It all started with the Willys during World War II and the American automaker has built their reputation for climbing every mountain and fording every stream since them. So what are they doing with a small, front-wheel-drive crossover?
The vehicle we're talking about here is the Renegade Longitude and it's quite the curiosity. Front-wheel drive with a small turbo engine doesn't sound like your typical formula for a Jeep, but let's see what it has to offer.
It does have the Jeep look down to a tee though. Several retro cues remind me of the Wrangler and first-generation Cherokee XJ. The round headlights and seven-slot grille wouldn't look out of place beside the Wrangler, while the boxy shape screams the 80s, in my eyes at least. From the front, you won't mistake it for anything else. It certainly helps it stand out from the sea of subcompact crossovers out there. Making it stick out from the crowd more is this particular car's bright orange paint. It's not something you'd lose in a car park.
Speaking of retro cues, the Renegade has something you just don't see in many modern cars these days. It's the generously-sized windows and the sizable quarter windows at the front. Mind you, the quarter window doesn't open, but it's a nice touch nonetheless. It's rather refreshing to see something like that again, as crossovers are trying to go for a sleek, swept-back look these days. Then there's the rear and it's as upright and angular as Jeep's designers could make it. Also, those X-shaped light patterns at the back are an interesting touch and seemingly patterned after jerry cans.
Of course, we can't talk about the Renegade without mentioning its easter eggs. From what I saw, there's the climbing Willys by the corner of the windshield, a Sasquatch near the rear wiper, and a spider greeting you 'Ciao, Baby!' when you open the fuel door.
There are loads more to see when you get inside the Renegade. There are classic round light and seven-slot grille patterns just about everywhere. You can see them by the center stack, plus a pair of them behind the rear-view mirror, its stamped on the speaker housings, and there's another one in the interior tailgate panel you won't miss. Other easter eggs? I spotted a map deep within the center cubby hole. As it turns out, it's the map of Moab, where Jeep holds its annual jamborees. There's also the tachometer which has mud splatters instead of a redline to denote your, well, revs.
As for the rest of the interior, Jeep went out of their way to make it look rugged. The dash is angular for the most part, with a few curves to break some of the lines. I also noticed that the dashboard itself is expansive for something its size. Couple that with the huge windows and you're given the impression that you're driving something wide. While we're on the subject of windows, the Renegade comes with a massive panoramic sunroof that nearly covers the entire length of the roof. That helps bring in even more light into the cabin, which then gives you the impression of more space.
Where the Renegade excels at is in the headroom and front room department. Even with the seat in its highest setting, there was still more than enough headroom left and that's with a panoramic roof. The front footwell is wide; a big plus in a small vehicle. Adjustability is excellent as well with a wide range of motion from the telescopic steering wheel and the seats. It seems that the Renegade was made to fit a wide variety of people, from the vertically challenged to the vertically gifted. At the back, however, it isn't as rosy. It's not cramped, but there won't be acres of room left if you're tall. The Renegade does make up for it by having a sizable cargo area.
The Longitude is the base variant of the Renegade, but thankfully it has an up-to-date and comprehensive infotainment system as standard. The screen may 'only' be seven inches across, but the display is clear and the system itself is simple, straightforward, and easy to use. There is an ergonomic quirk though; the steering wheel buttons for the audio are behind the face of the steering wheel. Unusual, yes; but not interruptive while you're driving.
Powering the Renegade is a 1.4-liter turbo engine that's good for 147 PS and 230 Nm of torque. Those are figures you'd typically see in a 2.0-liter engine, so props to Fiat for that. Yes, Fiat.
See, this engine is made by Fiat Powertrain Technologies and Jeep is part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family. It's dubbed the Fully Integrated Robotized Engine or, er, FIRE for short. To help it drink less fuel, it's also been fitted with a stop-start system that shuts off the engine while the vehicle is stationary. This FIRE engine is then paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with a manual mode. Its transmission is what I'd like to talk about first.
Perhaps its the (very) low mileage of the car, but the dual-clutch in the Renegade wasn't the smoothest. It was on the jerky side and that was felt even more at low speeds, and stop and go traffic. The transmission was also hesitant to downshift when you need to get the revs up, but timid when it came to upshifts. As a result, the revs are too low when you need all of the engine's punch, and too high when you're trying to save fuel. It does react eventually, but it takes time.
But while the dual-clutch could be better, it's the opposite of the engine. Once the transmission decides to cooperate, the 1.4-liter turbo can give the Renegade good shove thanks to its torque figure. Keep the revs going and it gets to cruising speeds with little effort, and it's good for overtaking too. To make the most of it, it's best to put it in manual mode if you need to extract more power out of it.
Fuel economy however isn't the best. Again, it's blunted by the dual-clutch. Fuel consumption around heavy traffic (17 km/h average) yielded 7.3 kilometers per liter without the assistance of the stop-start system. It's much better with less congestion though with the on-board computer displaying 13.8 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 28 km/h.
As for the ride, it's on the firm side, but not jarring. Only the biggest of bumps and dips upset its composure. Smaller road imperfections pose little challenge to the suspension, but you can feel what kind of surface you're driving on. At least it doesn't heave and wallow around on smooth asphalt, giving you a planted and solid feeling behind the wheel.
For a subcompact crossover, it's a nice steer. It may have an electronic power steering system, but it's well-weighted, offering just enough feel and feedback to let you know where the wheels are pointed. It's also light enough to make low-speed and parking maneuvers as effortless as possible.
At Php 1,640,000, it's the most affordable Jeep you can get. It's much less than the old price tag of over Php 2 million, making it a better value. So how did Jeep slash its prices by that much? The answer lies in its country of assembly. Starting this year, the Renegade will be sourced from China out of the GAC factory. It takes advantage of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (China-AFTA) with some tariffs out of the equation, hence the lower price.
But are you getting the most of its price tag? Well, it doesn't come with cruise control or power seat adjusters, but it's loaded with safety kit. These include stability control, all-speed traction control, Electronic Roll Mitigation, and six airbags. Plus, the old US-made Compass didn't come with that full-length panoramic sunroof.
The Renegade is certainly a left-field choice. Most subcompact crossover buyers would simply default to the Japanese marques when shopping for one. The transmission aside, there's a lot to like about the Renegade. The cargo space is bigger than its small size would lead you to believe, that engine offers a good amount of punch, and its design inside and out makes it stand out from the crowd. Yes, it has its faults, but it's rather endearing nonetheless. With its much lower price tag, it could lure in more people that want to have a small yet capable Jeep.