A Jeep has always been as American as apple pie. Even the name is commonly believed to have its roots dug deep in the US psyche – thought to have derived from the initials G.P. for ‘General Purpose’, which is what the US Army called its rugged, go-anywhere vehicles during the Second World War.
Since then the Jeep brand has morphed into a range of more civilised vehicles for normal driving on the road. Most buyers still regard them as being as American as, well, the Empire State Building. Not this one though. Jeep is now owned by Fiat, and as a result the Renegade is far more Italian than American.
For a start, although it may look like a hunky trans-Atlantic import, it is actually designed and made in Italy. Underneath that rather upright body is a core structure that is basically the same as the one that underpins a Fiat 500X. Then there’s the engine, a MultiJet II turbodiesel, made by Fiat and found in many of the Italian car maker’s other models. Where is the Renegade manufactured? In a factory near Naples.
So what’s American about this Jeep? That iconic name, and a lot of all-American history. Also, the familiar seven-slot grille that has become a signature of all modern Jeeps. But that’s about it. Those things apart, the Renegade is a European car, and the new starting point in the Jeep range, which means it’s more affordably priced than most Jeeps have been up to now.
The Renegade’s price list starts from £16,995 on-the-road for petrol models, and £18,695 upwards for the diesels. That’s for a rugged five-door sports-utility vehicle with a choice of engines and power outputs, the most popular of which is likely to be the 1.6 litre, 118 bhp diesel. There are both front-wheel-drive models and also off-road capable 4x4s.
The cabin is roomy with decent legroom all round and very generous headroom. It’s quite a practical car, with a 351-litres boot that expands to a very handy 1,300 litres when the rear seats are folded down. It is quite nicely kitted out, with electric windows and mirrors, air conditioning, a five-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity and roof-rails all included as standard items on every version of the car.
What is the Renegade like to drive? Quite chummy, with good performance: for example, a 111 mph top speed and 0-62 acceleration in 10.2 seconds in this 1.6 diesel model. There’s a bit of body lean on the bends, and the ride isn’t as smooth as some of its rivals, but it’s generally civilised and quite good fun behind the wheel.
There is an element of fun about the Renegade’s design too. Scattered around the cabin are some hidden treats to discover – Jeep calls them ‘Easter eggs’ – and they’re something to keep the kids amused on a search for them. I’ll mention just a few worth spotting, but there are more to discover. Look out for a Jeep grille logo lurking on the rear-view mirror, a miniature silhouette of a traditional Jeep tucked into the edge of the windscreen, and a large permanent mud-splat on the rev counter …