When we originally tested the Renegade, we were left fairly impressed with Jeep’s entry-level model. We concluded that test with the words: “the company’s decision to inject a comfortable and enjoyable compact town-goer with a generous helping of Jeep character could prove something of masterstroke”. We gave it a score of 76/100.

What is it?

However, that was a front-wheel-drive version developing 103 kW and 230 N.m. If you plan on venturing off-road, you ultimately need one of the all-wheel-drive derivatives. This is where Jeep’s two 4x4 Renegades enter the fray.

There is the 2,4-litre 4x4 Trailhawk, with its four-cylinder petrol engine, and then there is this model, the 1,4-litre turbopetrol 4x4 Limited. This forced induction engine develops 125 kW and 250 N.m and is connected to a (wait for it) nine-speed automatic transmission.

As is always the case when I climb behind the wheel of a Renegade, I’m surprised by its size. In pictures, it might look compact, but in real life it feels and is bigger. This is probably owing to the overall square design.

Little design details here and there – including the miniature Jeep that heads up the A-pillar on the inside of the windscreen and the red mud splash on the rev counter – remain a novel touch.

There is also an overall chunky feeling to the instruments, such as the thick-rimmed steering wheel and hefty door handles.

On the road

Even though this model tips the scales at 1 537 kg, the 1,4-litre engine allows for brisk acceleration, partly assisted by the transmission that swaps quickly and effectively into the next gear. On our test strip, the Jeep managed a 0-100 km/h time of 10,75 seconds, while the average braking time was exactly 3,0 seconds.

On tarmac, the Jeep rides well with the suspension and tyres absorbing bumps in the road. However, a drive on the gravel roads heading over the hills in Overberg region revealed the Renegade is just as comfortable off the beaten path. The road was made up of relatively smooth as well as rough gravel sections. By simply pressing the circular button above the gearlever, the four-wheel-drive system was locked, offering torque to both axles.

I attempted to see how the Jeep would respond to slightly enthusiast steering and throttle inputs and noticed that when the level of grip is overcome the ESP system does a great job of preventing any unfortunate situations.

Summary

Offering a spacious cabin front and rear and a drivetrain with a level of off-road ability, this Renegade ticks most boxes. And it should. Priced at R501 900, it is in the same bracket as larger SUVs, such as the Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson. However, none of these cars offer the same sort of excitement and design details as the Jeep.

Ultimately, though, this is the Renegade model for those who want to occasionally extend their trips to roads less travelled.