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2016 Jeep Renegade: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2016

The 2016 Jeep Renegade stakes out its own turf within the Jeep lineup. Whereas the new Cherokee's styling is relatively sophisticated and the old Compass and Patriot models are frankly unremarkable, this subcompact crossover establishes a separate and distinct personality that evokes Jeep's heritage but looks modern at the same time.

Small crossovers like this -- including the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3 -- are the new big thing in the automotive world. Once again, the Renegade carves its own niche by being a Jeep, so it naturally has some off-roading talent and even the option of a removable roof. It's still a vehicle for modern times, though, with a turbocharged small-capacity engine and optional Wi-Fi.

What's New for 2016?

The Renegade was all new for last year, so there are few changes this time. The optional audio system (9-speaker/506-watt) upgrade now comes courtesy of Beats. There used to be a removable cargo-area flashlight in the Limited and Trailhawk trims, but that's been discontinued for this year. However, those versions now have rain-sensing wipers as standard, which are also optional in the one-up-from-basic Latitude trim.

What We Like

Easy to park; zippy engines; excellent visibility; distinctive styling; off-road capability

What We Don't

Mediocre fuel economy for such a small vehicle; air conditioning isn't standard on the Sport model

How Much?

$18,990-$27,490

Fuel Economy

A 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, rated at 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, is standard in the Sport and Latitude trims. It's paired with a 6-speed manual, which is the sole transmission for this engine. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel consumption at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg combined, both with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Because of the turbo, this engine uses premium gasoline.

A naturally aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque is optional for the two lower trims and standard in the Limited and Trailhawk. A 9-speed automatic is the only transmission offered with this unit. This setup returns 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with the all-wheel-drive system.

The Trailhawk comes standard with a more-advanced all-wheel-drive system that includes low-range gearing.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Jeep Renegade comes in Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk trim levels.

The Sport ($18,990) trim includes 16-inch steel wheels, dual fixed sunroofs, manual exterior mirrors, power windows and locks, manual front seats with driver's-seat height adjustment, a 3.5-in thin-film-transistor (TFT) driver information display and a 4-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input and a USB port. Remarkably, air conditioning is an option.

The Latitude ($22,390) adds standard air conditioning, along with 16-in alloy wheels, fog lights, roof rails, body-color door handles, heated power mirrors, a folding front passenger seat, ambient LED interior lighting, a 5-in touchscreen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a 6-speaker audio system and an additional USB port.

The Limited ($25,990) brings 18-in alloy wheels, a 7-in TFT driver information display, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8-way power driver's seat, heated front seats and 40/20/40-split folding rear seats with a pass-through hatch (60/40 seats are standard on lower trims).

The Trailhawk ($27,490) has an enhanced all-wheel-drive system with low-range gearing, hill-descent control and terrain selection as standard. It also receives a slight suspension lift, skid plates, all-terrain tires (on 17-in alloy wheels) and sport cloth upholstery. It doesn't have some of the Limited's upgrades, however, such as the auto-dimming mirror or leather upholstery.

Many standard features on higher trims are available on lesser models as options. Additional extras include two roof upgrades (manually removable or power retractable/removable), a 6.5-in touchscreen with navigation, the 9-speaker Beats audio system, mobile Wi-Fi and keyless entry/starting.

Safety

The Renegade comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and seven airbags (front, front-side, driver-knee and full-length side-curtain). Options include a blind spot monitoring system (with rear cross-path alert), lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors and forward-collision alert with automatic braking. The latter is a rare offering in this value-conscious segment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the all-wheel-drive Renegade four out of five stars overall: four stars for frontal impacts, five stars for side-impact protection and three stars in the rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a top score of Good in the front moderate-overlap, side-impact and roof-strength tests. It took the second-best score of Acceptable for the small-overlap impact and head-restraint categories.

Behind the Wheel

Unlike many compact crossovers, the Renegade feels quite like an SUV from the driver's seat. Headroom is particularly generous, and the blocky, upright dash is more Wrangler than car-based crossover. Trunk space with the rear seats up comes to 18.5 cu ft. or 50.8 cu ft. with those seats folded down. That's pretty good for a crossover of this size.

The Renegade is actually based on a car platform (shared with the FIAT 500X), but its ample ground clearance, short overhangs and available all-wheel drive with low-range gearing give it respectable skills out on the trail. The only real disappointment is that towing capacity maxes out at 2,000 pounds, so it lacks true SUV functionality in that regard.

On paved roads, these car roots pay dividends in the form of a smooth ride and nimble, confidence-inspiring handling. You sit higher in this Jeep than in most compact crossovers, yet cornering never feels less than secure. The Renegade is particularly appealing for city dwellers because it's so easy to park. It doesn't feel too small, though, thanks to both the elevated ride height and decent performance from either engine.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Trax -- The Trax doesn't have any off-road pretensions, but it does offer a serene highway ride and a high-tech touchscreen interface with Wi-Fi connectivity.

2016 FIAT 500X -- The Renegade's platform mate is more attuned to city duty than country life, but it's still pretty good.

2016 Honda HR-V -- The HR-V is new, versatile and enjoys Honda's exemplary build quality.

2016 Mazda CX-3 -- The CX-3 is also new, well built and one of the sportier drives of this class.

2016 Mini Countryman -- Anyone considering a higher-priced Renegade should also check out the sporty and upscale Countryman.

2016 Nissan Juke -- The Juke is athletic and turbocharged, but not everyone will like its looks.

Used BMW X1 -- BMW's certified pre-owned program can offer a lightly used X1 for the price of a new Renegade. You'll enjoy the superior performance and luxury.

Autotrader's Advice

There isn't much difference in power or fuel consumption between the two drivetrains, so it all boils down to the choice of a manual or an automatic transmission. The Wrangler has set something of a precedent for manual-transmission all-wheel-drive vehicles having strong resale values thanks to an enthusiast following. It's too early to tell how the Renegade will fare in this respect, but don't let it deter you from buying a manual version if that's what you really want.

Find a Jeep Renegade for sale

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Used 2016 Jeep Renegade 4WD Trailhawk
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Used 2016 Jeep Renegade 4WD Trailhawk
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Used 2016 Jeep Renegade 4WD Latitude
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Used 2016 Jeep Renegade FWD Sport
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Jeep Renegade: New Car Review - Autotrader