Mercedes-Benz (CLA), Lincoln (MKC) and Audi (A3) aren’t the only automakers searching for additional sales volume by moving
downmarket to smaller vehicles that are intended to hopefully maintain the brand’s character at a lower price point. The idea is to then keep those buyers as they move to larger, more-profitable models. The latest brand to take a play from this book is Jeep, with the all-new 2015 Jeep Renegade.
The Renegade looks like no other vehicle, and like no other Jeep, yet it still is clearly a Jeep. Forget what you may read about a Fiat-based front wheel drive architecture; the engineers did their homework with this little guy and (in Trailhawk trim, at least) can theoretically conquer the Rubicon Trail. In contrast to other Jeeps, the Renegade will not be built in the U.S.; it will be built in Fiat’s Melfi Assembly Plant in Italy. While purists won’t like that (actually, they probably won’t like the Renegade regardless of where it’s assembled), Fiat has plenty of spare capacity in its home country, and Jeep’s Toledo, Ohio home base is capacity constrained on strong demand for the Cherokee and Wrangler.
Engine choices number two – either a 1.4 liter turbocharged four, rated at 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, or a 2.4 liter naturally aspirated four, rated at 184 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual comes with the smaller engine, while the 2.4 liter is only available with the nine-speed automatic. Both engines are expected to deliver over 30 miles per gallon on the highway in the Renegade.
In spending a few minutes inside and around the Renegade, my favorite feature was all of the cool “Easter eggs” that the designers threw into it, and for three reasons. First, we’re just a few days from Easter and real Easter eggs. Second, Jeeps have an association with “Easter” because of the Easter Jeep Safari, . Third, they show a creative whimsy among the Renegade’s [American] designers that has been missing among many car company employees that seem to take themselves too seriously. A few that I found in just a few minutes with the Renegade (and I’m sure I am missing many) are mini Jeep icons (seven-slot grilles and round headlights) in the headlamp projectors, tail lamps, and speaker covers. (N.B. – Apparently I’m not the first to notice the Easter eggs; .)
The Renegade hits dealers later this year. Expect it to be a strong seller – it has quirky looks, off-road capability, fuel efficiency, and a decently spacious interior considering how small it is.