It may look a little odd, but the new Jeep Renegade compact SUV, freshly on sale in Europe and expected to find its way to Australia in late 2015, can do something very few compact SUVs can manage: it can actually be taken off-road.
As in “off-the-road".
Aside from Suzuki’s Jimny, which we love in every possible way, most compact SUVs are built for the wilds of a suburban park, a wicker basket and a frisbee.
Most, in fact, are upright small wagons with a bit more ground clearance and a ‘tougher’ look... in the same way a sheep or a wombat is tough.
Not the new Renegade. Jeep Europe’s head man, Chris Ellis, said the Renegade is “a true off-roader”; unlike rivals, he said, which offer only “limited off-road capability”.
(He may have been deliberately ignoring the Jimny, but on with the story...)
The new Renegade comes with Jeep’s ‘4WD Trail-Rated Capability’, for certain models in the range.
That, as we’ve learned with others of Jeep’s ‘Trail Rated’ products – like the new Cherokee Trailhawk – means that this little SUV can go a long, long way off-road. And back again.
It is also, according to Jeep, the first small SUV with a disconnecting rear axle designed to engage instantly when it detects that 4WD traction is needed. It also features a 20:1 crawl ratio and a true 4WD ride-height.
The Renegade shares its platform and much of its construction with the new Fiat 500X. Both, in fact, are built at Fiat’s plant in Melfi, Italy.
Up front there is a choice of either a 1.4 litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol (119kW/250Nm) or a 2.4 litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine (137kW/240Nm).
The 1.4 litre is mated exclusively to a six-speed manual transmission, the 2.4 litre to the new nine-speed automatic found in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
It also comes in four familiar Jeep model grades, Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk.
Drivetrain options are 2WD, and two 4WD Jeep Active Drive systems featuring Jeeps ‘Selec Terrain’ selectable off-road modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, or Mud, plus Rock mode on the Trailhawk model).
The Trailhawk, which sits on 17-inch all-terrain tyres, features other off-road smarts such as hill-descent control, skid plates, tow hooks, and off-road bumpers.
The new Jeep Renegade looks like it may surprise us. According to the UK’s Car Connection, “the 2015 Jeep Renegade may very well be the best effort yet to come from the marriage of Fiat and Chrysler”.
We’ll wait with interest.