THE PROS & CONS
- WHAT’S HOT: funky looks, solid build, good road manners
- WHAT’S NOT: a tad slow, a tad pricey
- WHAT’S INTERESTING: Shares platform with Fiat 500X crossover
If you’ve ever bemoaned the fact that a lot of cars look the same these days, peek into the subcompact CUV segment for a little respite. No one is going to accuse the Nissan Juke, Kia Soul, Mini Countryman or Mazda CX-3 of styling that’s too safe. Nor this 2015 Renegade North 4×2 — the smallest, funkiest and newest member of the Jeep family.
All upright and cubist, this Renegade North screams Jeep-ness from every crease and corner. Call it corny, campy or cute. Just don’t call it dull. Especially when painted in Omaha Orange.
Previously, I’d driven a fully-loaded go-anywhere Renegade Trailhawk with a sticker close to 40 grand, so it was refreshing to sample this version that lives at the other end of the price spectrum. Starting at $25,995 the front-drive six-speed manual North might not be the cheapest Renegade, but it’s probably the one you want, as the base Sport ($20,495) lacks such North niceties as air conditioning, cruise control, heated and powered mirrors, alloy wheels, USB connectivity, satellite radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof rails, fog lights, tinted windows and the Uconnect infotainment system with hands-free control.
The Renegade’s six-speed manual transmission is paired only with a 160 horsepower 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo four. If you want an automatic transmission, prepare to spend $2,290 for the nine-speed auto that comes with a 184 horsepower 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated Tigershark four. Add $1,500 for all-wheel-drive in either configuration.
This fairly basic Renegade North proves to be a nice entry point into the world of Jeep. Yes, it’s built in Italy on a Fiat platform, and with only front drive you won’t be doing any real off-roading, but we won’t tell.
You sit tall and upright in the comfortable fabric seats and outward visibility is good, although the massive A-pillars are an issue at times. The interior decor is chunky in that Jeep way with body-coloured accents and a big passenger grab handle on the dash for jumping curbs or dodging shopping carts at Costco. Jeep has placed what they call “Easter Eggs” in the cabin — a semi-hidden stylized rendering of the classic seven-slat grille with round headlights stamped into various bits. “Since 1941” is embossed on the dash, reassuring you of this little tyke’s heritage.
The six-speaker audio sound is decent and the 5-inch Uconnect interface is easy to negotiate. Back seat room is fine for two adults and there is generous cargo room behind, although you’ll find more in the Subaru Crosstrek and Honda HR-V.
While Jeep probably won’t, um, shift a lot of stick-shift Renegades, this engine-tranny combo is quite nice. The 1.4-litre MutiAir is smoother than the bigger 2.4-litre Tigershark unit, and the linear clutch works well with the positive long-throw shifter. Just don’t be in too much of a hurry. This spunky little 1.4 that turns the Fiat 500 Abarth into such a hellion is up against 1,381 kilograms here, so progress is best defined as steady and earnest.
That said, the Renegade sure feels substantial. It has a rock-solid structure and the chassis is well sorted, providing surprisingly balanced handling and a decent ride on these 16-inch alloys with relatively high profile tires. The steering had a numb spot on-centre, but otherwise is nicely weighted and accurate. It’s an easy car for inner-city scooting and settles into a quiet cruise on the highway.
You’ll be wanting the $695 Cold Weather Group that adds front and rear floor mats, heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icer and a blessed heated steering wheel that in my opinion is the best automotive gift to come along since, oh … the electric starter motor. The tester also had a $450 rear backup camera.
Including the destination charge, this charming shift-your-own Renegade kisses $30,000. So, while it might be one of the most basic models, it’s hardly a screaming deal. It all hinges on how badly you want a slice of the Jeep ethos.
Peter Bleakney is a regular contributor to Toronto Star Wheels. The vehicle tested was provided by the manufacturer. For more Toronto Star automotive coverage, go to thestar.com/autos . To reach Wheels Editor Norris McDonald: [email protected]
2015 Jeep Renegade North 4×2 manual
BASE PRICE/AS TESTED: $25,995/$27,585
ADD-ONS: Destination charge $1,745
TYPE: Subcompact CUV
PROPULSION: Front engine, front drive
CARGO: 525 L
TOW RATING: Not recommended
ENGINE: 1.4L turbocharged MuliAir four
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
POWER/TORQUE: 160 hp, 184 lb-ft.
FUEL CONSUMPTION (L/100 km): 9.9 city, 7.5 hwy.
BRAKES: 4-wheel disc
TIRES: All season P215/65R16
STANDARD FEATURES: Air conditioning, cruise control, heated and powered mirrors, alloy wheels, USB, satellite radio, leather wrapped steering wheel, roof rails, fog lights, tinted windows, Uconnect 5.0-inch screen with hands free and six speakers
LOOKS: No mistaking the Renegade for anything but a Jeep. Sure, it looks likes your five-year-old drew it, but your kid’s a genius, right? This Omaha Orange specimen received plenty of stares. Look for the Jeep grill icon embossed into the tail light lenses.
INTERIOR: Build quality is quite good, and styling is spot on. Gauges are clear, and I found the Uconnect interface pretty easy to use.
PERFORMANCE: This front-drive North with six-speed stick is a pleasant runabout. You won’t win any drag races, but the engine and all controls are smooth. Has a fun, elemental feel.
TECHNOLOGY: Pretty basic stuff here. No fancy driver aids or the latest in connectivity.