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Minitest: 2016 Jeep Renegade

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On: Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 1:37PM | By: Jon Summers

Minitest:  2016 Jeep Renegade

Practical, pleasant to drive, and showing some design flair were the impressions left by a few hours spent with a 2016 Jeep Renegade. Chrysler's design team has long been noticeable for their ability to “do the most with the least”—Charger immediately springs to mind—and Renegade is cut from this cloth. In both size and ethos the Renegade reflects the original military Jeep, now reinvented for twenty-first century urban living.

In presentations discussing the Renegade, Ralph Gilles, Head of Design for Fiat/Chrysler, has candidly admitted the risk they took with the Renegade, a design “basically born from one sketch”, focused on those distinctive tail lights: X marks the spot.

The test car was equipped with the smaller of two available motors, a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four, mated to a six-speed manual transmission with all-wheel drive. Although there is a larger 2.4-liter motor, it is not available with a manual, and, in our experience the little Jeep has sufficient pep for suburban motoring with the smaller motor. The clutch is light, the take up smooth, and the transmission slick and easy to use. Our test car was a fairly well specified version, and as such felt quite nice inside—ar better than my recent memory of a Dodge Caliber, for example—and although there were a few plastic “Est. 1941” and “Trail Rated” badges scattered around, the recurring X theme was muted, and comes off well. The crossover-like ride height and fairly tall roof line deliver an SUV-like experience when marshalling small children in and out of the backseat. The paint finish on our fire engine red example was excellent.

Looking to the competition, the Renegade is a real alternative to the Kia Soul, arguably with more styling panache. However, only time will tell if it is well put together—traditionally build quality has not been a strength for either Chrysler or Fiat.

It is worth mentioning that the owner expressed disappointment with his local Chrysler/Fiat dealer, and indeed the dealership model in general, “I told him I wanted a manual, in red. Why did he keep trying to sell me a green automatic?” Of course, salesmen want to sell what they have on the forecourt, but in this case it turned the customer off that dealer, not just for purchase but for the profitable business of servicing too.

Recently, President Reagan’s Ranch Jeep was exhibited on the National Mall by the Historic Vehicle Association. Government, car enthusiasts and historians alike recognize that there is something of what it is to be American in this Jeep, and some of that magic has trickled down into the 2016 Renegade. This sentimental appeal, plus the fact that this is quite a good little car, combine to make this one of the best answers yet to budget motoring in the twenty- first century.

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