Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Subcompact Culture Car of the Year: Jeep Renegade

2015 Jeep Renegade Sport

Say we did a subcompact car of the year. (We did in 2013.) If we had to choose one vehicle that was a standout in 2015, what would it be? For us, the answer was pretty easy. The Jeep Renegade. 

2015 Jeep Renegade Trialhawk

Little did I ever think I'd be saying that a Jeep would be a hot subcompact car. In this case, it's a subcompact crossover, but it's still pretty small. It's overall length is just 166.6-inches—8.8-inches shorter than a Nissan Versa. It's available with AWD, even if you want a manual transmission, and its versatility make it hard not to like. Plus, it's got some unique available features, such as the MySky removable roof panels.

No, it's not a hardcore off-roader like its cousin, the Jeep Wrangler, but it was never intended to be. That being said, we found it soaked up gravel roads and broken pavement like a champ, and a number of people have found the car is quite capable off the pavement. We drove the Sport model up to Yakima, Washington this summer and had a blast with the Renegade. Our recently reviewed Trailhawk version, which Mercedes drove to southern Oregon, proved to be a comfortable cruiser as well we as an admirable urban runabout. Plus, the Trailhawk does have the increased tire size, more ground clearance, and the ability to choose your AWD mode. I actually prefered the Sport version, which came in at $25,570 (the loaded Trailhawk was $32,265). For what it's worth, I found several 1.4-liter turbocharged, AWD models with manual transmissions for sale in the Portland area for under $20,000, which is a bargain. 

2015 Jeep Renegade Sport rear 3/4

The subcompact crossover market is aboslutely booming, and nearly every automaker offers one. But the Renegade is one of the few that's fun and that exudes personality. Handling is better than expected, the 2.4-liter engine and nine-speed automatic offer plenty of power and decent fuel economy for what it is, and there are all sorts of little things here and there that make this little rig fun. The looks are kind of like a modern interpretation of the original Scion xB mixed with a capable AWD system. Some have even likened it to this generation's Suzuki Samurai. And while I have mixed reactions to that comparison, I can see why people say that. 

Lifted Jeep Renegade
This Renegade, as seen as the GR Suspension Facebook page, features a Daystar 1.5-inch lift and 245/65/17 BFGoodrich all-terrain tires.
Like the Samurai, this is a fairly inexpensive vehicle with a go-anywhere personality wrapped up in a small size. And like the Samurai, there is a growing aftermarket for the Renegade that includes parts like lift kits and exhaust systems. Some people are even adding larger tires giving the Renegade more of an aggressive look, like the above model which features 17-inch wheels, wheel spacers, and 245/65/17 all-terrain tires.

The Jeep Renegade is a vehicle we would buy with our hard-earned money. And many other people have thus far, too, making it one of the hottest selling subcompact crossovers out there, and with good reason. 

For us, the styling, versatility, engine/transmission combo, and personality all come together to make one great little crossover. One that's full of life, small in size, and the ideal vehicle for our 2015 Subcompact Car of the Year. 

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