2015 Jeep Renegade first drive: The past is present in the future

Lead2

Let’s play a game. You’ve recently been hired as a designer at FCA, and have been assigned the Jeep division, tasked with creating a new, small SUV. You’re must be creative, but it’s mandatory you also incorporate all the design cues that make it instantly identifiable as a Jeep vehicle. What do you do? Chances are this probably isn’t how the Renegade came about, but we’re sure that was part of the initial discussion as the 2015 Jeep Renegade was being conceived.

2015 Jeep Renegade Latitude

Several traditional Jeep styling cues are incorporated into the new Renegade. How many can you spot?

The good news is that the cues that give Jeep its “Jeepness” work well in this compact SUV. These classic design elements include round Halogen headlamps, traditional seven-slot grille, straight up stance (no major lean to the windshield or pillars), flat roof, and trapezoidal wheel arches. That doesn’t leave much left to play with on the exterior, so the designers took those points and added a lot of personality to the new Renegade. What we mean is the vehicle has what the designers call an “exaggerated expression.” That translates to a chin that juts out with a large bumper (on all but Trailhawk models), a kick up by the rear glass, and an “X” debossed styling cue that can be found outside, inside and all over the Renegade. (Think spare gas tank on a WWII Jeep.) We agree with the designers when they call the Renegade tough and cute (they actually said just this side of cute, but we think it is cute). And there’s nothing wrong with cute. Cute sells: Mazda Miata, Kia Soul, and many other vehicles that have been quite successful are cute.

badgeEven though Jeep says the Kia Soul is a competitor (as well as the Nissan Juke and Buick Encore) because they share a size class, none of them have a fraction of the capability the Renegade does. That’s where the tough comes in. No vehicle — outside of another Jeep — does. Jeep created a category no other manufacturer could have. The Renegade is off-road tough, on-road smooth, big enough to handle lots of cargo, and small enough to park and maneuver easily. It’s nearly perfect. (We’ll pick our nits later).

2015 Jeep® Renegade TrailhawkThe Renegade comes in four flavors: Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk. All are available in two- or four-wheel drive except for the Trailhawk, which is strictly 4×4 for a more off-road-focused approach. Each model offers a little bit different look, such as grilles, wheels and tire sizes, and different interior trim. Pricing on the Renegade is another strong point. The Sport 4×2 starts at $18,990 with destination, and runs up to $26,990 for the Trailhawk model. We spent most of our day driving the Trailhawk, which was dressed in Omaha Orange paint.

2015 Jeep Renegade TrailhawkOnce inside the Renegade, we were greeted was an interior that looked contemporary and well put together. The fit and finish was darn good (these were pre-production models), the materials appeared high end, and we felt the designers did a great job of mixing function with usability. They call it “Tek-Tonic”; we call it attractive. Different trims offer different designs and materials. Our Trailhawk tester featured the Premium Group Package that included black leather seats, remote start, windshield wiper de-icer, dual-zone auto climate control, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and more. It also had navigation and SiriusXM Satellite radio, the Safety and Security Group featuring blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection, security alarm, and Keyless Enter ’n Go, and My Sky power/removable sunroof. All those goodies brought the total package to $32,440, which is almost fully loaded. Other packages available depending on trim level will give you premium audio, cold weather goodies, and trailer towing. Cloth seats are standard on all models, and that makes sense; no serious off-roader likes leather seats. Cloth has more grip, is easier to protect and clean, and is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

2015 Jeep Renegade Limited

A paintball splash takes the place of a normal overrev redline. More fun from the Renegade design team.

Although the Renegade is a compact SUV, it feels spacious inside, mostly due to the upright design. The beefy grab handle above the glovebox is a necessity for the front-seat off-road passenger, and we used it frequently during our non-asphalt drives. The Renegade comes standard with a 3.5-inch TFT display until you get to the Limited trim, where it jumps up to a 7-inch color multiview TFT screen. The instrument cluster was easy to read, and the steering wheel had a comfortable grip.

In the center console, Uconnect on Sport models is a basic readout; standard on the rest of the models and available in a package on Sport models is Uconnect with a 5.0-inch touchscreen with SiriusXM radio and Bluetooth. A 6.5-inch touchscreen is optional on all the models, and is packaged with navigation, HD radio, and more. Jeep gets that these vehicles are tools as well as transportation, and included a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet on Latitude and above, and two 12-volt outlets standard on all models: one in the floor console bin and one in the cargo area.

cargo area

The bag at the bottom of the cargo area will hold the My Sky roof panels when you are going semi-topless.

Speaking of the cargo area, the Jeep Renegade has plenty. There’s 18.5 cubic feet of volume with the second-row seats up, and over 50 cubic feet with the seats folded. There’s also a removable and height-adjustable cargo floor panel for two-tier storage, tiedown loops, and a light so you can see what you’re doing at night.

key fob

The church key in the shape of the grille is how you unlock/lock the My Sky sunroof panels.