Our 16-year-old sport-utility vehicle finally had reached retirement age. Nearly 200,000 miles on New England roads had taken their toll. So we set out in February to enter the 21st Century, automotively speaking.
My preferences, guided by experience with test cars we’ve driven over the years, included the Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander and Chevrolet Equinox. All are rated compact SUVs or crossovers; all are available with all-wheel drive for winter driving, and all deliver 5 to 10 miles per gallon more than the SUV we were sending off to retirement.
My wife’s dream car was a Jeep Wrangler 4-door, but marginal functionality, high price and low fuel economy ruled it out. The Mazda and Mitsubishi didn’t interest her, but we both liked the Equinox.
So naturally, we drove home in a white 2015 Jeep Renegade with the Trailhawk option.
How did this happen?
We had test-driven a Jeep Patriot after ruling out the Wrangler and were not wowed by it. But the shiny new Renegade on the Fiat-Chrysler dealer’s showroom floor kept drawing us back as we talked with the salesman about the Patriot. The Renegade had the rugged personality and all-weather, all-road capabilities that attracted my wife to the Wrangler, but it also had ample front-seat legroom for tall drivers, good fuel economy and clever touches that suggested its makers were on their game. A test drive revealed it’s an unexpectedly nice driver’s car. At $27,635, it was priced about the same as the Equinox.
Yes, we had trepidations. The automotive website edmunds.com gives the Italian-built Renegade high marks, but the site also contains a disturbingly long list of stories by owners who had problems with their new cars. And I once owned an Italian car, a 1976 Fiat 128 subcompact sedan. It was not the worst car I ever owned, but it was a solid second.
The Renegade we chose was Alpine White with a black roof and 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine. The Trailhawk package added settings for pavement, snow, rocks, sand and mud; skid plates; and 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires. This is a serious off-road machine, as evidenced by a YouTube video of a Renegade crossing rugged Black Bear Pass in southwestern Colorado.
Among the standard features were rear-view camera, 7-inch color display, heated exterior mirrors and satellite radio with 1-year subscription. Options included remote start. The car is rated at 21 mpg city, 29 highway – not bad for a car with the capabilities the Renegade brings to the field.
Crash-test results are acceptable in two categories and good in three others, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As a new model, reliability is unknown. But that’s a chance we were willing to take; the Renegade comes with a 3-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty, and 5-year, 100,000-mile power-train warranty. The good news is, we’ve driven about 1,500 miles and experienced zero problems.
We’ll give occasional updates on life with the Renegade as warranted, but for now, it’s two thumbs up.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 175 horsepower, 180 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 9-speed shiftable automatic
Drive: selectable 2WD, AWD and 4×4
Ground clearance: 7.7 in.
Weight: 4,149 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17×6.5-in. aluminum
Tires: P215/65R17 all-terrain
Towing capacity: 2,000 lb.
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 18.5 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 50.8 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 12.7 gal.
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded gasoline