Renegade

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2021 Jeep Renegade Test Drive Review

A subcompact crossover with on- and off-road capability.

7.2 /10
Overall Score

Few brands enjoy as defined a reputation and identity as Jeep. Much like Porsche and performance driving, Jeep has carved out its niche as the “off-road brand.” Its vehicles may not traverse the Rubicon every day of the week, but each model in its lineup is capable of doing so (when properly equipped). That even includes the 2021 Jeep Renegade subcompact SUV. The Renegade can venture off the beaten path when needed and it offers practical utility and intuitive technology for everyday life.

Look and Feel

7/ 10

The Renegade was first introduced in 2015 and is based on underpinnings shared with the Jeep Compass. Whereas the Compass takes design cues from the Grand Cherokee, the Renegade is clearly inspired by the iconic Wrangler SUV. It features a boxy profile, circular headlights, and an upright seven-slat grille. The Renegade received a subtle refresh for 2019. For 2021, those design changes continue to carry over, and some previously optional features are now standard.

Inside, the Renegade boasts a modern, functional cabin design. The upright center stack is another nod to the Wrangler and puts controls all within easy reach. The Renegade offers a number of trims and special editions, some of which overlap in terms of features and equipment. These include Sport, Jeepster, Latitude, Upland, 80th Anniversary, Islander, Limited, and Trailhawk.

The Sport comes standard with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, a USB port, and a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Jeepster features largely the same equipment but adds keyless passive entry, remote start, 19-inch alloy wheels, and unique badging. The Latitude trim also provides largely the same content as the Sport but includes an additional USB port and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Latitude also opens up a number of options packages.

The Upland is an adventure-minded trim and comes with beefed-up skid plates and a unique front bumper that helps it approach obstacles. This trim comes exclusively with four-wheel drive (4WD). Meanwhile, the 80th Anniversary trim comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, HD radio, and Jeep’s larger 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation. The Islander is a limited-edition model and features exclusive hood graphics, white roof panels, a massive dual-panel panoramic moonroof, and offers a unique color palate.

The Limited is the range-topping luxury trim and provides leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, remote start, a power-adjustable driver's seat, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and standard 4WD.

The Trailhawk is priced the same as the Limited and represents the peak of the Renegade’s capability. It drops the standard leather seating but gains skid plates, tow hooks, a lifted suspension, all-terrain tires, and an upgraded 4WD system.

Performance

6/ 10

The base engine in the Renegade is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. It makes 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The upgraded engine is a turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder unit. Though it makes a bit less power, at 177 hp, it delivers an impressive 210 lb-ft of torque. Both engines route power through a nine-speed automatic transmission to front-wheel drive (FWD) or available 4WD.

Neither engine is particularly spirited, and the 2.4-liter will make a fuss when you push it. The turbocharged engine provides added motivation thanks to its extra torque. This engine is also more refined and won’t be as harsh under hard acceleration. The automatic transmission sometimes struggles to make smooth shifts or be in the right gear at the right time.

Despite these critiques, the Renegade has a solid ride quality. It’s surprisingly planted through corners, especially given its tall profile. The suspension is composed over rougher road surfaces, though this drops off for the Trailhawk’s off-road-minded setup. Thanks to its short wheelbase, the Renegade is particularly maneuverable in tight spaces. Combined with its impressive visibility, the Renegade makes for a terrific city car.

The Renegade is available with a terrain management system with Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud, and Rock drive modes. The Trailhawk harnesses this system, leveraging its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and off-road suspension. The result is a small SUV that is surprisingly capable when taken to the trail. The Trailhawk is the only trim level with Jeep’s “Trail Rated” designation, meaning it’s not a road-only SUV.

Form and Function

7/ 10

The Renegade provides 50.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. With the rear seats in use, it offers 18.5 cubic feet of cargo space. These specs are above average for the subcompact SUV segment, though the 2021 Kia Soul and 2021 Honda HR-V offer more (with 62.1 and 58.8, respectively).

Thanks to its tall, boxy design, the Renegade provides plenty of headroom in both rows. The front seats offer great legroom, and though the rear seats don’t offer as much, they are still suitable for adults. The Renegade is rife with helpful storage solutions, ranging from small cubbies and trays up to unique optional equipment tie-down solutions. The front passenger seat can also fold completely forward, making either a table for gear or added space for particularly long items.

Tech Level

9/ 10

The standard infotainment system is a 7-inch touchscreen. A large 8.4-inch screen is optional on some mid-tier trims and comes standard on higher trims. Both touchscreens run the intuitive Uconnect infotainment system. It has a logical menu layout, easy-to-read graphics, and a helpful dock at the bottom of the screen with icons for major functions. Both screens also come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A Kenwood premium audio system is available.

Safety

8/ 10

For 2021, Jeep has made previously optional safety features standard features across the lineup. These include automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-path detection. The only exception from the emergency braking is the Trailhawk trim.

You’ll still have to pay extra for adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and front and rear parking sensors, but it is good to see Jeep catch up to many of its competitors by making certain features standard. That said, despite the newly standard features, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Renegade only four out of five stars in crash tests. Parallel parking assist is also available as an option.

Cost-Effectiveness

6/ 10

The most efficient version of the Renegade is the 1.3-liter turbo engine with FWD. It returns EPA-estimated fuel economy of 24 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined. With FWD, fuel economy with this engine falls to 23 mpg city, 29 highway, 26 combined. In the Trailhawk, this engine returns 22 mpg city, 27 highway, 24 combined.

Fuel economy with the 2.4-liter engine and FWD is 22 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined. With 4WD, fuel economy is 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined.

Base MSRP for the 2021 Jeep Renegade is $24,695 for the Sport trim. The Latitude starts at $26,160 and the Jeepster starts at $27,105 (which comes exclusively with four-wheel drive). As other special editions go, the 80th Anniversary starts at $28,790 and the Islander starts at $29,340. The Trailhawk and Limited trims both start at $30,270.

Though its styling is inspired by the Wrangler, the Renegade can’t match its iconic stablemate. Instead, it’s a functional daily drivable crossover that offers a utilitarian cabin and more capability than the average subcompact SUV. This combination is entirely sensible, offering the practicality for on-road driving, and the ability to occasionally get off the beaten path.

Updated by George Kennedy

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