If you’re interested in buying a new Jeep, you’ll probably notice that the brand’s lineup contains two different compact SUVs that are relatively the same size: the 2015 Jeep Cherokee and the 2015 Jeep Renegade. But these two SUVs aren’t identical, which begs the question: What exactly sets them apart? Even more importantly: Which one should you buy? To help you answer the second question, we’ve answered the first by gathering the key differences between the Cherokee and the Renegade. This will help you understand exactly what separates Jeep’s two newest models.
Few, if any, observers will say that the Cherokee and the Renegade share any real similarities on the outside. One obvious difference is the size: The Cherokee seems to slot closer to the midsize end of the compact crossover realm, while the Renegade is dangerously close to subcompact territory. The differences, however, go beyond just size: The two SUVs share virtually no stylistic components. In fact, aside from the traditional "Jeep" grille with its numerous vertical slats, the Renegade and the Cherokee look nothing alike, offering different front and rear ends, body panels and wheel designs.
In essence, these two models are highly different from the moment you first glance at them, except for the Jeep badge on the front.
Inside the cabin, the Cherokee and Renegade are just as different as they are on the outside. Interior space is one major area of variation because the Cherokee simply has more of it. Front seat room is similar, but rear seat room and cargo space are a lot more generous in the Cherokee.
Then there’s the interior styling, itself. The Renegade’s interior looks more cartoonish, with grab handles and body-colored trim pieces located throughout. The Renegade’s cabin also looks a bit lower-rent than the Cherokee’s, with a simple, functional design instead of a stylish, modern one. The Cherokee, meanwhile, boasts stylish air vents, a more cohesive center stack and all-around nicer materials. In essence, the Cherokee is a slightly better place to spend time due to its interior room and cabin quality.
Mechanical differences between the Jeep Renegade and the Cherokee go hand-in-hand with their size difference: The Renegade offers smaller engines, while the Cherokee boasts bigger ones.
Specifically, the Renegade’s base-level engine is a 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which touts up to 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Optional is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s capable of 180 hp and up to 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.
Meanwhile, the Cherokee’s base-level engine is the Renegade’s optional engine. In the Cherokee, the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder makes 184 hp and still manages up to 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy. But drivers wishing for more power can opt for a truly muscular 3.2-liter V6, which makes 271 hp and has more power than just about any rival. That engine boasts up to 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.
Features & Technology
The high-tech feature we like most in both the Renegade and the Cherokee is the available infotainment system. Chrysler’s Uconnect system touts some of the best infotainment functionality in the entire automotive industry. Unfortunately, Uconnect’s full 8.4-inch screen isn’t offered in the Renegade, and it "only" offers a 6.5-in screen.
In terms of other features, we think it’s truly impressive how much equipment and how many gadgets both crossovers offer. Sure, you’ll get the normal array of available technology, such as automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start and the like, but both crossovers also offer some amazingly upscale extras. These include lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision alert, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a heated steering wheel and more. But the Cherokee takes things even further than its smaller stablemate, adding available adaptive cruise control, an automated parking system, automatic crash mitigation braking, xenon headlights and ventilated front seats.
In other words, if you’re interested in features and gadgets, we think both the Renegade and the Cherokee will satisfy you. But if you want the best technology and the latest equipment, the Cherokee wins over its baby brother.
Behind the wheel, we happen to like both the Cherokee and the Renegade — but for entirely different reasons. We like the Renegade for its fun, happy-go-lucky demeanor, especially with its 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, which seems even peppier than the optional 2.4-liter. We also like its useful city-car sizing, its cheeky styling and its surprisingly enjoyable handling, thanks to its direct steering and short wheelbase.
On the other hand, the Cherokee is a more serious crossover. It offers a more comfortable ride, more comfortable seating and engines that we’d describe as "refined" rather than "peppy" — though they still aren’t quite as refined as the powerplants in some competitors’ models. The Cherokee is still a good crossover to drive, but it trades "happy-go-lucky" for "grown-up." Not a bad deal if you are, in fact, grown-up.
In crash tests carried out by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2015 Jeep Cherokee earned a 4-star rating, which is not bad, but not great in a segment with many 5-star rivals. The Cherokee has earned high marks from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but it has not yet endured the challenging small overlap frontal test that has been difficult for many new models. Meanwhile, the Renegade is still a little too new for either group to test.
As for safety equipment, both cars have all the basics, such as anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags and traction control with stability control. They also both have a lot of gadgets, too, offering rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring, forward-collision warning and more. Once again, however, the Cherokee offers a few extra features than the Renegade, touting adaptive cruise control, an automated parking system and an automatic braking function for the forward-collision warning system.
If you opt for all the packages, you’ll find that neither the Cherokee nor the Renegade is lacking in safety equipment — especially compared to rivals. The Cherokee just offers a bit more features, as you might expect given its higher price tag and larger size.
Both the Cherokee and the Renegade are excellent crossovers. We suspect the one you choose will depend largely on your lifestyle: Drivers who want more gadgets, more comfort, more power and more room will choose the Cherokee. However, those who want a cute crossover that emphasizes stand-out styling and affordable pricing over a mature design and roomy interior will want the Renegade. The good news is that both SUVs offer roughly the same level of equipment and about the same gas mileage, meaning you won’t have to compromise on either item when you make your final decision.