Let them laugh, says Charlie Flindt, at its ‘kooky’ appearance. They won’t be laughing when they hit a bumpy patch off-road
It may look a little ‘funky’, but Charlie Flindt is impressed by the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk. You buy a Jeep for the rough stuff, and off-road is where the Trailhawk really shines.
For a Jeep that is a little less rugged but still plucky, read our review of the Jeep Cherokee.
JEEP RENEGADE TRAILHAWK
I do hope the Renegade Trailhawk has a thick skin – it was attracting a fairly diverse set of comments in the week I drove it. The kindest was that it was the steroid-filled lovechild of a Jimny and a Fiat Panda. Other comments included: “funky” and “kooky”. It’s certainly not dull to the eye, with its undersized grill and oversized wheel arches, and in a market crowded with monotony that’s a good thing.
Inside, the wacky theme continues, with ergonomics that suggest that the committee in charge of designing it weren’t even on the same continent, never mind round the same table. The seat seems too far back for the rear-view mirror, let alone for a quick manual de-mist of the windscreen. It’s surprisingly roomy, however – rumours of Panda/Jimny heritage tend to suggest it’ll be more cramped.
The cabin has an unrefined and slightly military feel to it, with heavy controls set in dark, vertical faces and a seat that creaked as if it had done 10 tours in the Gulf. But, all in all, it’s a comfortable place to be.
On the road, the sense of unrefinement continues. The nine-speed automatic gearbox insists on changing up to its highest gear as soon as possible, and the two-litre, four-cylinder diesel is certainly not silky smooth at 1,300rpm. More than once I found myself switching over to ‘manual’ and changing down just to push the revs up a bit, and eliminate the shuddering in the driveline. Probably not good for the fuel consumption but the Renegade seems to have missed its session in the wind tunnel so one gear lower will make little difference.
But all this is not why you buy a Jeep. You buy a Jeep for the rough stuff and as the ruffy-tuffy ‘Trailhawk’ name suggests, it’s off the road that this Renegade shines. It has extra cladding over the basic model and numerous vital transmission components have been fitted with protective plates.
The bumpers have been subtly reshaped and, quite astonishingly, the central third of the bonnet has been coated with what appears to be a chalkboard. All those years of trying to tell a dopey gun to go down that track for 50yd and then go into the woods for five paces and the birds will be coming from his right – now you can do a proper diagram on the bonnet. I searched in vain for the schoolroom-style box of multi-coloured chalks but Jeep must have forgotten to put it in the glovebox.
Set the 4wd system to the ratio/terrain of your choice (not a lot of ‘mud’ to be found while I had it, unfortunately) and the Renegade is fantastic. It trundles majestically over lumps and bumps with utter assurance (once you’ve switched off the proximity sensors, which are wetting themselves at every blade of grass). It’s up here that it shines. Order it in the lovely green and you’d think it looks rather handsome among the trees. There’s no-one here to laugh at it, or call it names. If there were, you could put their name, Dad’s Army-style, on the bonnet.
Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
♦ Engine: 1,956cc diesel
♦ Power: 170hp
♦ Max speed: 122mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 6.8 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy: 42.9mpg
♦ Insurance Group: 15E
♦ Price: £31,400