The Jeep Renegade Sport 1.8 deserves a better engine: driven and evaluated

Ever since it was presented in Brazil, back in March 2015, the Jeep Renegade has been a huge commercial success. It is one of the best-selling B-segment SUVs in a market in which B segment SUVs are the only vehicles that show better results than in previous years. Or at least that have not sunk, such as C-segment hatchbacks. But MotorChase had not had the chance to drive it so far. And our first experience with the car, with the Renegade Sport version, showed more bad aspects than good ones. Beginning with its 1.8 E.torQ engine. Something that is not its entire fault.

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In Brazil, cars that have engines smaller than 2 liters pay less taxes. And when you realize 36% of a car price in Brazil are due to taxes, you see immediately that reducing them becomes an important competitive help. So FCA placed the bigger engine below 2 liters it has in Brazil, the 1.8 E.torQ. And it is not enough to cope with its 1,393 kg of curb weight. The Honda HR-V weighs 1,265 kg, or 128 kg less. It is like carrying 2 more adults every time, or a big adult and a child. With a less powerful engine (97 kW against 103 kW), even if the E.torQ has a bigger torque (187 Nm versus 171 Nm). In Renegade’s defense, it is one of the safest cars produced in Brazil, but that is no excuse: the HR-V is the safest. With no “extra passengers” added.

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That extra weight makes the Renegade Sport behave like a much smaller engined car. In steep slopes, you have to put the 1st gear in order to get to the top, something an HR-V or cars equipped with a 2.0 engine do in 2nd or even 3rd gear. When it develops a good deal of speed, in roads, the Renegade Sport shows a competent way of dealing with bends and curves. Its suspension behaves really well, even if the car we drove presented a noise in the front suspension that we suspect was caused by a disconnected anti-roll bar.

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Its boxy design is one of the reasons for the Renegade success, but it charges its price in some aspects. The cargo compartment is small, with only 260 l. The HR-V offers 437 l, almost twice as much.

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And the windshield presents a distortion for being almost perpendicular to the floor. It gets specially fuzzy under rain.

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The car interior is roomy enough for a family, with good space for the legs in the back seat due to the high seating position. There are Isofix/Latch child sit restraints, something that is worth noting because, in Brazil, not all cars offer this safety feature. The Renegade is 4.23 m long, 1.80 m wide, 1.67 m tall and has a wheelbase of 2.57 m. It is easy to find a good driving position, with an adjustable steering column both in height and in length. The instrument panel is easy to read and has one of the many easter eggs Jeep has placed on the Renegade to remind the driver of its off-road roots, even if the Sport version is front-wheel drive only.

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The Renegade Sport we have driven had an electric sunroof, but it stopped working and only closed with some “manual help”, or else, by pulling it back with our hands. It is probably an electric issue with that unit, since the car also shut down its power steering once. That allowed us to feel how heavy the steering would be with no assistance. The problem vanished after we turned the engine off and on again, but it is worth mentioning since other Renegade units can suffer from the same problem.

When it comes to price, the Renegade has a 1.8 version that costs R$ 71,990 (US$ 20,325), but it has to be ordered. In the USA, the same version is sold for US$ 17,995. And it is powered by a 1.4 MultiAir turbocharged petrol engine. The Renegade sold in the USA comes from Italy, where it is built at the Mirafiori plant. And they manage so sell it for less than the Brazilian Renegade, which features a worse engine option and is produced locally.

The real base option, that one you can find in dealers, is the Sport with manual transmission, which costs R$ 76,290 (US$ 21,539). For that amount of money, you can have a 2.4 Renegade Sport in the USA, with a 134 kW engine. The cheapest Honda HR-V sold in Brazil, also with a manual transmission, costs R$ 78,700, a more expensive option, but maybe a more reliable one as well. This may be worth the extra money in case you are not totally enchanted by the Renegade design.

 

Gustavo Henrique Ruffo

I have been an automotive journalist since 1998 and have worked for many important Brazilian newspapers and magazines, such as the local edition of Car and Driver and Quatro Rodas, Brazilian's biggest car magazine. I have also worked for foreign websites, such as World Car Fans and won a few journalism prizes, among them three SAE Journalism Awards and the 2017 IAM RoadSmart Safety Award. I am the author of "The Traffic Cholesterol", a book about bad drivers that you can buy at Hotmart, Google Play, Amazon and Kobo.