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2019 Jeep Renegade: New Car Review

The 2019 Jeep Renegade is now one of many subcompact SUVs, but it was once a pioneer that helped spur this fast-growing segment. However, despite the increased competition, the smallest Jeep remains the most off-road capable, and arguably the most characterful of the group. From its many quirky design touches and unique My Sky removable roof panels to its Selec-Terrain traction settings and go-anywhere Trailhawk trim, the Renegade offers things its competitors do not.

And for 2019, it gets a bump with a new 1.3-liter turbocharged engine that not only boasts considerably more torque than the 2.4-liter base engine, but is far smoother and more refined. It’s definitely the engine to get, though it’s also saddled with the same frustrating 9-speed automatic that plagues all three compact Jeep models. Make sure to make a passing maneuver during a test drive to see if you could live with it.

That blemish aside, the Renegade is otherwise well-rounded in the segment and one of our top choices.

What’s New for 2019?

The Jeep Renegade receives its first significant update. The styling has been revised and can now be enhanced with a full LED lighting package. Other new features include adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors and an automated parking system. However, the biggest news is the new engine. The previous 2.4-liter 4-cylinder upgrade is now standard, while the upgrade becomes a new 1.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. The 9-speed automatic transmission is now standard.

What We Like

Distinctive styling; comfortable high-mounted seating position; easy-to-use tech; off-road capability

What We Don’t

Unresponsive transmission and throttle; unrefined and inefficient base engine; minimal cargo capacity

How Much?

$19,000–$27,495

Fuel Economy

For 2019, the Renegade Sport and Latitude trim levels come standard with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard on every Renegade. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard on these trims, while all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional. Estimated fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with AWD, or 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined with FWD. Both estimates are low for this segment.

Optional on those trims and standard on the Trailhawk and Limited is a new 1.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 177 horsepower and a stout 200 lb-ft of torque. It includes an automatic stop/start system and active aero shutters in the grille (all but Trailhawk) to increase fuel economy. Official estimates were not available at the time of this writing, but they should be notably better than the base 2.4-liter.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Jeep Renegade is a subcompact crossover SUV available in four trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited.

The base Sport comes standard with 16-inch wheels, power windows and locks, manual mirrors, a backup camera, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split folding back seat, Bluetooth, a USB port, a 5-inch touchscreen and a 6-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface. The Power & Air Group adds air conditioning, heated power mirrors and cruise control. To that, the Uconnect 7.0 Group adds a 7-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, dual-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio.

The Latitude includes the above Sport options along with 16-inch alloy wheels, extra body-colored exterior trim, automatic headlights, foglamps, roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a second-row USB port. The Cold Weather Group adds a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, all-season rubber floor mats and automatic windshield wipers with de-icers.

The Trailhawk differs from all other trims with its off-road-oriented mechanical components and more rugged styling. These upgrades include low-range gearing for the standard AWD system, extra ground clearance, hill-descent control, the Selec-Terrain system (optional on other AWD trim levels and includes different settings for different low traction conditions), all-terrain tires on 17-in alloy wheels, a full-size spare, skid plates, tow hooks, special cloth upholstery, all-season floor mats, special red interior accents and an upgraded instrument cluster. The Popular Equipment Group adds a 6-way power driver seat, a 40/20/40-split back seat, an auto-dimming mirror and the Cold Weather Group (available separately). The Premium Leather Group basically includes all that plus leather upholstery.

The Limited reverts to the standard Renegade mechanical component set, apart from its standard turbo engine. It has 18-in wheels, chrome exterior trim, proximity entry and push-button start (optional on all other trims), keyless ignition and the same contents as the Trailhawk’s Premium Leather Group.

Optional on the top three trims is an 8.4-in touchscreen (includes HD radio and integrated navigation), a tow package, and the Safety & Security Group (includes blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning, automatic wipers, HID headlights and a cargo cover).

The Latitude and Limited can add the Advanced Technology Group (requires Safety & Security), which includes full-speed forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, an automatic parallel and perpendicular parking system, front parking sensors and automatic highbeams. The Limited and Trailhawk can be enhanced with the LED Lighting Group that adds a variety of LED exterior lighting, including the headlights.

A full-size spare tire is optional on non-Trailhawk trims, but it eliminates an under-floor storage bin. All trim levels can be equipped with the "My Sky" roof that combines a removable, power-sliding metal front sunroof, with a just-removable metal rear roof panel. For something less complicated (and quieter), the top three trims can add a more traditional panoramic glass sunroof.

Safety

The Renegade comes standard with 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, a backup camera and seven airbags (front, front side, driver knee and full-length side curtain). Options include blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning and full-speed automatic braking.

The government gave the all-wheel-drive Renegade four out of five stars overall, with 4-star frontal, 5-star side and 3-star rollover ratings. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a top score of Good in the moderate-overlap front crash, side impact and roof strength tests. It took the second-best score of Acceptable for the small-overlap front crash and head restraint categories.

Behind the Wheel

Unlike other subcompact crossovers, the Renegade feels more like an SUV from the driver’s seat. Headroom is particularly generous and the high seating position is not only good for visibility, but legroom, too. And despite being based on a car platform (shared with the Fiat 500X and Jeep Compass), it has ample ground clearance and short overhangs. These are enhanced considerably in the Trailhawk, which also gains low-range gearing, and boasts off-roading capability that nothing else in the segment approaches.

On paved roads, the Renegade is pleasantly nimble and the ride comfortable, though the Trailhawk does add some harshness. Unfortunately, the glacial throttle and transmission responses constantly frustrate, particularly when passing. You’ll punch the accelerator and wait an interminable amount of time for something to happen. By the time it does, the transmission often doesn’t pick the right gear and your passing opportunity has likely closed. This is the case regardless of whether you get the underwhelming and unrefined base engine, or the new, punchier turbocharged one.

In terms of interior quality and design, the Renegade is quite good for this segment. The 7- and 8.4-in touchscreen interfaces are feature-rich, user-friendly and easy to reach. The driver seat is also quite comfortable, and when equipped with 6-way power adjustment, is friendlier to taller drivers than most other vehicles in the segment.

Less friendly is the cargo area. Though its inherent boxiness gives it an upper hand at times over the competition (its 50.8 cu ft. of maximum space demonstrates this), it ultimately has a smaller footprint behind its raised back seats (with 18.5 cu ft., it’s among the smallest in the segment).

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Subaru Crosstrek — Redesigned last year, the Crosstrek has even more ground clearance than the Renegade Trailhawk, plus standard all-wheel drive. No low range gearing, though, and less characterful for sure.

2019 Hyundai Kona — A top pick in this segment thanks to its compelling design, ample feature content, a strong turbocharged engine and a fun-to-drive personality.

2019 Jeep Compass — The Compass is mechanically based on the Renegade, and even shares its base engine. If you’re OK with a higher payment (or less equipment), you’ll get considerably more space in the Compass.

Used Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk — The Cherokee is bigger, more refined and offers a much stronger V6 engine. Its Trailhawk version is even more capable than the Renegade’s. A used or certified pre-owned one should be comparably priced to a new Renegade.

Autotrader’s Advice

The Trailhawk is less comfortable to be sure, but it’s also the coolest and most capable. Otherwise, if you don’t need the Renegade at its max, the Latitude is plenty capable as long as you get the new turbocharged engine. Its extra equipment is also desirable over the base Sport.

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