What you’re looking at is a four-wheeled ATM for Fiat Chrysler. The Jeep Renegade is a unibody crossover based on a Fiat car platform. To satisfy the Jeep faithful, it has an available all-wheel drive system with a 20:1 crawl ratio, 8.7 inches of ground clearance and a rock crawling mode as well as a 2,000 lb towing capability with the 2.4L 4-cylinder (Euro-spec diesels get as much as 3,300 lbs). None of that matters as much as the fact that it’s an entrant for Jeep in one of the automotive world’s fastest growing segments.
The Renegade will be they key to FCA’s plan to turn Jeep into a “global brand”. The Geneva unveiling is just the tip of the iceberg, with the car expressly designed for the needs of world markets – two diesel powertrains, a 1.6L making 118 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.0L making 140 or 170 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque will be offered outside North America. Both the diesels, the 1.4L Multiair engines and the naturally aspirated 1.6L gasoline I4 get start-stop, with a 6-Speed DCT offered on certain 1.4 models.
The wide range of powertrains will help the Renegade stay competitive in Europe, Asia and other markets where high fuel costs and taxes on displacement and CO2 emissions. Other features like blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and lane departure warning, as well as UConnect, offer advanced active safety features in what is typically a value segment.
Vehicles like the Dacia Duster and Ford Ecosport have been more no-frills, valued priced affairs. The Opel Mokka and Renault Captur offer more content, but both feature the “amorphous blob” aesthetic so typical of most entrants in this segment. The Renegade, on the other hand, looks like nothing else. Practicality aside, buyers in the small crossover segment are looking to make a statement, rather than opting for the same old B and C-segment hatchbacks – especially in emerging markets.
In many ways, Jeep can thank Fiat for what is essentially a Panda 4×4 dressed up in Carhartt jeans and Red Wing boots. Fiat has provided the platform, the powertrains, the assembly plant and the understanding of what it takes to compete in world markets. But only Jeep could make the Renegade so desirable, with its just-right proportions, Wrangler-esque design cues, and the halo effect of the Jeep brand.
The Renegade looks to be a rare synthesis of the best parts of the Fiat-Chrysler partnership. It is the right product, delivered at a time when the automotive market cannot get enough small crossovers. FCA’s biggest problem will be finding enough capacity to build them.