The Renegade certainly doesn’t look like a sellout although it does look weird. Then again its segment includes so many outlandish shapes—Kia Soul Nissan Juke Mini Countryman—that it’s not so much a class of vehicles as it is a clown college. And it’s about to get weirder with the Chevy Trax Honda HR-V Mazda CX-3 and the Renegade’s sibling rival the shapely Fiat 500X. Odd it may be but the Renegade doesn’t look bad and it certainly isn’t as cheap as the Patriot or as dorky as the Compass. It’s cheekily confidently butch without being overdone its upright stance trademark grille and taillights that protrude from the bodywork immediately identifying it as a relative of the Wrangler.
Inside the design theme is something Jeep calls “Tek-Tonic.” To us that sounds like a Silicon Valley fad cocktail the sort of thing made with lumbersexual-spec craft gin sold in bottles reclaimed from excavated colonial New England outhouse pits. (Don’t worry it’s alcohol! It kills any lingering bacteria.) But that’s not what Tek-Tonic is. Well not this one. This one is a blend of soft and rugged forms befitting a tiny stylish off-roader and it looks nicer than one might expect in a sub-$20000 Chrysler product. Anodized-look trim adds a touch of richness and even the interior door handles and lock tumblers are finished in matte silver.
Opt for the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder and you gain 20 horsepower but sacrifice 9 lb-ft of torque. We had a very difficult time discerning a difference in pace with the two engines although there is a difference in character. The bigger four is gruffer becoming a little coarse at high rpm. The torque peak also rises from 2500 rpm with the turbo to 3900 rpm. The bigger four is combined only with Fiat Chrysler’s nine-speed automatic and the plethora of forward ratios means the engine is in its sweet spot no matter your road speed. In the Cherokee we never actually got the transmission to shift into ninth; on this drive we never got up to a speed where we bothered trying. With either powertrain Jeep claims highway fuel economy exceeding 30 mpg; that’s likely only with front-wheel drive however.