By RON SESSIONS | Contributing Editor Road trips are special.…
Maybe it was a bout of nostalgia over my Barbie’s 1994 ‘beach cruiser’, or the fact that we’ve all been dreaming for Jeep to deliver us a Jeep that’s compact yet not a total compromise from its brethren. Of course, this is a dream not for Wrangler purists but one for other consumers who (literally), at one time or another, bought into the Liberty, Patriot, Commander, and Compass models that wound up as broken promises. Thankfully, the Renegade is their redemption.
Fun and flirty meets down and dirty
Small in stature yet relatively big on cargo configurations, the 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4×4 offers what many compact utility vehicles do not. For one, this Jeep brings utility and true SUV-like functionality, including the brand’s trail-rated stamp of approval. The Renegade reminds us of the original SUVs of the 1990’s, when there was no fussiness over what you were hauling around; and its boxy shape add to this throw-back vibe.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has created a fun-loving, practical small Jeep to compete in the bustling crossover segment. The Renegade shares a platform with its Italian cousin, the Fiat 500L.
We hit the country roads for Labor Day weekend on a voyage to the mountains of Virginia along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The Renegade was ready for each part of our trip, whether we drove on smooth highways, gravel roads or grassy lands. On-the-fly four-wheel-drive offers Renegade owners the fuel economy they desire on the open road while also providing trail-rated capabilities long after ditching the pavement. We didn’t have the opportunity to put the “trail” part of the Trailhawk’s name to the test, but Jeep has been certifying its models for legit off-roading for years. Based on this and our experience with the new Cherokee, we’re confident that the Renegade will be competent when placed in less-than-urban situations.
Lose the roof and let in the fresh air
We had a blast shedding the roof panels and enjoying the fresh mountain air. Jeep provides a coordinating storage sleeve for the roof panels’ safekeeping; however, if packing the car full like we did, you may want to leave the carrying case at home as we wouldn’t recommend packing heavy items such as suitcases atop the roof panels.
The roof panels are lightweight and fairly straightforward to remove. Jeep provides a key for unlocking both panels from the inside. Simply pop them open and stow them in the cargo area. What’s not as easy, however, is putting them back in place. It takes a bit of maneuvering to figure out the correct positioning so that you can lock the panels back.
Seats are comprised of a cloth similar to the neoprene-like material found in the Wrangler, meaning they’re durable. We’re not sure if they’re water-resistant though, so you may not want to leave the roof panels off if there’s a threat of a thunderstorm. We found the seats to be comfortable and supportive without being too stiff or feeling like an area where Jeep cut costs.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the umpteen thousand “Easter eggs” that can be found throughout the vehicle. It’s almost overdone, but we appreciate the cuteness on an already cute vehicle. We were fond of the red accents found both outside and inside on the Trailhawk package. The details made the interior feel fresh and young, and the red complemented our Anvil blue exterior paint nicely.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade base model starts at just under $19,000, but our Trailhawk edition started a bit higher at $25,000 (without destination). When considering what you get the Renegade Trailhawk is a pretty great deal. Jeep allows buyers to pick and choose the features they really want or need, without it becoming an overpriced game of “a la carte” ordering.
Our favorite standard features include:
- Parkview™ rear backup camera
- Selec-Terrain™ system with Rock Mode
- Capless fuel fill (no more forgetting to replace your gas cap!)
- Daytime running headlights and fog lamps
- TPM display
- Uconnect® with 5-inch touchscreen display
- Manual 6-way driver’s seat and 4-way adjustable passenger’s seat
- Rear 60/40 folding seats
- Height adjustable rear cargo floor
- Front and rear tow hooks
- Heated exterior mirrors
We were honestly pleasantly surprised by the Renegade. This is a vehicle that creates some dissent among Jeep Wrangler enthusiasts; but if you’re cross-shopping CUVs in the mid-$20,000 range, we’d certainly recommend you put this petite Jeep on your test drive list. The boxier shape gives the Renegade an advantage over its hatchback-style crossover competitors. Combined with a trail-ready 4×4 system–which, admittedly, few will ever need or use–the 2015 Renegade Trailhawk has it all.
In three words: the Renegade is fun, functional and fuel efficient. Its 9-speed automatic transmission provides a smooth ride and the 2.4L engine provides just enough power to meet the average driver’s daily needs.
Editor’s Note: We incorrectly stated the 2015 Renegade came with a CVT. Jeep has ditched the Continuous Variable Transmission for this model. Thanks to our reader for pointing out our mistake.
Previous Post: Love at First Drive | Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Review