On paper, opting for Jeep’s new 1.0 petrol engine makes a lot of sense. Not only does it offer buyers the cheapest entry point into Renegade ownership, but it also promises to return a respectable 46mpg while delivering a decent amount of low-down grunt.
However, it doesn’t take long behind the wheel to realise that this engine, despite being turbocharged, just doesn’t have enough to shove the Renegade along with any kind of conviction. The wave of torque that should arrive at 1750rpm never really makes itself known, and even if you decide to rev the engine towards its redline, you never feel like you’re making quick progress.
Mercifully, the 148bhp 1.3-litre unit feels far stronger, endowing the Renegade with the kind of performance you expect from a small SUV. In-gear flexibility is genuinely impressive, and despite having the drag coefficient of a Georgian house, the Renegade is capable of venturing above 80mph with minimal fuss – just be prepared for a cacophony of wind noise generated by that bluff front end and huge door mirrors.
But don’t go thinking that the new 1.3 is faultless. Oh no. Despite offering up quite a bit more punch than the 1.0-litre, it’s let down by a jerky and surprisingly dim-witted dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Around town, the six-speed unit has a tendency to hesitate when trying to find the correct ratio, and then when you finally get moving and want to modulate the throttle, the engine often holds onto boost for a fraction longer than you’d like, resulting in unintended acceleration.
The end result is a car that’s very difficult to drive smoothly, which is a shame because there’s nothing wrong with its objective straight-line performance. The range-topping 178bhp 1.3 comes with a more suitable nine-speed automatic gearbox, but it wasn’t available to test at launch; we’ll make sure to road test it in the UK later this year.
As for chassis changes, aside from a new set of 19in wheels, there aren’t any. The Renegade is therefore still plagued with the slightly sticky, over-assisted steering that we’ve encountered on other cars based on its platform (namely the Fiat 500X), while the 19in wheels have it jostling and shimming over the kind of broken surfaces that dominate urban environments. If you want a small SUV that offers hatchback-like fluency and precision, you’ll want to take a look at the Seat Arona or Mini Countryman instead.
Inside, Jeep claims that the Renegade benefits from ‘increased functionality and greater comfort’. In reality, it’s hard to detect any changes from the outgoing model. Interior quality is still several rungs below what you’ll find in the Countryman or Nissan Qashqai, with hard plastics littering most of the cabin.
It’s not all bad news, though, because the optional range-topping Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system (as fitted to our test car) with its huge 8.4in screen, is genuinely impressive. It has logical menus, sharp graphics and handy shortcut buttons, and, better yet, it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can use apps from your smartphone (such as Google Maps and Waze) while driving.