Friday 28 October 2016

Cars... That's a 'rap': Renegade shows its rebel streak

But new crossover is an acquired taste

Published 27/09/2015 | 02:30

Acquired taste: Jeep Renegade
Acquired taste: Jeep Renegade

I don't know if Jeep should be chuffed or insulted. Their new Renegade was described by not one, but two, of my daughters (separately and, I believe, without prior consultation) as the sort of car a 'rapper' would drive.

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Make of that what you will. It looked like one, they said. The sort of cool-but-devil-may-care motor that cool-and-devil-may-care rappers would enjoy. And all that was before they even checked the name.

Renegade. 'Ah well! it goes to show you,' they chimed, 'the name is perfect for rappers'.

Right, I thought to myself, that's most of Ireland out of the equation and only a few cool, cash-rich, dudes to check out the Renegade.

Yet, in a strange, oblique way what they were saying wasn't far off the mark at all. Only it included rather than excluded non-rappers.

Let me explain. As the week rolled by and I drove it more, I began to increasingly take what they said on board.

The Renegade isn't your quintessential compact SUV, even if it does share a lot with the un-rapper-like FIAT 500X which I reviewed here recently.

It doesn't immediately come across as your conventional 'suburban mum' car. It doesn't give you the cosy, family feel some cars do. Well it didn't for me anyway.

Judged on a number of fronts I'd have to say it didn't do an awful lot stand-out well.

I thought the steering was heavy enough, the handling was okay and it was much better on the tarmac than I'd anticipated.

The interior was large and spacey with a lot of headroom (huge). But as a package I felt it didn't come across as well as it might given its individual attributes.

My version (limited trim) was packed with all sorts of goodies and enhanced comfort behind the wheel, but it never really came alive for me.

I'm still not a mad fan. And I'm acutely aware that Jeep have a lot of bridges to rebuild on the Irish market. But for all my misgivings, I slowly came to view it a bit differently.

It is a Jeep (the first to be built in Europe as well) and that means it can do things differently and get away with it. No, more than get away with it; make it distinctly Jeep. Otherwise what is the point of differentiation?

Price and spec levels are critical and I think their mid-€20,000s mainstream models are the ones that will get people (and maybe the odd rapper) thinking. That is where more favourable comparisons can be made with better known and more established rivals, though in the Skoda Yeti and MINI Countryman, to name two, they have the stiffest of competition.

And forget all the associations with FIAT-Chrysler and it sharing stuff with the 500X. The Jeep name still has, despite everything, a cachet of its own. It just needs re-acquaintance.

At a time when compact Crossover/SUVs are in such keen demand I can see why some would opt for it.

And it is a different story altogether if you want something that will do an occasional decent off-road job for you as well. There are 4x4 versions to capitalise on the Renegade's good ground clearance and approach angles as well as its famous tractability.

Another thing going for it, I felt, was the 1.6-litre diesel (yes it is one of those excellent FIAT power plants).

I don't think I ever heard it strain even when, returning from the midlands late at night from a joyous occasion, I frequently left it in sixth gear at unforgivably low revs only for it to pull its way back up to equilibrium. If for nothing else it is worth a drive to get a sense of the engine's ability.

By the way, the seats and seating were excellent. I could see this taking a lot of hacking from younger passengers, schoolbags, sports kits etc.

And the rappers can listen to/play their songs on a fine audio system (mine had DAB). I played a lot of golden oldies. That was me showing my rebel streak.

See? There's a touch of the renegade in us all.


Jeep Renegade 1.6 MultiJet II diesel 120bhp Limited 6spd manual (120bhp, 2WD, 4.6l/100km, 120g/km, €200 road tax). Prices start at €22,950. Car tested €30,450. Options: €600.

Standard equipment includes air con, 17ins wheels, electric windows, front fogs, driver's seat electric lumbar adjustment, electric/heated door mirrors, front passenger fold-flat seat, rear parking sensors, UConnect 6.5ins touchscreen, satnav, Bluetooth, forward collision warning, six-speaker audio system, cruise control, heated front seats. Spread of safety elements.

My side of the road

We have a headlight problem. A big, big problem. I drove from the midlands the other night and I lost count of the number of one-light motors or out-of-focus beams blinding me all the way back. If I'm being honest there were a couple of occasions where the dazzle forced me to brake or risk an accident.

It's scary out there at night - and it's only late September.

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