- Iconic Jeep name
- It still looks different from other SUVs
- Efficient powerplant
- Boot space
- Interior plastics
- Pricey to buy
If you’re into your Jeeps, you’ll already be aware that the Renegade has sold well in the United Kingdom. Jeep’s DNA dates all the way back to the Second World War, meaning many people have a soft spot for the marque. This sometimes makes it tricky to criticise anything with the word Jeep in it, especially one with new-fangled electric power. But we have a job to do, and that’s why we went to Italy to check out what the Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is like.
On The Road
The Renegade 4xe is made in Italy, like all other Renegades. Why? Well, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), is the parent company of Jeep, and the Renegade shares the same platform as the Fiat 500X. The 4xe's 1.3-litre turbo petrol unit shoves out 130hp or 180hp; and on top of that, 60hp is provided by an electric motor. This means 190hp is on hand in the Longitude and Limited specifications, while 240hp is obtainable from the leading Trailhawk edition. We were happy with the 190hp in our £34,500 Limited spec test model. The drive felt even slicker than a normal Renegade, with the powerplant operating the front wheels and the electric motor propelling the back wheels. Performance is lively, with zero to 62mph coming in at 7.5 seconds, while the 4xe’s top speed is 113mph.
The 4xe rides particularly splendidly when you pick the “Electric” setting and drive it in one hundred per cent battery mode. The benchmark “Hybrid” mode concentrates on the EV clout soundly, though. The transference between electric momentum and petrol power is almost indiscernible when driving in a laid-back way. But, if you’re short of time, and you’ve got no choice but to force your right foot into the floor, the internal combustion unit starts to sound gruff.
Now, you might imagine the move down the plug-in hybrid route has affected the Jeep’s talent off the asphalt. Well, it hasn’t at all; every 4xe model is able in this respect, particularly the Trailhawk, with its sturdy underbody protective covering and raised ride.
The Limited spec we tried is the mid-level model and is the one perhaps best suited for British roads, due to the amount of kit it comes with. As we’ve already mentioned, it's not as hardcore off-road as the Trailhawk, but it'll still cope with a lot while giving a compliant ride on the blacktop. That said, the steering is vague, and you sometimes feel you’re at the tiller of a dinghy rather than an SUV. There’s also a bit of body roll, and the tyres squeal easily if you get too enthusiastic, so you need to concentrate on ensuring the Renegade 4xe behaves in corners.
The pairing of an electric motor and battery with a petrol engine ensures the Renegade is hushed and reasonably refined most of the time. Things only get less classy, as we’ve already stated, when you stomp on the gas pedal. That said, the 4xe’s cabin has been designed to guarantee comfort, whatever the conditions may be. With decent leather seats and lumbar support, no trip will be a nightmare. Only some of the plastics let the side down a bit - they’re a tad scratchy but get softer the higher up the cabin you go.
The 4xe range includes a trinity of trim levels - Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk. They all boast four-wheel-drive and a six-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission, as well as an assortment of exterior colours. But the £34,500 Limited grade we drove is the one you want to aim for - unless you frequently hammer over rocks. In that case, the big-ticket Trailhawk will be your thing. The Limited 4xe grade has black accents inside the cabin, but it also adds adaptive cruise control, bigger alloys, and LED lights. It looks and feels the biz, well, within the confines of it being a Jeep Renegade.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
For the last five years or more, the Renegade has come well furnished - and nothing much has changed just because the 4xe has been brought in. You get a good view when you're sat behind the Renegade’s wheel; the relatively high driving position makes you feel secure, and the switchgear is intuitive to operate. You get an 8.4-inch media touchscreen with DAB radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard.
Things that have altered inside are minor. These include a new automatic transmission selector, a modernised Selec-Terrain rotary controller with different settings (4WD Lock, 4WD Low, Hill Descent Control) to engage the special driving modes - Auto, Snow, Mud and Sand, and Rock. There's also a new Sport setting for enriched throttle response. It should also be noted that on the outside the 4xe subtly stands out from the conventional Renegade, due to 4xe badges, and an extra cover on the SUV's left side for the charging port.
Space & Practicality
The cabin is the same as any other Renegade, offering heaps of headroom and a satisfying seating position for all. There are five seatbelts, but the 4xe is better with four occupants because legroom isn’t so plentiful in the back and the centre seat is best suited for kids.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the boot, this could be a deal-breaker for some potential buyers. An ordinary Renegade enjoys 351-litres of cargo capacity, but the 4xe’s boot space is slashed to a paltry 330-litres. This is because of a charging module in the load bay, and the layout of the electric motor beneath the boot floor. However, the height-adjustable flooring in the Renegade’s boot remains, and the design means that a spare wheel can be kept under it. Back in the cabin, there are lots of handy storage areas to keep odds and ends in, but, in our opinion, this isn’t enough to make amends for the 4xe’s lack of boot room.
Now, we may have mentioned that the Trailhawk version is dear, but to be blunt, none of the Renegade 4xe versions are going for a song. The range kicks off at £32,600 and concludes at £36,500. Then there are the options you might want to add. For a vehicle that isn’t part of a premium brand, Jeep is asking quite a lot for this SUV, particularly when you consider challengers, like the Renault Captur E-tech and the Kia Niro PHEV, are less steep. However, efficiency, due in part to a 26-mile electric-only range, is somewhat impressive, with a 134mpg potential possible. In addition, emissions of CO2 are a mere 49g/km.
Let’s face it; the regular Renegade is a left-field choice, and that’s going to carry on being the case with the 4xe, if not more so. Yes, it’s dear, but you have to respect Jeep for developing a PHEV that does well on and off-road. But more significantly, if you use a 7.4kW home wall box, it’ll take you two hours or less to fully charge the 4xe. Or if you use a three-pin wall outlet, you’ll be ready to drive off with a full charge in five hours.
Quality & Reliability
The Jeep Renegade is constructed largely robustly, and the cabin looks like it will cope with years of abuse from families and off-road enthusiasts. We’ve already said that Jeep is part of FCA, and this is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, so you’re in good hands if things go wrong. What’s more, the fact that the petrol unit in our Renegade is already being used in other models within FCA confirms this is a dependable engine. You also get a 75,000-mile/five-year warranty, an eight-year battery warranty and five years of roadside assistance. A three-year servicing package can also be bought for £299.
Safety & Security
The Jeep Renegade 4xe comes with some of the most advanced safety systems on the market, including Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, high-visibility full LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, Intelligent Speed Assist and Traffic Sign Recognition. The plug-in hybrid SUV also features an innovative Drowsy Driver Detection feature, accessible for the first time in a Jeep. Further safety equipment includes ParkView rear backup camera with dynamic gridlines, Blind Spot Detection, automatic Park Assist and Keyless Go.
Alas, Euro NCAP reassessed the standard Renegade at the end of 2019 and cut the compact SUV's top five-star ranking to a meagre three stars. It notched up 84 per cent for child protection, 82 per cent for adult protection, but just 58 per cent for safety assistance - and a disappointing 55 per cent for pedestrian protection.