A good buddy of mine has been my guiding light in bad car decisions. I remember the Porsche 912 shell he was in charge of as a kid, the Alfa GTV shell he has in a barn somewhere, the two broken Saab wagons that he combined into one working car, and then his transition into some form of sensible car ownership with a second-gen Honda Fit. It’s gone. A Jeep Renegade stands in its place.
The Renegade is a classic case of a strange car that has sort of filtered out of our consciousness. Right now Jeep the brand lives and breathes by Grand Cherokees and Wranglers, with each of them shifting around 200,000 units a year. The Renegade, by contrast, only found 62,847 buyers in 2020, as GoodCarBadCar tabulates.
It’s weird; this was a car that the world was genuinely excited about when it came out in 2015. It was a small unibody Jeep that seemed to have some fun design elements and at least some off-road cred. It wasn’t exactly a reborn XJ Jeep Cherokee (even the new Jeep Cherokee isn’t that), but it was a bright thing from the world of FCA. It wasn’t a Panda 4x4, but it was something, as we wrote at the time:
The new Jeep Renegade has some very cool features and offers something we haven’t had in the US since the Suzuki Samurai; a compact 4WD with an opening roof that’s not a Wrangler.
Our review of the thing was similarly glowing, jazzed that the car was rated at more than 30 mpg highway no matter what configuration you ordered. Base prices started with a one, you could get a manual, the roof came off, and it came in fun colors.
The Renegade hasn’t changed much in the intervening years, other than that it lost the manual and base prices start with twos, but used models do seem like attractive choices in the yuppie millennial let-me-drive-to-the-trailhead market. Strangely, there is a new plug-in hybrid version, but no word whether it will be coming to the States.
Every time I see one on the road, in some fluro green or safety orange, I am reminded of how boring most other cars look around it. In a sea of increasingly omnipresent RAV4s, the Renegade feels a bit like of a breath of fresh air. Seeing a blobby and plain Fiat 500x on the road, too, a car that shares the same platform as the Renegade, drove the point home. I’m sure I’m a fool. I’m sure my friend is, too. I just can’t shake the idea that the Renegade is one of the few desirable small cars still out there.