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Jeep's entry in the subcompact crossover segment, the Renegade, represents a melding of American and Italian vehicular know-how in the best tradition of the U.S.' cultural melting pot. A platform and engines sourced from Fiat give the Renegade on-road poise and respectable fuel efficiency, while Jeep's off-roading DNA endows the little 'ute with mountain goat moves when properly equipped. Also of note, the Renegade packs a plethora of optional safety and infotainment gadgets.


Outside, the Renegade hews closely to Jeeps of yore with a rugged front end characterized by round headlights and a short seven-slat grille loosely inspired by the iconic Willys that saw extensive duty in World War II. Boxy taillights with inset Xs recall army jerrycans, providing another link to Jeep's heritage, while an optional two-piece removable roof system lets the driver and passengers enjoy some open air action.

Dubbed My Sky, the roof consists of fiberglass-polyurethane panels that can be taken off and stowed in the trunk; the panels are offered in fixed or power tilt/slid forms.

Underneath its all-American exterior, the Renegade rides on architecture derived from Fiat's 500L crossover. Despite those front-wheel-drive bones - which give the Renegade car-like handling in daily driving situations - the Reneagde still possesses Jeep-worthy off-roading chops. Its approach and departure angles are best-in-class, and the standard model boasts 6.7 inches of ground clearance. Opt for the harder-core Trailhawk model, and ground clearance increases to 8.7 inches, while water-fording ability is rated at 19 inches.

Front-wheel-drive is standard, but two four-wheel-drive systems are on offer. There's Jeep Active Drive, a full-time system with a fuel-saving rear axle disconnect system. It can send up to 100 percent of engine torque to any wheel as needed. The more serious Jeep Active Drive Low features a 20:1 crawl ratio. Both come with Selec-Terrain traction control with Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and (Traihawk only) Rock modes.

The Inside Story

The Renegade's cabin brings Jeep's interior design language into the 21st century, with a look that's at once sturdy and modern. Flowing details abound, offset by trim styled to look like aluminum outdoor gear and hidden "easter eggs" like a map of Jeep Mecca Moab, Utah, molded into the rubber storage-bin liner.

Chrysler Group's excellent Uconnect infotainment system is available, integrating audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit. A standard 5.0-inch or optional 6.5-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard is the central component of the system, but redundant buttons and knobs for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included.

When upgraded to Uconnect Access, the infotainment unit features a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search.

The Renegade also features an optional 7.0-inch instrument cluster TFT screen, which can be customized to display a host of info from vehicle speed to navigation directions. Other available niceties include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, rear cross path detection, a backup camera, heated seats and a heated steering wheel.

Space-wise, the Renegade can comfortably seat four adults - five in a pinch, provides those sitting in back are good friends - while cargo acreage measures 18.5 cubes. Fold down the rear seats, and 50.8 cubes can be had.

A premium BeatsAudio sound system is available in packages from the Latitude trim and up.

Powertrain Options

The Renegade is offered with a two choice of two engine/transmission combinations.

The standard powertrain is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It pairs exclusively with a six-speed manual.

There's also a 2.4-liter "Tigershark" four that teams with a nine-speed automatic and produces 184 horsepower along with 177 lb-ft of torque. FWD and 4WD can be had with either motor. Mileage ratings have not yet been announced, but Jeep promises 30 mpg or higher on the highway.

Occupant Safety

All Renegade models are equipped as standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag and traction and stability control systems.

Safety options include blind spot warning, forward collision warning, lane departure warnin and, rear cross path detection systems.

Key Competitors

The Renegade squares off against the popular Kia Soul in addition to upcoming models like the Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V.