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I Hate Crossovers, But I’ve Been Living With a Jeep Renegade for the Past 3 Years
Crossovers and SUVs are so trendy these days that no matter where you look, you are bound to see one. Heck, they’re so popular that almost every car brand makes them, be it Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Maserati, to name but some of the most expensive ones. Even Ferrari has one in the pipeline that plans to put the Urus in its corner, in theory.

I Hate Crossovers, But I’ve Been Living With a Jeep Renegade for the Past 3 Years

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So many people are flocking to high-riders these days, and most of them think that theirs handles corners properly, no matter if it’s a Q7 diesel (just ask my neighbor) or an AMG GLA 45. They’re big, imposing, and quite safe for the most part, and let’s admit it, you’d rather be inside a G-Wagen than a Mazda MX-5 in a collision.

Even though three years have passed since then, I remember it like it was yesterday. The lady of the house got sick and tired of what was otherwise a decent Ford Focus Mk2, with a 1.6-liter gasoline engine, and after constant nagging, I showed her who’s boss and agreed that we have to get her a new (used) car. This is easier said than done, because in the eyes of a petrolhead, run-of-the-mill vehicles simply don’t cut it. But it had to be a crossover/SUV, so at least that was a starting point.

Naturally, I went through explaining the reliability of the Toyota RAV4, but it was quickly deemed as ugly. The Nissan Qashqai / Rogue Sport wasn’t that loved either, and neither were the Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Dacia Duster, because if Dacia makes such good cars, “why don’t you sell yours and buy one?” Can’t argue with that.

Basically, she didn’t like anything that wasn’t a crossover coupe, and since I’d rather walk than drive one, not to mention that it would have broken the bank, we decided on the Jeep Renegade. After all, what’s not to like about a ride that looks like a mini Wrangler and was built for urban cruising, right? Quite a few things actually, but we’ll get to them in a few moments.

It was rather late in the evening when I saw the ad: made in 2015, complete service record, clean inside and out. The engine? A 1.6-liter turbodiesel, with a six-speed manual and front-wheel drive. Black on black, with silver trim, dual-zone climate control, small infotainment screen, part-digital dials, multi-function steering wheel, all-electric windows, automatic door locks, USB charging port, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and rear parking sensors.

Upon meeting the vendor, I found out that this Renegade came from Italy’s Juventus Torino, and was the last one of the batch that was still looking for a new home. I jumped behind the wheel, and excited that I finally found a vehicle that the missus likes and is within budget, I failed to see the downsides. And there are quite a lot, so bear with me.

For one, it feels like it was literally made of plastic. The squeaks and creaks could be muted by the sound system, but the truth is that the audio is not that good either. The driver’s seat is so uncomfortable that it makes normal hatchbacks seem as Bentleys, the mid-part of the steering wheel is just too thick, and I’m not a small guy, and due to the thick pillars, I constantly found myself in some potentially dangerous situations.

For the most part, around 120 horsepower and a decent amount of torque are enough. But the engine is far from smooth. You see, whenever the temperature drops, it’s like it’s telling me that it’s cold. I know it’s cold, and I’d appreciate it if you blow some warm air into my face.

But it doesn’t, and that’s not the problem, because diesels do warm-up slower than gasoline units, and it doesn’t have auxiliary heating. What gets on my nerves is that the whole car vibrates rather violently and it’s not regular, yet the rev meter pretends that there’s nothing wrong. No one knows the cause of this, and I’ve learned to live with it. If I’m cold, then the car is cold too, and it starts shivering.

The gear ratios are far too short to the point where it feels like I’m driving an old truck, if I go easy on the throttle. In sixth gear, it has about 110 kph (68 mph) at 2,000 rpm. And once you’ve hit that speed, you will notice that due to the brick shape, the wind is very annoying. You can hear it as it tries to find a way to go around the upright windscreen and big side mirrors.

Having a normal conversation at highway speeds means having to speak louder, because road and engine noise are two more downsides. Driving at night is a challenge too, as the halogen headlamps simply suck, even with Philips bulbs.

Let’s face it, no one in their right mind would ever take a Renegade to the track. First, because it is a crossover, and not a sporty one, so it has too many inches between its belly and the road, and second, because you won’t know what the front wheels are doing. And if you dare throw it into a corner, then you will quickly find out what understeer means.

For a tiny diesel, it is not that frugal either, and with the A/C turned off, it drinks around 8-9 l/100 km (29.4-26.1 mpg US) in the city, and approximately 6.5-7 l/100 km (36.2-33.6 mpg US) on the highway, at around 120-130 kph (75-81 mph).

On the plus side, it is surprisingly spacious inside for a subcompact crossover. It has great headroom, even in the back, because it doesn’t pretend to be a coupe, and very decent legroom. The trunk is on the small side, but you will still be able to stuff two medium suitcases there. And it also looks good on the outside, as far as I’m concerned anyway.

Some might be wondering about the reliability part, and so far, it has been a rather smooth ownership experience. In addition to the usual fluids, filters, and brake pads, the A/C compressor failed earlier this year. And it didn’t cost that much to replace it, but it wasn’t cheap either.

Putting on the snow tires costs more than usual, because it may be subcompact and front-wheel drive, and have 17-inch alloys, but “it is a Jeep, my friend,” as someone once told me, pointing at the corporate emblems.

I may hate it, because it’s not really a Jeep, but a Fiat 500X with a fancier suit, and for many other reasons, but the missus loves it; and it’s hers, not mine, I drive something else, but more on that in a future story, probably. So, it appears that we’re stuck with it for a few more years. Hopefully, it will continue to be a rather smooth experience in terms of reliability, but hey, you never know, now, do you?

 
 
 
 
 

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