- Published: Saturday, 20 May 2017 00:46
The Renegade is Jeep's most affordable model in Singapore. But does it live up to its illustrious brand name?
SINGAPORE — So the Jeep Renegade is finally in Singapore, nearly a year after its international launch. That seems timely, since there’s also a renegade in the White House at the moment.
It’s a funny name for a car, anyway, given that “renegade” essentially means “traitor”.
That might sound like an extreme way to think of the car, but the Renegade does sit at odds with the values of its maker in a number of ways.
X marks the spot in the taillights where the Renegade pays homage to US Army jeeps
For starters, unlike the big, rugged Jeeps we’re used to, it’s quite a compact thing.
The Renegade is based on the underpinnings of a Fiat 500X (a small city runabout), which is an arrangement down to Fiat and Chrysler (which owns Jeep) being joined at the corporate hip.
It actually has a similar footprint to that of a Volkswagen Golf — both cars are the same length, and though the Jeep is 6mm wider, the VW’s wheelbase is actually 57mm longer.
Seek and ye shall find plenty of Jeep logos
If you want to compare it to another crossover car, think Honda HR-V or thereabouts. Again, the Renegade is shorter (in length and in wheelbase), but wider.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Climb aboard the Jeep and you’ll find it unexpectedly roomy. The tall height and boxy shape create a cabin blessed with plenty of headroom, and though the back seats are set fairly upright, plonking yourself into them doesn’t feel like hardship.
The boot isn’t huge but it’s deep, and it offers 351 litres of space (way more than, say, the Ford Focus’ 316 litres). Folding the rear seats takes that up to 1,297 litres. Again, that’s more decent than generous, but it’s clear that the Renegade’s space packaging makes the most of its compact footprint. It’s a small car, but it isn’t a cramped one.
It doesn’t drive like a Jeep, either, which is a good thing. The big tyres don’t give much steering feel, and the suspension is firm enough to make the ride slightly jittery, but the Renegade handles and behaves much more like a road car than a 4x4.
This is about as splashy as you'll want to get in the Renegade
It doesn’t crash or judder over bumps the way a Wrangler does, and the suspension set-up (MacPherson struts at each corner, which is similar to what Porsche’s Cayman uses) is both cost-effective and reasonably comfortable.
Ultimately the Renegade doesn’t carve through corners with the sharpness of a hot hatch, but it also avoids the dullness and sloppy behaviour of a rugged 4x4.
If that handling defies expectation, so does the acceleration. On paper it sounds slow, with a quoted 0 to 100km/h time of 11 seconds, but when you actually drive it the Jeep feels much quicker. There’s a nice surge of mid-range acceleration from the 1.4-litre turbo engine (a MultiAir II unit from Fiat), and it’s helped by decisive gearchanges from the six-speed, twin-clutch gearbox.
Yet another way it’s a bit un-Jeep is that only the front wheels are driven, which limits its off-roading abilities. You could probably still drive it onto the beach or into the jungle. There’s just less of a chance you’d be able to drive back out again.
Overseas, you can have your Renegade with a 4x4 system to give it proper mud-slinging prowess, but the local spec makes sense for Singapore. There are no jungle trails to hit here, and sticking with front-wheel drive reduces fuel consumption.
Having zero off-roading ability hasn’t exactly hurt HR-V sales, and people who want a go-anywhere Jeep can always buy a Wrangler, anyway.
That means the Renegade’s tall stance and big tyres are more for show than anything, but they help the car look the part of a Jeep.
There’s the brand’s trademark (and trademarked) seven-slat grille, flanked by big round headlights. They give the car an unmistakable family face, while subtle touches pay homage to the brand’s heritage. Check out the X marks in the tail lamps, for instance, which give a visual shoutout to the jerry cans that WWII-era Jeeps carried.
Inside, the Renegade is littered with playful styling flourishes, as well. The Jeep logo makes several appearances all over the place, and the instruments have a cheerily muddy theme.
Even the infotainment’s display has a cracked earth pattern — it’s subtle, but it’s there when you look — and a corner of the windscreen has a cheeky US Army jeep silhouette.
The sound system itself is no more than passable (the screen is small by today’s standards), and the car has a slightly strange spec. Advanced stuff like a lane-keep assist system, blind spot monitor and autonomous emergency braking are standard, for example, but it still has manual headlamps.
Meanwhile, the parking brake is a posh electronic one, but starting the engine is an old-fashioned insert-key-and-twist affair.
But the cabin’s funky styling means the Renegade is a jolly place to sit in, and it feels like a car that Jeep’s designers really enjoyed working on.
In that sense it’s a bit like a Mini, another car made by people who go heavy on the playful styling.
Funny I should say that, because local deal ChryslerJeep Automotive says it’s seen a few Mini owners trade their cars in for a Renegade.
And why not? At $139,000 with COE, the Renegade offers more room than a five-door Mini hatch for similar pricing, with a similar sort of panache born out of liberal reference to brand heritage.
Someone at Jeep went loco with logos
But considered as a Jeep product, the Renegade does live up to its slightly rebellious name. It feels more New Jeep than it feels like a new Jeep, in the sense that it’s a departure from the brand: it has a tighter build than its older stablemates and is more road-focused, but is better to drive for it.
It also creates something that Jeep hasn’t really had in Singapore: a bread-and-butter model. Given the price and what it offers, the Renegade will probably deliver what counts as strong sales for Jeep in Singapore. It deserves to do better than that other, orange-haired renegade, anyway.
NEED TO KNOW Jeep Renegade Limited
Engine 1,368cc, 16V, turbo inline 4
Power 138hp at 5500rpm
Torque 230Nm at 1750rpm
Gearbox 6-speed DCT automatic
Top Speed 181km/h
0-100km/h 11.0 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.9L/100km
Price $139,000 with COE