Some cars I have had the pleasure of driving have made me do something that is long forgotten- go for a drive. Not to the shops, in fact not for any reason other than to experience the driving pleasure again. The Alfa 4C and latest generation Mazda MX-5 are two such cars. I would come home from work, have dinner and instead of cranking up the laptop or pointing the remote at the telly, I would go straight back out and go for a drive. Destination anywhere, as the song says.
The Jeep Renegade is not one of these cars- but the reason I mention it is that there is something special about this, the first Jeep to be produced outside the United States of America. There are many debates and theories as to where the name Jeep originated. The most popular one is that the US Army tendered for such a vehicle, requiring it to be easily dismantled and transported as neccessary. These were called General Purpose, or “GP” vehicles. The story goes that “GP” gradually morphed into Jeep- and a legend was born. When Fiat took over Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep brands about seven years ago, the first examples of the Jeep brand were reintroduced to Irish roads. To put it mildly, they were not hugely impressive. Old style suspension layouts, amongst other things meant they were well behind their competitors from the off. As the Fiat influence became more apparent, the vehicles improved immensely and Jeep now have an impressive range to go with their famous name.
The difference between the Renegade and most of its competitors is what I can only call the “Jeep Effect” It may share its platform (and in some cases powertrain) with the Fiat 500X, but it looks, and more importantly feels, completely different. The branding is loud, the instruments have a brown “splash” of mud effect on them, the passenger has a massive grab handle on the dash- all screaming at you that this is no jacked up hatchback SUV. There is a tiny outline of an original Jeep in the corner of the windscreen that you would hardly notice, the rear light clusters are modelled on classic Jerry Cans, which used to sit on the back of WW2 Jeeps, the seven slot front grille, replicating the 1940s predecessor- the list goes on….
During my week with the Renegade, I was working, in many capacities, at the Leinster Trophy race meeting at Mondello Park. As well as my usual commentary duties, my TV company Irish Motorsport TV, were covering the races and I had 60 corporate guests attending on the Sunday, sponsors of Nicole Drought, who I manage. This meant the Renagade doubled up as a bus, van and many other roles on the run up to the weekend. The massive rear tailgate and cavernous boot meant it carried out these duties with aplomb. The Renegade I had previously driven had Fiat’s well known Multijet 1.6 diesel engine, which suited it quite well. These days of course, oil burners are no longer the thing, and this time round, “my” Renegade was equipped with the 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo petrol engine. While it was more than capable, I definitely preferred the miserly consumption and low speed torque of the diesel and felt it suited the car far better. That said, the Renegade will be receiving Fiat Group’s new 3 cylinder 1.o petrol 120bhp engine in 2019 ,as well as a new 1.3 4 cylinder with 150 or 180bhp- and I look forward to comparing those to both of the current options.
Choosing a Renegade is probably a big ask for your average SUV buyer as it is completely different to the mainstream segment leaders- and pretty it certainly ain’t. I do think it offers something completely different though and I wonder if the Jeep Ireland crew should consider offering 24 hour test drives- so potential customers can experience that Jeep Effect!
As their tagline says, “Where the road ends, the adventure begins!”
The Jeep Renegade range starts at €21,950- more information HERE