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REVIEW – Jeep Renegade 4xe Trailhawk


Jeep Renegade 1.3 Turbo 4xe PHEV Trailhawk
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
3

Summary

On first impressions, the Jeep Renegade 4xe doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. The price of £36,500 before options makes this Trailhawk model seem expensive, especially considering the concerns over interior quality. But this car is two things. First, it is a capable off-roader, with a credible 4WD system and different terrain modes. Second, it is an economical family car with a clever PHEV system. It is actually rather likeable.


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Exterior Styling

The Jeep Renegade has been around since late 2014. It got a facelift in 2018, but ultimately this is a shame we’re rather familiar with. And it has to be said that it is not one that is universally liked.

This model is the all-new Renegade 4xe, Jeep’s first plug-in hybrid model. Visually, however, it is nigh-on identical to the ‘regular’ models. Finished in metallic ‘Bikini’ it certainly stands out in a crowd.

At the front there are some nods to Jeep’s heritage, with the circular headlights and grill reminiscent of the Willy’s Jeep. Look closely at the windscreen and you will spot the motif of that same car. Jeep does not hide this heritage, and that’s a good thing.

Offsetting the bold Bikini paint is plenty of black trim, mostly around the lower areas of the body. This not only gives a rugged feel, but helps to tone down the brightness of that paint to prevent it being too strong. The matt black bonnet detail is a nice touch, too.

The side profile of the Renegade highlights just how, erm, square it is. And nothing emphasises the problem of putting a round peg in a square hole more than the wheels/wheel-arch on this car. It just looks wrong… The wheels themselves are alright – 17-inch two-tone black and silver.

At the rear, the square tail lights are re-designed and feature another Willy’s Jeep motif in the centre. There are 4xe and Trailhawk badges, while the overall shape is somewhat muscular.

Interior Finish

Stepping inside the range-topping Trailhawk model was a little bit disappointing on the whole. It may have leather seats, but that’s pretty much where the luxury ends. And on a car costing (as tested) almost £40,000 you’d hope for a little bit more in terms of a quality finish.

The seats themselves are very nice. They are nicely bucketed, with contrasting red stitching and embroidered Trailhawk lettering. There are other red flashes throughout the cabin, on the centre console, vent surrounds and speaker surrounds.

The speaker surrounds are interesting for another reason: they feature yet another Willy’s Jeep motif. (Have you lost count yet?)

One of the main problems in the interior is the use of materials. Whilst we appreciate that the Renegade 4xe has a trail-rated 4×4 system, and has to be somewhat ‘rugged’, it’s probably fair to say that most Renegades will spend most of their time on the road.

As such, the use of hard, scratchy plastics could have been confined to lower down in the cabin. As it is, the entire dashboard feels a little on the cheap side.

Switchgear is good quality, and feels well put-together. And whilst the instrument cluster is a little on the boring side, there’s nothing overly offensive about it. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the infotainment screen. It’s a responsive touchscreen, but the actual interface and graphics just feel inferior to other systems on the market.

Engine/Performance

The Renegade 4xe is Jeep’s first foray into the world of plug-in hybrid vehicles. It is a big step forward for the brand, and will open up a new market of potential customers: company car drivers looking for cheaper Benefit-in-kind (BIK) charges.

So what’s the setup in the Renegade then? There is a 1.3-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, and an electric motor. And whilst this car may have a ‘trail rated’ 4×4 system, it is slightly unconventional in that the petrol engine powers the front wheels, and the electric motor powers the rear.

The combined output of the hybrid system is an impressive 240PS and 350Nm of torque. There is only one gearbox option – a 6-speed automatic – and this is designed to smooth out the driving experience as the car flips and changes between internal combustion and electricity.

Put the Renegade in Sport driving mode and you get the full power from both engine and electric motor – the 4xe will go from 0-62mph in a sprightly 7.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 124mph. Impressively, the Renegade can travel at up to 80mph in pure-electric mode.

Not so impressive is the soundtrack. You can tell that this engine was designed to work with the electric motor, at low revs. Anything past 3,000rpm and the unpleasant din lets you know the engine just doesn’t want to do it.

It’s a bit of a shame because there is a lot of fun to be had from this powertrain in sport mode. And in a world still somewhat hesitant about the electrification of cars, it’s ironic that here the driving experience is let down by the petrol engine.

Drive in pure-electric mode and the Renegade feels nippy around town, responding with the instantaneousness expected from electric motors.

Ride/Handling

It may be obvious just from looking at it, but the Renegade is not a car built for cornering at speed. Notwithstanding the age-old stereotype surrounding American cars and non-straight pieces of tarmac, this is a tall car with ample ground clearance and suspension travel.

The result is a car that is prone to significant pitching when cornering, at which point you’ll certainly be glad of the supportive seats.

This problem is amplified by the rather powerful 4xe powertrain. With a combined 240PS you arrive at corners traveling more quickly than you expect, but the Renegade struggles to carry this speed through the bends.

Grip from the hybrid four-wheel drive is very good, due to the nature of the setup. It is electric motors, with their instant torque, that have a tendency to spin wheels.

That’s especially true when they power the front wheels, which have steering to worry about too. But because the electricity powers the rear of this vehicle, the grip levels are more balanced and predictable, even with the most aggressive driving.

Away from the twisty B-roads, the Renegade 4xe is a pleasant car to travel in. It doesn’t wallow around too much, and is reasonably comfortable on the motorway.

But there are cars that are much better on-road handlers. Sure, the Renegade has off-road credentials. But if you’re not planning on straying too far from the tarmac, as I suspect the majority of potential buyers are not, then it begs the question “what’s the point?”.

Economy

One of the main reasons to buy a plug-in hybrid vehicle is to use less fuel, and reduce the environmental impact of car ownership. That’s all well and good, but the scepticism of plug-in models comes from a history of poor full-electric range, and disappointing real-world economy. They are often seen as a ‘cheat’ to lower company car tax due to reduced emissions.

The Renegade 4xe makes a good case for itself as to how that perception might not be accurate nowadays. It has a pure-electric range of 26 miles, and my time with the car suggests this is a realistic claim.

From a charging perspective you can plug the Renegade in at home, and replenish the battery in around 5.5 hours. Depending on the frequency and distance of your journeys, this may be adequate.

Alternatively, there is an E-Save driving mode, which when used in conjunction with the maximum regeneration mode will charge the battery. This is useful if you’re going on a longer motorway stint, giving you a full charge when you arrive in a quaint village at the other end.

The combined fuel consumption is a claimed 128.4mpg. The problem with this figure is that it is entirely subjective. It may be based on the WLTP cycle, which we know to be more realistic. But with a plug-in your fuel consumption depends entirely on how you use it.

If you only ever do the school run and pop to the shops, you might use one tank of fuel a year, running off battery alone. But if you are forever up and down the M6 with work, you are unlikely to see 128.4mpg. Ever.

CO2 is 51-52g/km, which means first-year VED of £15 (currently £140 thereafter) and a company car tax of 14% from April 2021.

Practicality

As a family car, the Jeep Renegade has a lot going for it. In terms of space, it is generous throughout. Headroom is plentiful, thanks mostly to the tall stature. Legroom in the rear is fine even for taller adults, and front seat passengers will be able to stretch out comfortably.

Despite being a hybrid, with an additional motor and batteries to house, the Renegade 4xe still boasts 330 litres of boot space. The load area is a good size, making it easy for loading bulkier items, especially with the rear seats folded down and making use of the car’s height.

On the Hybrid front, the Renegade 4xe is a very easy car to live with. This is mostly due to the flexibility with which you can run and charge it. You can potter around town in pure electric mode, and charge using a 3-pin plug at home.

Or, conversely, you can opt to save all battery and even use the petrol engine to charge the battery on the move. For me, it was a mixture of both. And that level of flexibility makes a good case for running a plug-in hybrid.

It is also interesting to note that the Jeep Renegade is a credible off-roader. The four-wheel drive system may be a hybrid, but there are still several off-road drive modes designed to tailor the system to the conditions underfoot.

From snow to sand and mud, the Renegade 4xe has you covered. There’s even a low-ratio mode and 4WD lock function for especially tricky situations. It’s hard to imagine that this Bikini-coloured car would ever find itself in such situations, but it’s reassuring to know the capability is there.

Equipment

On the whole, the Renegade is a well-equipped car. Even the ‘base’ model Longitude boasts a fair amount of standard kit.

All Renegade models feature the Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth hands-free technology, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Convenience features include cruise control, speed limiter, power windows, dual-zone automatic air conditioning and rear parking sensors.

Safety equipment comes in the form of traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed assist, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning. Despite this seemingly generous array, the Renegade only achieves a disappointing 3-star Euro NCAP score.

In addition to the above, 4xe models get a PHEV-specific TFT display, selec-terrain 4WD system and driver fatigue sensor.

Additional specification on Limited models includes adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors, full LED lighting pack, leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel and a premium instrument cluster.

Range-topping Trailhawk trim adds hill descent control, off-road skid plates (under-floor protection), privacy glass, matte black bonnet decal, rear tow hook, Trailhawk-specific seat stitching and 17-inch off-road wheels.

The 4xe Trailhawk also boasts a reversible and height-adjustable cargo floor, and a Parking Pack, which comprises a rear-view camera, parallel and perpendicular park assist, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross path detection.

There aren’t many options available on the Renegade, in fact our test car had pretty much everything available. Some omissions from the equipment wish list would be ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, fully-digital instrument cluster, wireless mobile charging pad and perhaps some ambient lighting in the cabin.

The tech in the Jeep Renegade just feels a little dated now – even the Uconnect infotainment system has an aftermarket feel to it.

Value For Money

One of the main barriers preventing the electrification of cars being a mass-market solution often comes in the form of a high price. Whilst it is appreciated that the technology inevitably costs more, the willingness of motorists to go out and pay more for these cars is low.

Take this Renegade 4xe as a prime example. The cheapest ‘regular’ Renegade, the Longitude, is £23,400. The range-topping Limited is £28,200.

Then we come to the 4xe models. A PHEV Longitude model is £32,600, and a Limited is £34,500. The range-topping Trailhawk tested here starts at a whopping £36,500.

And it doesn’t end there either. My test car featured a few optional extras: Bikini paint is £700. The Function Pack is another £700 and consists of keyless entry and drive, power-folding heated door mirrors, and one-touch windows. A Mode 3 charging cable – for use at public charging points – is £300, and a temporary spare wheel is £250.

That takes the price of this car, as tested, to £38,450. As pleasant as it may be, and as clever as the hybrid system is, that’s always going to be a hard sell.

If you need the off-road capabilities, you are probably less interested in the 4xe than other models in the Renegade line-up. And if you don’t need off-road capabilities then you can get more for your money with other crossovers. You could even get an all-electric Kia e-Niro for similar money.

Overall though, this is a perfectly likeable car. In bright Bikini colour, it stands out. It has a certain charm and charisma coming from its heritage. So while it may be the left-field choice, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.

Facts and Figures

Engine 1.3-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol and single electric motor
Max power 240PS at 5,750rpm (180PS engine and 60PS electric motor)
Max torque 350Nm at 1,750rpm
Drivetrain 6-speed automatic transmission, hybrid four-wheel drive
0-62mph 7.1 seconds
Top speed 124mph (80mph in full-electric mode)
Fuel tank size 36.5 litres / 11.4kWh battery
Fuel consumption 128.4 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 51-53 g/km WLTP
Kerb weight 1,770kg
Towing capacity 1,150kg braked / 600kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 330 litres
NCAP rating 3 stars
Base price £36,500
Price as tested £38,450
Company website www.jeep.co.uk/4xe-hybrid/renegade-4xe

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