It is easy to follow trends and make something that doesn’t stand out from the pack. On the other hand, it is much harder to craft something unique and iconic. In the past few years, the compact SUV has begun to crowd showrooms everywhere. There is a lot to love about this body styling. Decent sizing, with enough room for cargo and passengers, as well as engines that pump the power, but are optimized for fuel economy, the popularity of the compact SUV just makes sense, even if many models look more and more the same. The compact SUV that truly stands far and away from the rising trend of these SUVs is the Jeep Renegade. Since its first introduction in 2014, the Jeep Renegade has been a trailblazer. From the quirky yet charming exterior styling to the seamless combination of off-road prowess and solid power-delivery, the Jeep Renegade exists within a league of its own.
The 2020 Jeep Renegade is the latest in a relatively new line of SUVs, and we’ll peel back that cartoonishly handsome chassis to see if the latest model lives up to the promise of those that came before it.
A Package Worth Peeling
The Jeep family lineup has always been home to standouts. While other automakers focused on the pavement experience, Jeep designed vehicles that could excel on and off the road. At the same time, their vehicles have attempted to remain true to the roots of the brand by developing vehicles that stylistically harken back to that first model, which carted Allied forces across the European theatre in World War II. A lot has changed since those first “Willy” Jeeps, and it shows in the 2020 Jeep Renegade.
Here we have a compact SUV that rolls off of the factory floor in one of seven different trim tiers the Sport, Latitude, Upland, Altitude, Limited, Trailhawk, and High Altitude. The Renegade exists within a relatively affordable range, with base models priced at $22,275 MSRP. That said, the price does jump as you begin tacking on special features and off-road modifications. Although, even then, the Jeep Renegade delivers on considerable value, no matter what trim level you decide to invest in.
A Spunky Engine for a Spunky Car
The 2020 Jeep Renegade isn’t big, in fact, it is the smallest of the Jeep family lineup. As a result, performance is provided through a series of relatively downsized engines. However, don’t let these compact powertrains fool you, as the Jeep Renegade still delivers a degree of power that puts competitor models to shame, depending on what option you go for, of course.
The base model engine is rather uninspiring, taking the shape of a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine that is rated for 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft worth of torque. Utilizing a 9-speed automatic transmission and a front-wheel drivetrain, sitting behind the wheel of the baseline Jeep Renegade is as basic as it gets. Although, sometimes basic is all you need, especially if a speedy and agile engine isn’t something that is on your automotive ‘must-have’ list. Fortunately, if greater performance is what you’re looking for, it can be found in the higher trims of the Jeep Renegade. Upgrade the Jeep Renegade, and you’ll get a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 177 horsepower and 210 lb-ft worth of torque. This turbocharged four-cylinder can be paired with an all-wheel drivetrain transforming it into an incredibly versatile compact SUV. While it will never out-perform a Jeep Wrangler, the Jeep Renegade will certainly top any other off-road worthy compact SUV of its class.
The off-road prowess of the Jeep Renegade reaches a fever peak when you upgrade to the Trailhawk model. The Trailhawk trim can be found across the Jeep family lineup, and it is synonymous with a wide breadth of off-road-centric upgrades. In the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, you’ll get that turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the all-wheel-drivetrain, a 20:1 crawl ratio, hill-descent control, and increased ground clearance. What results after these upgrades is a fairly capable and competent trail-trekker that should have no trouble overcoming even some decent off-pavement obstacles.
Peering Beneath the Surface
To put it simply, the Jeep Renegade is better at transporting stuff rather than passengers. In the back, passengers will get no more than 35.1 inches of legroom and 40.5 inches of headroom. While not necessarily cramped, packing three passengers in the rear on long drives is less than ideal. Fortunately, what the Jeep Renegade lacks in passenger comforts it makes up for in cargo space. When the rear seats are folded, the cabin opens up to offer 50.8 cubic feet of cargo space to take full advantage of. The materials used to craft the interior are decent, with the options of either cloth or leather, but things fall a little flat in the technology department.
Jeep may have a reputation for developing rugged off-road trekkers, but they also have been known to pack their vehicles with some outdated technology; the same is partly true of the 2020 Jeep Renegade. For instance, active safety features are offered in the Jeep Renegade, but only if you buy the higher-tier trims. A base model version of the Jeep Renegade is only going to offer you the bare basics like airbags and seatbelts. However, the Jeep Renegade shouldn’t be knocked completely, like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts can all be added should you choose to.
Infotainment and convenience tech in the base model is just as outdated, unfortunately. It offers the bare essentials of a compact SUV, but for those who don’t need all the flashy tech, this is a great bonus, especially in price. That said, it won’t cost you all that much to upgrade this spartan package to include things like a 7.0-inch infotainment system that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, as well as a dual-zone climate control system. Upgrade all the way up to the top-level trim model, and you’ll find leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and keyless ignition.
What’s offered for the interior of the Jeep Renegade is passable, however, it is far from the stunning experience that we’d hope for. Although, it should be said that the Jeep Renegade and other Jeep SUVs tend to appeal to a certain kind of driver, one that’ll choose range-topping off-road gear over the latest and greatest in auto-tech any day of the week.
What We Think of the 2020 Jeep Renegade
Jeep deserves some credit. While their compact Jeep Renegade may not offer the amount of tech and features that we’ve come to expect in vehicles like it, what’s there is certainly charming. If you sit behind the wheel of the turbo-4 model, you’ll get a jumpy driving experience that won’t hesitate when put to task. The off-road tweaked Trailhawk trim model isn’t half bad either, offering far greater capability than expected. And no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to lose a Jeep Renegade in a parking lot, which we mean in only the best way possible. So, while the Jeep Renegade may feel a little outdated in some areas, it still manages to make an impression, especially in drivers who want something small, rugged, and ready for anything.