Fancy a plug-in hybrid that’s capable of off-roading? Tim Barnes-Clay checks out the all-new Jeep Renegade 4xe.
You know when you dig into your favourite pot of ice cream? It’s a cheeky treat – and it makes you feel a bit naughty, doesn’t it? Well, the unconventionally-styled, but fun-loving Renegade gives you the same feeling – kind of. It’s a bit long in the tooth; I mean, it was five years ago I found myself testing Jeep’s first proper little SUV on a Scottish beach. But the all-American, Italian-made (it uses a Fiat platform) motor still has something about it, even though some argue it’s got a “face” only a mother could love. Anyway, Jeep, like many other manufacturers, has had to do something about electrification to keep up with the times. But why invent a new vehicle for this when all you need to do is shoehorn an altered powertrain into an existing, popular model. Enter the Renegade 4xe.
Under the metal
Fundamentally, not much has changed on the looks front, apart from some “4xe” badging and a charging port. You see, it’s under the metal where the alterations to Jeep’s best-selling vehicle in the UK have happened. It’s not all-electric; FCA, Jeep’s parent company, have played it safe and have gone down the plug-in hybrid route. In other words, an electric motor and battery have been paired with an existing petrol engine, offering a good blend of performance and efficiency.
For the last half-decade, the Renegade has come well kitted out – and that hasn’t changed just because the 4xe has been ushered in. You get DAB radio and an 8.4-inch media touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard. There’s loads of safety equipment, too, including parking sensors and a “Drowsy Driver Detection” system – obtainable for the first time in a Jeep.
The cabin is the same as any Renegade, offering lots of headroom and a high seating position. There are five seatbelts, but the SUV is far more comfortable with four-up because legroom isn’t so generous, especially in the rear. The overall quality isn’t all that, either. The plastics at shin height are somewhat scratchy and only get softer to the touch the higher you go. And when it comes to the boot, well, this could be a deal-breaker. A regular Renegade has 351-litres of cargo capacity, but the 4xe’s boot space is cut to a measly 330-litres. This is due to a charging module placed in the load area, and the layout of the electric motor beneath the floor.
The 4xe range includes a trio of trim levels – Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk. They all feature four-wheel-drive and a six-speed automatic dual-clutch ‘box, as well as an array of exterior colours. But the £34,500 Limited grade I drove is the one you want to go for – unless you drive over rocks regularly. In that case, the expensive Trailhawk will be your cup of tea. The Limited has black accents inside the cabin, but also adds adaptive cruise control, LED lights and bigger alloys. It looks and feels the business – within the limitations of it being a Renegade.
Now, I may have mentioned that the Trailhawk is pricey, but to be frank, none of the 4xe versions are cheap. The range starts at £32,600 and finishes at £36,500. Then there are the options. For a car that isn’t overly refined, Jeep is asking a lot, especially when you consider more premium rivals, like Renault’s Captur E-tech and Kia Niro PHEV, are cheaper.
The 4xe’s 1.3-litre petrol turbo engine pushes out 130hp or 180hp; then there’s the 60hp supplied by the Jeep’s electric motor. This means 190hp is on tap in the Longitude and Limited, while 240hp is offered in the top Trailhawk version. I was quite happy with the 130hp plus electric clout in my test car. The drive felt even smoother than a regular Renegade, with the engine powering the front wheels and the electric motor driving the rear. Performance is perky, with 62mph reached in 7.5 seconds – and efficiency, due to a 26-mile electric range, is relatively impressive, with up to 134mpg possible. What’s more, CO2 emissions are just 49g/km.
The SUV is particularly peachy when you select “Electric” and drive it in pure battery mode. The standard “Hybrid” setting focuses on the EV power well, though. The shift between petrol propulsion and electric is almost imperceptible when driving in a relaxed way. But, if you’re pressed for time, and push your right foot down, the internal combustion unit can get raucous.
Now, you might think the move down the plug-in hybrid path has affected the Jeep Renegade’s ability off the tarmac. Well, it hasn’t – all the 4xe versions are remarkably talented in this respect, especially the Trailhawk with its tough underbody “armour” and elevated ride.
The Renegade has always been a left-field choice, and that’s going to continue to be the case with the 4xe – and then some. Sure, it’s pricey, but you have to admire Jeep for manufacturing a PHEV that works well on and off-road. Furthermore, if you use a 7.4kW home wall box, it’ll take you less than a couple of hours to fully charge the SUV – or if you want to use a three-pin wall outlet, you’ll be ready to rock in five hours.
Fast Facts – Jeep Renegade 4xe Limited as tested:
- Max speed: 113 mph
- 0-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
- Combined mpg: 124-134
- Engine: 1,332cc four-cylinder turbo petrol + electric motor
- Max. power (PS): 190
- CO2: 52 g/km
- Price: £34,500