The Jeep Renegade is back. The smallest model from the brand famous for its back catalogue of off-road icons has returned and economy is the name of the game. The new Renegade 4xe is one of three plug-in hybrid models sold in New Zealand, the others being the Compass and Grand Cherokee.
The Jeep Renegade Limited 4xe Plug in Hybrid (PHEV) to give its full name, looks on paper to marry the same aforementioned ability to rough it while being able to deliver some real world practicality and electric hybrid economy. But does it?
At $69,990, the Renegade 4xe is the most cost effective way into plug in Jeep ownership. It still looks very much like a Renegade always has, with its very chunky looking stance and square-jawed front lip reminiscent of the original war winning Jeep.
Talking of heritage, Jeep has even hidden images of the iconic grill and headlights of the original Jeep throughout the Renegade. Some required a keen eye, but I managed to locate eight, but there could be more. Where? You will have to see for yourself.
A set of 17-inch alloys come as standard kit but my test car came with the optional 19-inch low-gloss satin granite alloys thanks to the optional Limited pack, but more on that in a bit. There is blacker detailing from front to rear, and the headlights now have a frown to them.
With the daytime running light ring on during the day, the glare provided by them does give the Renegade a look of Terminator, especially from front on. It’s an angry looking SUV for sure and even other Renegade drivers were eager to get a closer look in traffic.
Jeep are dead keen to become the world’s greenest SUV brand and the Renegade 4xe is set to be a vital part of this undertaking. Under the bonnet sits a 1.3-litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol mated to a rear axle mounted electric motor powered by an 11.4kW battery. Power is rated at 132kW while that electric motor gives an extra 44kW. Max torque for the ICE is 270Nm while the electric motor provides a meaty 250Nm.
A six-speed automatic sends both petrol and electric grunt to the pavement via Jeep’s AWD system with Selec-Terrain, naturally. Jeep claim combined fuel consumption figures of 2L/100km, which in PHEV world is pretty good. The battery can be charged by a Type 3 AC plug and range is claimed at 50kms, though I would reckon between 30 and 40 would be a more accurate assessment.
Inside, leather clad seats feel good but don’t offer much in the way of lateral support. It’s also not as plush in here as I would have thought. Lots of hard plastics can be found about the cabin too. However, the Renegade claws back points with decent equipment and a clear and intuitive Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
You have kit like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear View Camera, rear cross traffic detection, privacy glass and a 7-inch TFT digital instrument display between the two analogue dials depicting engine revs and battery power usage.
The aforementioned Limited Premium pack will set you back an extra $5,000 but you get goodies like heated leather seats, heated leather steering wheel, those 19-inch alloys, electric front drivers seat and 40/20/40 folding rear seat with pass through.
Rear accommodation is somewhat restrictive for those with longer legs but head room is pretty decent. Boot space sits at 330L. So if you plan to carry home a couple of antique chairs you purchased from a vintage market as I found, you will need to drop the second row which will increase carrying capacity to a welcome 1277L.
On the move there are three different power modes to choose from. Much like a regular PHEV, the default setting is Hybrid which means the electric motor and petrol engine will work in tandem to propel you forward.
Electric, as the name suggests, allows the Renegade 4xe to rely solely on electric power until it naturally runs down or you give some serious shove with your right foot. Finally you have eSave, which can either save battery charge for later use and uses the petrol engine, or uses said petrol engine to charge the battery back up to 80 per cent.
The Renegade works well in all modes. There is a seamless transition between each mode and the only indication you have switched between electric and petrol power is the faint burble of the 1.3L four cylinder engine starting up or shutting off. It’s not the most refined unit out there, but it pulls well and when you flick over to Sport from Auto, has a decent amount of tow too thanks to that boost of additional electric torque.
Press a button located next to the electric parking brake and this activates the maximum level of regenerative braking. I found myself switching this on with every drive as without it, the regen isn’t the best. Max regen in the Jeep is also not as intense as some “one-pedal-drive” systems. The Renegade 4xe loves and urban environment with it’s somewhat eagerness in Sport mode, but a Jeep needs to perform off the beaten path.
Venturing out to the gravel roads and dirt tracks at McLeans Island behin Christchurch Airport, the Renegade is still very much a Jeep at heart. Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction management system gives the driver the choice of multiple off-road settings by the turn of a dial. Aside from the aforementioned Auto and Sport, you also have Sand/Mud and Snow modes.
Though there was no snow to speak of, its ability to devour gravel and sand was pretty impressive. With downhill descent and a locking electric diff, the Renegade can munch up the rough stuff no problem.
The Jeep Renegade Limited 4xe certainly has appeal. Though I wish it were a bit more refined and polished in a few areas, its ability to rough it while returning some electric driving frugality cannot be understated, especially when you consider its rivals in this price bracket are not quite as able to do the former as well as the latter.