Review: 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is as trail-ready as its name implies

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In the realm of subcompact crossovers, the Renegade Trailhawk is the only truly trail-capable vehicle on offer(Credit: Aaron Turpen/New Atlas)

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As the most trail-capable of the Renegade models, the 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk contains the fun styling and well-wrought interior of its siblings, but adds offroad goodies like beefier tires and a better suspension.

The Jeep Renegade debuted for the 2015 model year and was met with mixed interest from the automotive press. Some of us were excited to see a new, entry-level crossover in the Jeep lineup and glad to see that it was as nostalgic as it was fun. Others were expecting just another Patriot-type disappointment. Luckily, time has shown that the Renegade is not boring or cheap, but is perhaps the first car-based crossover to bear the Jeep name that doesn't lose what is expected of the brand.

Being Fiat-Chrysler's first global platform for the Jeep brand, the Renegade shares a lot with the similarly-sized, but much different, Fiat 500X model. It's arguable that in the realm of subcompact crossovers, the Renegade Trailhawk is the only truly trail-capable vehicle being offered.

None of this is to say that the Renegade is a Wrangler in cheaper form, of course. The Jeep Wrangler continues to be the epitome of offroad readiness and capability. Compared to some others in Jeep's lineup, though, the Renegade Trailhawk is better off the pavement. The Cherokee, for example, is an excellent crossover in its own right, but is more road-ready than trail-ready in our experience, at least when compared to the Renegade Trailhawk. The Renegade's smaller footprint and better wheel articulation (not to mention lighter weight) make it a more robust trail bouncer in comparison.

Standard equipment on the 2016 Renegade Trailhawk includes hill descent control, a slightly higher suspension height (0.8 inch rise), tow hooks, skid plates, and four-wheel drive. All-terrain tires with a bit more beef, a full-sized spare, 17-inch alloy wheels, and 115-volt outlet are also standard. Powering the little Renegade Trailhawk is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 180 horsepower (134 kW) and 175 pound-feet (237 Nm) of torque. This goes through a nine-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. Exclusive to the Trailhawk edition is a lower range for the transfer case to offer deeper gearing for low-speed offroad.

The Renegade with 4WD has an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 24 mpg combined, with 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway (9.8, 11.2, 8.1 l/100km). In the real world, those numbers are a bit optimistic given the thicker tread on the Trailhawk's tires. During our week with the little 2016 Renegade Trailhawk, we saw closer to 21 mpg (11.2 l/100km) combined, though we did admittedly spend much of our time out in the dirt.

The Renegade itself, as a model, has a great interior for the segment, especially considering the relatively low price of entry required to be competitive here. The manufacturer's suggested retail (MSRP) for the Renegade's base model is US$17,995 and the Trailhawk model begins at $26,745 (before delivery). That's a starting price about two thousand below the competing Mazda and Honda models. There are honestly no comparables to the Trailhawk edition.

During any type of driving, there are a few things to notice about the 2016 Renegade Trailhawk. It's maneuverable around town and in the bush, but on the highway the more aggressive tires mean more road noise. The transmission also tends to shift often, especially at mid-level speeds in the 15-30 mph (24-48 km/h) range. The 2.4-liter engine can be a bit loud when accelerating, but makes up for that with better torque delivery for faster off-line performance and better offroad power.

The 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is both a good everyday drive and utility vehicle as well as a fun weekend dirt-clawer. Out on the trail, the everyday interior of the Renegade doesn't play into things much, but is much appreciated when not bouncing in the dirt.Seating is comfortable for four and a fifth person can be crammed in the center of the back seat when needed. The excellent Chrysler UConnect infotainment system (6.5-inch touchscreen) is worth every upgrade penny, too. The small touches inside the Renegade, like the "Jeep grille" speakers in the doors and the excellent cloth seating, are well-received. The boxy styling of the Renegade pays off in interior room, with good headroom front and rear. There are 18.5 cubic feet (524 liters) of cargo space with all seats up – average for the segment, but more accessible thanks to the box-like opening of the rear hatch.

What we learned is that for those looking for an entry-level, daily use Jeep that still lives up to the Jeep name, the Renegade is a good choice. For those looking for more fun and out-and-about readiness in their Renegade, the Trailhawk is unmatched in its segment.

Product page: Jeep Renegade

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