Standing out as a compact SUV can feel like something of a challenge. For one, you have to somehow make a case as to why the compact SUV in question is a better fit than any of the mid-sized models available. You must also be able to argue that driving a vehicle that is of a much smaller size carries a higher value than those of a larger variety. These are some of the hurdles of the compact SUV, and one of the many ways these vehicles tend to tackle this conundrum is by offering a pretty agile driving experience while providing all of the same great features and technology that can be found in comparatively larger vehicles. This is very much the story of the 2020 Jeep Renegade. Here is a compact SUV that attempts to bridge the gap between Wrangler and Cherokee, fitting somewhere between being practical and being a rugged adventure car. The 2020 Jeep Renegade starts out the gate with a lot of promises, and we’ll dig a little deeper to see if it manages to live up to them.
Not Holding Any Punches
The 2020 Jeep Renegade seems to have been developed to cater to the weekend warrior, the kind of driver who heads to the office five days out of the week and heads to the hills Friday through Sunday. This is particularly true of the Trailhawk edition which is tailored to be near as off-road capable as the Jeep Wrangler. Speaking of trims, the Jeep Renegade is available in the Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited configuration models, with base models starting at a going rate of $22,470 MSRP.
The appearance of the Jeep Renegade is what will really either grab you or make you turn your head in the other direction. The Renegade is possibly one of the most Jeep-like models on the road with its classic round headlights, vertical grille, and chunky box design. In many ways, the Jeep Renegade looks kind of like the cartoon cousin of the Jeep Wrangler. For many drivers, this is hardly an issue, as the vehicle’s design is a huge part of what makes the Renegade such an intriguing car. But contrary to what is usually the case of a flashy gimmick, the 2020 Jeep Renegade manages to live up to at least some of the expectations that it establishes at the outset.
An Engine Capable of Doing it All
The Jeep Renegade isn’t a big car, yet it still comes packed with an engine that is pretty good at delivering a performance that’ll whet your appetite. While you’ll only get two engine options to choose from, what’s here is pretty good, even at the start. The base engine is the ideal fit for anyone who spends more time on the pavement than on the trail, with a 2.4-liter inline-4 leading the way. This engine churns out 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft worth of torque, and also uses a 9-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive to channel it all. An all-wheel-drivetrain can be fitted to the Jeep Renegade, expanding what this SUV can do, and with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Renegade sits plenty high enough even in base models to do some light off-roading.
If you want to do more than explore the graded back roads around your hometown, we’d suggest the 1.3-liter turbo-4 engine, which puts out 177 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. This torque-centric engine is an optional choice in the Sport and Latitude trim levels, but if you upgrade to the Limited or Trailhawk, you’ll get this beefier engine as standard. While the Limited is the top of the trim option ladder, it is the Trailhawk model that steals the show. The Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is upgraded to sport much higher ground clearance, as well as a 20:1 crawl ratio, giving it the nimble ability to maneuver over even some of the most challenging obstacles on the trail. Additional features include hill-descent control and the all-wheel-drivetrain, which divides torque up evenly between the front and the back. While the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk will hardly ever outperform the likes of the Jeep Wrangler, what’s here is bound to give you some serious results when put to the task. Fuel economy in the Jeep Renegade is a particular highlight, as the 1.3-liter turbo-4 engine equipped with a front-wheel drivetrain gets a remarkable 27 MPG combined, which is reasonable considering Jeep’s history of releasing fuel-guzzling cars.
A Well-Dressed Interior
Jeep has earned a poor reputation for focusing all of their energy on the off-road performance and spending a lot less time on the interior amenities and comfort. As we’ve seen with many 2020 models, this is an outdated misconception. The Jeep models of today are just as well-equipped and comfortable as their competitors, and for the Jeep Renegade, this is especially true. The Jeep Renegade is spacious on the inside, boasting a total of 50.8 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. Speaking of rear seats, the Jeep Renegade can fit a total of five comfortably, leaving about 35.1 inches of legroom for rear passengers. The interior materials are also pretty solid, with cloth upholstery as standard and a wide array of soft-touch plastics. You can also find leather furnishings as well in higher trims, should you decide to upgrade.
The only drawback of the interior of the Jeep Renegade is that baseline models don’t offer much in the way of comfort. The Renegade Sport is spartan at best refusing to give drivers air conditioning or cruise control without an additional purchase. This is precisely the reason why we suggest that you skip the entry-level model and hop right to the Latitude. The Latitude trim sports a 7.0-inch infotainment system integrated with Apple CarPlay and Android, as well as a dual-zone climate control system at no additional cost. In the Trailhawk trim, things are particularly intriguing with a wide array of stylistic Easter eggs that you won’t find in any other model.
While the flashy gimmicks and tech all play a massive role in your experience behind the wheel of the Jeep Renegade, it is the array of active safety features that take the cake in terms of importance. Unfortunately, you won’t find anything beyond seatbelts and airbags in the standard model without paying a little extra, and these aforementioned features are nowhere to be found in the Trailhawk model, where rugged capability takes top-level importance. That said, should you desire it, you can attach features like automatic emergency braking with forward-collision warnings, active lane control, and front and rear end park sensors to your model for a rather small purchase price.
Why We Love the Jeep Renegade
The Jeep Renegade, much like its big brother, the Jeep Wrangler, is difficult to categorize. On one hand, it’s fuel-efficient and small, and on the other, it’s capable of climbing over rock, mud, and snow without missing a beat. The Jeep Renegade, like many vehicles in the Jeep family lineup, checks off all the boxes, all while not losing what the brand represents. If you’re looking for a car that can take on the city streets and the rugged outback, the 2020 Jeep Renegade should be on the top of your shopping list.