The 2021 Jeep Renegade remains the most off-road-capable and arguably the most characterful contender among subcompact SUV/crossovers. With boxy styling, quirky design touches, optional Selec-Terrain traction settings, and go-anywhere Trailhawk trim, the Renegade offers fun and capability that leaves more pedestrian rivals in the dust.
Although they’re more at home in the suburbs, the Renegade’s competitors often have nicer drivetrains. This little Jeep offers a choice of a 2.4-liter base engine or a turbocharged 1.3-liter engine, which has more torque and feels smoother and more refined.
Sadly, both engines are saddled with the same frustrating and slow-witted 9-speed automatic transmission that plagues all three small Jeep models. During a test drive, make a passing maneuver to see if it’s bearable.
That blemish aside, the Jeep Renegade is an otherwise well-rounded yet distinct vehicle in its class.
What’s New for 2021?
The entry-level Sport trim gains full-speed forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance/lane departure warning as standard. It also comes with an upgraded infotainment system that includes a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, and satellite radio.
Latitude trim gains an alarm and a full-color 7-inch LCD driver information display. Limited trim has an 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation, and a tonneau cover. Trailhawk also receives more standard equipment, including an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, wiper de-icer, and a self-dimming rearview mirror.
A Jeepster Edition enhances Sport trim with 19-inch alloy wheels, gloss black grille rings, black cloth upholstery, and a remote start function.
An Islander Edition based on the Latitude trim brings silver-finished 17-inch alloy wheels, a dual-pane sunroof, “Tiki Bob” seat tags, and Surf Blue accent stitching. Also based on the Latitude trim is the 80th Anniversary Edition bundle with 19-inch alloy wheels finished in Granite Crystal, 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation, and Berber mats. See the 2021 Jeep Renegade models for sale near you
What We Like
- Distinctive styling
- The comfortable high-mounted seating position
- User-friendly technology
- Rare off-road ability for a subcompact crossover
What We Don’t
- Unresponsive transmission and throttle
- Unrefined and inefficient base engine
- Minimal cargo capacity
A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard in every 2021 Renegade. And every version with all-wheel drive is rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds.
A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine comes in the Sport and Latitude trims, producing 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard here; all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving (FWD) or 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined (AWD). These figures are less than impressive for the class.
A more fuel-efficient turbocharged 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine is optional in the Latitude trim and standard in the Limited and Trailhawk versions. Although it makes 177 hp, it also generates a more muscular 210 lb-ft of torque, which is especially helpful when off-roading.
EPA estimates are 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined (FWD) or 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined (AWD). It will run on 87-octane regular gasoline, but Jeep recommends using premium 93-octane gasoline.
An automatic stop/restart system and active grille shutters (not in the Trailhawk) help optimize fuel economy. The Limited and Trailhawk models have full-time all-wheel drive as standard.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Jeep Renegade subcompact SUV/crossover SUV comes in Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited trim levels. Where it’s optional, all-wheel drive is an extra $1,500.
Sport ($24,325) has full-speed forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance/lane departure warning, 16-in steel wheels, power windows/locks, heated side mirrors, height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, 60/40 split/folding back seat, Bluetooth, USB port, 7-in infotainment touchscreen Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, auxiliary audio input, and a 6-speaker audio system.
This trim can be fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, tinted glass, all-wheel drive and the above-mentioned Jeepster package.
Latitude ($26,310) adds 17-in alloy wheels, extra body-colored exterior trim, roof rails, tinted glass, automatic on/off headlights, cornering fog lights, illuminated vanity mirror, ambient LED cabin lighting, steering wheel wrapped in simulated leather, 7-inch full-color LCD driver information display, alarm, and a second-row USB port.
As well as the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, Latitude may also be ordered with keyless entry/ignition, remote start, 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic Plus, power-adjustable driver’s seat, self-dimming rearview mirror, 115-volt outlet, rain-sensing wipers, wiper de-icer, and heated front seats, plus the Islander and 80th Anniversary packages.
Limited ($30,175) brings the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive as standard, plus leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated/leather-wrapped steering wheel, 40/20/40 split/folding rear seats with trunk pass-through, cargo cover, rain-sensing wipers, wiper de-icer, self-dimming rearview mirror, 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic Plus, chrome exterior trim, 115-volt outlet, remote start, and keyless entry/ignition.
Limited and Latitude are eligible for adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, 19-inch alloy wheels, parallel/perpendicular parking assistance, a full-size spare wheel and tire.
Trailhawk ($30,175) differs from the other Renegade trims with off-road-oriented mechanical components and more rugged styling. Changes include low-range gearing for the standard all-wheel drive system, greater ground clearance (8.7 inches), hill descent control, Selec-Terrain system (optional in other versions with all-wheel drive) with settings for a range of low-traction conditions, on-road/off-road tires on 17-in alloy wheels, full-size spare wheel/tire, skid plates, tow hooks, special cloth upholstery, all-season mats, red interior accents, and an upgraded instrument cluster.
Trailhawk trim is ineligible for forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. But it can come with leather seating surfaces.
The three top trims are eligible for a Sun and Sound package that brings a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a 9-speaker Alpine audio system. Full LED exterior lighting is also available in these versions, as well as a Trailer Tow Group.
Basic safety features in the Renegade include anti-lock disc brakes at each wheel, stability control, a rearview camera, and seven airbags (front, front-side, driver-knee, and full-length side curtain).
Newly standard for 2021 are blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance/lane departure warning, and full-speed forward collision warning with automatic braking. This latter feature is not in the Trailhawk.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the AWD Renegade four out of five stars overall, with 4-star frontal, 5-star side, and 3-star rollover ratings.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 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. Even so, the IIHS made it a Top Safety Pick with the upgraded LED headlights.
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 outward vision but also for legroom.
Despite being based on a car platform shared with the Fiat 500X, the Renegade offers a surprising amount of ground clearance to go with its short overhangs. These are enhanced considerably in the Trailhawk, which also gains simulated low-range gearing and enables off-roading capability that only the Subaru Crosstrek can approach.
On paved roads, the Renegade is pleasantly nimble, and the ride is comfortable, although some harshness creeps in with the Trailhawk. Our complaints are reserved for the transmission, whose responses are free from any noticeable haste.
Between pressing the accelerator and waiting for something to happen, that window for overtaking will probably have closed. Even when it finally kicks in, selection of the correct gear isn’t necessarily guaranteed. This issue applies to both the underwhelming, unrefined base engine, and the punchier turbocharged unit.
Regarding interior quality and design, the Renegade compares pretty well with the competition. The touchscreens are feature-rich, user-friendly, and easy to reach. The driver’s seat is also quite comfortable. And when it has 8-way power adjustment, it’s friendlier to taller drivers than most rivals.
The cargo area is less accommodating. Its squared-off design gives it an advantage with a maximum space of 50.8 cu ft. But the Renegade’s diminutive footprint means there’s only 18.5 cu ft. behind its rear seats, among the smallest in the class.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 Subaru Crosstrek — Sightly bigger than the Renegade and with better safety ratings. And a better reliability record. The ground clearance is willing, but the engine is weak. All-wheel drive is standard.
2021 Hyundai Kona — A top pick in this class with a compelling design, generous features, strong turbocharged engine, and an engaging drive.
Used Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk — The Cherokee is bigger, more refined, and has a much stronger V6 engine. The Trailhawk version is even more capable than the Renegade counterpart. A used or certified pre-owned Cherokee should be priced similarly to a new Renegade.
Questions You May Ask
Is the 2021 Jeep Renegade a good car?
The Renegade is pretty good. It has distinctive styling and real off-road credentials, but it’s pricier than rivals and has lower resale value.
What is a Jeep Renegade Trailhawk?
The Trailhawk is the most off-road-oriented version of the Renegade. It is the only Renegade to include 4-wheel-drive with a low-range mode.
Is the Jeep Trailhawk worth the money?
It can be. For a subcompact SUV that can do some real off-roading, it’s legit. For light or no off-roading, save money with another model.
Where is the 2021 Jeep Renegade built?
In Italy, along with its cousin, the Fiat 500X. The 2.4-liter engine is assembled in Michigan.
The most compelling 2021 Renegade is the Trailhawk version. It’s a proper Jeep and represents the Renegade at its most capable, even if it is a little less comfortable on the road. This kind of off-road ability is rare among subcompact SUV/crossovers.
If such all-terrain chunkiness is unnecessary, the Latitude trim has a decent amount of equipment for the money. But it really needs the optional turbocharged engine. Find a Jeep Renegade for sale