By on January 24, 2018

jeep renegade grille

The emergence of Jeep as a global brand with lofty sales ambitions means satisfying everyone, everywhere, no matter what the location or income of the would-be buyer. While Fiat Chrysler feels there’s definitely room to go bigger and pricier in the United States (we’re still waiting on that six-figure Grand Wagoneer), there’s also a desire to go smaller in overseas markets.

We’re talking sub-Renegade. And it just so happens Jeep has access to the platform underpinning the tiny Fiat 500 city car and plucky/adorable Fiat Panda that would make just such a model possible.

The question for Jeep is: does it really want to go there?
According to Automotive News, FCA’s off-road division is seriously considering a baby Jeep model. Brand boss Mike Manley said the brand is looking “very closely” at a sub-Renegade for European customers and other overseas buyers — a model that would remain off limits to space-hungry American buyers who enjoy stretching out in their vehicles.

Supplier sources claim Jeep’s discussions began early last year, with an Italian newspaper stating FCA’s Panda-building Pomigliano, Italy plant might serve as the production site. Such a vehicle, built on Fiat’s Mini platform, would stretch just a hair over 13 feet from stem to stern, it claimed. In contrast, a diminutive Fiat 500 spans just 11.6 feet.

There’ll soon be space at the Italian plant, too, as next-generation Panda production ships off to Poland.

While it’s possible company execs fear a baby model could water down the brand’s image, it’s far more likely that issues related to product development has kept the hypothetical model from receiving the green light. Manley said last year that any new Jeep will “still have to be capable” off-road.

Whatever the decision, we’ll probably see it show up in FCA’s five-year product plan, set for release in June.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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59 Comments on “Decision on Fiat 500-based Jeep Model Looms...”


  • avatar
    NoID

    I for one welcome the idea of a spiritual successor to the Suzuki Samurai with a 7-slot grille. But only if they sell it here.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Except it’s another unibody-FWD based imposter. I’d love for someone to come out with a legitimate successor to the Samurai/trackers of yore, undercut the Wrangler on size and price, offer true offroad capability/durability.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        LOL I guess you guys were too busy buying Suzikis to notice why they had to exit the US marketing in 2012

        https://blog.caranddriver.com/suzuki-ends-u-s-car-sales-why-it-had-to-do-it/

        Even in other markets today the successor of the Sidekick/Tracker, the Vitara, is a FWD imposter. ROFL

        Even if they came back to the states, good luck getting the Jimny past the EPA, the NHTSA, the IIHS, Consumer Reports, Sierra Club, and internet users with names like “88Samurai4Ever” who think Samurais should come from the factory used for 2k.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          For what its worth, my brother actually does daily drive a 2002 Suzuki Grand Vitara XL7 with a stick shift, and uses it offroad regularly.

          Looks like the smaller Vitara (without the “grand” prefix) has indeed migrated to some sort of FWD crossover platform. You might be surprised to learn, however that the (until 2017) Grand Vitara is a reinforced unibody ala XJ Cherokee, with a longitudinal engine and a RWD-based drivetrain, with an all independent suspension (not solid rear axle since the ’07 redesign).

          Getting back to the point, I really do think there is space for someone to come in between the small FWD-based subcompact CUVs (a few of which claim offroad ability, and may indeed have a bit), and the 2 door Wrangler, which continues to grow in size, cost, and complexity. Doesn’t even have to be BOF or have a solid front axle, but I do think a solid rear axle is a very cost effective way of getting durability and performance (articulation). I’ve probably already driven people up the wall here with my gushing over the Diahatsu Terios that I rented in CR, but that is the exact layout that I envision could split the difference and carve out its own niche in today’s red hot CUV/”active lifestyle” market. Maybe I just say this in a selfish way because that’s the only kind of small “CUV” type of thing that I’d ever consider buying.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Neither of them said they wanted the model from Suzuki itself. “Spiritual successor” and “direct successor” aren’t the same thing. The former means a vehicle similar to the old one, the latter means a direct replacement for the old one from the same brand.

          “Even in other markets today the successor of the Sidekick/Tracker, the Vitara, is a FWD imposter. ROFL”

          When you’re done rolling around laughing at your own poorly constructed joke, maybe re-read his post and realize he said a successor to the Samurai, which is not the same as the Vitara, Grand Vitara, etc. They are larger, and would be more akin to the Renegade, Compass, etc in the Jeep lineup. Why would he be wishing for something already here? The Jimny is the direct successor to the Samurai.

          “…good luck getting the Jimny past the EPA, the NHTSA, the IIHS, Consumer Reports, Sierra Club, and internet users…”

          He didn’t say he wanted that exact model here, just something like it. As in small, capable and cheap.

          I guess if you read a post and then make up for yourself what it says, you can make jokes all day. Trouble is, you’ll be laughing at your jokes, everyone else will be laughing at you and your complete lack of reading comprehension.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            Look around and maybe everyone will see why cheap vehicles like but slightly bigger than the Jimny but smaller than the Wrangler has no business case in the US. If there was a real demand and the regulatory condition allows it, you can count on a plethora of choices. But it shouldn’t be hard to see how a good off road doesn’t really work with
            (1) stringent MPG requirements by the feds that penalize small SUVs. So there goes small.
            (2) industry journalists’ incessant demand of plush ride in an off road rig(see literally every Wrangler review).
            (3) obsession with good on road manners by main stream reviewers(see literally every Wrangler review). So there goes capable. ROFL
            (4) expensive feeling material (see every GM or FCA product review)
            (5) ever more required equipment by the Feds that make cars heavier and more expensive. There goes cheap. LOL.

            The Grand Vitara was not available in the US past 2012 so maybe in 2042 you guys can import a 2017 MY. The reality is even a unibody RWD with moderate offroad capability is NOT wanted by the market nor does current regulatory conditions nor conventional automotive metrics encourage it.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            LOL Mr Taurus, get real. Here is a blip from Edmunds that should give you the insight in case you are too much in denial to see it:

            https://www.edmunds.com/car-news/nissan-xterra-discontinued-in-u-s.html

            “NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Nissan Xterra SUV will not be available in the U.S. after the 2015 model year, Edmunds has learned.

            The Xterra, which competes against the Jeep Wrangler, is being discontinued for regulatory reasons. Nissan would have had to invest in upgraded safety and emissions equipment for what is a fairly limited audience.

            Another key Xterra competitor, the Toyota FJ Cruiser, ended its production run at the end of the 2014 model year.

            Nissan sold 16,505 Xterras in 2014, a decline of 7 percent compared to the previous year. The Xterra, with its body-on-frame, truck-based roots, faced a rising tide of car-based crossovers, including the Buick Encore, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

            While boasting impressive off-road capability and a durable cabin, the Xterra is hampered by poor fuel economy and unrefined road manners. “

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “The reality is even a unibody RWD with moderate offroad capability is NOT wanted by the market nor does current regulatory conditions nor conventional automotive metrics encourage it.”

            The GV had a whole slew of issues, namely outdated and unrefined powerplants and cheap interiors, middling quality/resale and non-existent dealership networks, the platform layout was the least of their worries. You’re conflating causation/correlation.

            Counterpoint:
            The BOF/solid rear axle 4Runner has been having some of its best years of sales, ever, these last few years.

            You can get a smaller BOF and/or coil sprung 5-link live axle to ride and handle quite well mind you, dare I say better than the likes of a current Rav4 or what-have-you. Have you ever ridden in or driven a 2nd gen Vitara/tracker? They have very manageable roll, and excellent rides thanks to the isolation from the frame/body mounts and IFS setup, and the benefits of a natural front engine/RWD dynamics.

            Strictly from an engineering point of view, I’m convinced it could be done: the size of a Kia Soul, reinforced unibody with a live axle rear, IFS, and a mechanical transfer case, that could hit low 20s city, 30mpg highway (same as a Renegade Trailhawk or AWD Trax), that weighs in at less than 3400lb, at the pricepoint a few thousand under a base 2 door Wrangler ($27k).

            It is definitely a question of justifying development costs of a whole new platform just to get a piece of the subcompact CUV pie, and here thing certainly fall apart. All these other CUVs are (relatively) cheaply platform engineered. And consumers would not give a hoot that this hypothetical vehicle would be superior in terms of performance and durability offroad, they just need it to look the part.

            Perhaps if Subaru made a baby-Forester with the same classic viscous coupling AWD setup with a stick shift, I’d be a happy-enough camper.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Power Wheels Marchionne Edition.

    Seriously, though, if it’s done right it could be a big seller in places where petrol costs two or three times what it costs here.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Only the problem is, Renegade with its 1.4L engine scores in low 20s in real world driving

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        That’s probably due to the Renegade’s brick-like profile. Give it a more laid back windshield and the numbers are comparable.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          I’ve made a study on this. And conclusion, based on aero coefficient of the renegade, the shape of renegade should affect fuel efficiency by less than 1mpg. Lets say, intead of 22-23mpg Renegade makes 23-24mpg. Still, crap for 1.4L. CRV….

          • 0 avatar
            bill h.

            Hmm, this is definitely a case of YMMV. In our driving experience (34k miles so far), it’s pretty easy to get over 30 mpg with the 1.4T/6MT. And the long term trip computer average right now sits at 32.9 mpg, over nearly 10k of those miles.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Depends on how you drive it, too. Running 75-80mph is guaranteed to hurt your fuel mileage.

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve been commuting ~100 highway miles/day four days per week in a 1.4T Renegade for the past two years. Average speeds 74-79 mph. Evening and weekend around town driving mixed in of course. Overall fuel economy hovers right around 31 mpg.

            Here’s an interesting comparison:

            Coefficient of drag:

            Jeep Renegade – .35 (FWD), .36 (4×4)
            Nissan Juke – .35
            Buick Encore – .37
            Chevy Trax – .36
            Mini Countryman – .36
            Kia Soul – .38
            2013 Chevy Camaro – .37

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Coefficient of drag in itself means little without calculating in the overall frontal area.

            Of course, these big, flat noses on so many vehicles (including the latest Camaros) hurts their overall economy. I had a ’96 Camaro that gave me 32mpg at 70mph. I couldn’t tell you what its CoD was, though.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @bill h.
            @cls12vg30

            elevation?

          • 0 avatar
            bill h.

            slavuta: Mostly East coast US. So closer to sea level than mountain elevation. Not always level terrain, however.

          • 0 avatar

            slavuta: 300-700 feet ASL

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    The more they FIAT-ize Jeep, the less the brand will sell.

    Jeep sells IMAGE. But, that image has to match the offering. Pasting J E E P on a rebodied Fiat piece of cardboard and resin, is not goiing to do it.

    Jeep over the years had the serendipity of having its image matched by rugged equipment. Overlooking early missteps, like the OHC Contintal-based six…Jeep came to market with the MB image, matched by AMC’s bulletproof sixes. With a smattering of Buick V8s.

    Chrysler built on that image, and somehow Daimler didn’t overly destroy it (although the Neon engine in the Wrangler was a boob move).

    CUVs are one thing. It’s probably the wrong direction for Jeep, but that’s another issue. But badge-engineering a Jeep out of a Fiat…EVEN WITH a disguised body…wrong, wrong.

    With time, Jeep will be come to known as just a Fiat. As Cadillac came to be known as just a badge-engineered mass-market Chevrolet.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      What other pure blood offroad brand is there that Jeep should be fearing is going to come and take away all the Wranglers’ lunch money?

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      Most people don’t care about any of this. It’s plain to see a Renegade or Compass isn’t a “real Jeep” for people who care, and they can still buy a Wrangler or Grand Cherokee. Terrible reliability has never been a problem, and that’s unlikely to change. A lot of people probably don’t even associate Jeep with Fiat, unless they go to a dealer where they’re sold together, whereas Chevy and Caddy have always been joined at the hip image-wise, whether or not the cars were related too much

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Very true. Get a couple of Jeep guys from the XJ Cherokee era (but not limited to that model), and you’ll hear all sorts of reliability horror stories. The 4.0L 6 was indeed reliable, the rest less so, especially in the area of electronics and other systems.

        It takes more than a good engine to make for a reliable vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          mikeg216

          I’m on jeep number 7.. They never do get the fine details right.. But they never have.. But I’ll put up with those problems if I get rock solid reliability from the rest of the vehicle.. Even in the toughest of times.. You can’t kill an xj or zj.. They’ve always gotten me home.. Sure the mpgs are abysmal and the electronics are fucky.. But it’ll get you through two feet of snow and start at minus twenty so whatever..

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        Considering the FJ Cruiser did so poorly due to its price and perceived shortcomings on pavement that are really just side effects of being good off the pavement.

        The Xterra came very close but the cool kids are all buying Tacomas these days and the Xterra is dead too.

        So the market says, reliable good off roaders don’t sell.

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        That’s been our take. Of course the Rene is a Fiat underneath and we knew that, but as said by my son (a former FCA engineer) made in a more modern factory than some of the Stateside ones making “real” Jeeps. But if we were going to plunge into the B&B-hated CUV class, I wanted to at least have the option of getting one with a manual shifter and a bit more (Italian?) driving engagement, a modest amount of 4×4 ability for unpaved roads, and a reasonably functioning infotainment system, which UConnect seems to do. Long term reliability is still TBD, but ours hasn’t been bad by any means, especially given that it’s a first year 2015 model. It’s still our vehicle of choice for excursions to the wilds of Manhattan streets, where its size and the ability to handle asphalt constantly cratered by the NYC DPW has been useful.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “The more they FIAT-ize Jeep, the less the brand will sell.”

      That doesn’t appear to be true, as at least two Fiat-based models are among their top four selling models, including the Renegade itself.

      Rather, those who are still stuck on a 40-year-old reputation are the ones avoiding it while the younger, more active people seem to be buying them with no problems.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      I’m going to need some hard evidence that a Chrysler 2.4 is somehow inferior to an AMC 2.5 or 4.0– because the $hit-engined Jeep both predates and will be around after Chrysler.

      Wrangler 2.4 with 6 speed is a great combination. Gets 21MPG highway and has the same quarter mile as the 4.0– but is 280 pounds lighter.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “Wrangler 2.4 with 6 speed is a great combination. Gets 21MPG highway and has the same quarter mile as the 4.0– but is 280 pounds lighter.”

        —- Ummm… Huh? My ’08 with the old 3.8V6 minivan engine did THAT well! Better, in fact. I easily averaged anywhere from 22-23mpg. You drop a 2.4 in, you’d best have more torque than that old V6, even at 200 horses. Oh, and that WAS with the 6-speed manual.

        There’s no reason that 4 shouldn’t get better than 25mpg out of the Wrangler, especially since the JL is ever so slightly more aerodynamic than the JK.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Oh, please do Jeep! If only to hear the collective groans and wails from the Jeep faithful. I know, “It’s a Jeep thing, I wouldn’t understand”
    Oh, and give some square headlights too.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    When Fiat first bought Chrysler there was a ‘shop going around of a Jeep-faced Fiat Panda:

    http://bit.ly/2rEZ9vS

    I’d say squeeze that 500 platform for all it’s worth.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The question for Jeep is: does it really want to go there?

    No.

    Does Sergio want to go there?

    Duh.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      Are you kidding me? Do you know how much fun a vehicle that size with actual off-road capability is? Check out YouTube videos of the Samurai / Sidekick and gaze in wonder.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        Or the VehiCross. There could be potential with a subcompact offroad vehicle. No one has tried that other than Suzuki – and the Samurai was loved despite its shortcomings.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          The Samurai was also well-loved by ambulance-chasing legal firms.

          Right now, Sergio Sweaterman’s BIG aim, is to sell, not cars, but FCA. And having that sort of legal liability hanging over him – the same sort that chased AMC’s remnants with the CJ Rollover debacle – having that stain on his for-sale conglomerate, won’t help his case.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        We’re not talking about your 1985 Samurai with solid axles front and rear.

        I have much respect for a two-door convertible Tracker/Sidekick – I wanted one back in the early 90s when I was still a high school kid.

        I will have respect for a 500 based Jeep with the “Trailhawk” package – but honestly how many of those do you think they will sell vs the FWD “what’s the cheapest thing you’ve got on the lot, I’m trading in a clapped out Patriot”?

        • 0 avatar
          NoID

          Who cares what the volume split is, as long as there are volume sales to support the brand and keep it churning out models capable of best-in-class off road capability?

          Several niche brands have shown that they can dilute the product line without losing their souls nor their base customer, and make some crazy money in the process. Why shouldn’t Jeep? They’re already doing it, and the formula seems to be working.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Thumbs up, noID. A true throwback to the original CJ would garner an instant following and see a LOT of them modded to an even more WWII/Korean War appearance.

  • avatar
    FOG

    I owned a Renegade. It was fun for the driver and tolerable for the passenger, but anyone in the back seats didn’t enjoy long highway treks. Well, longer than 20 minutes. We American drives aren’t used to such a short wheelbase and responsive steering. I cannot imagine a car with an even shorter wheelbase. I think it would sell about as well as the Fiat 500 sells.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    As for a ROW mini-Jeep, as long as it retains the excellent 4×4 capabilities, who cares?

    FCA needs to exploit as many markets as possible.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    We’ve hit Peak CUV. Unless it has a low range, then we may have hit Peak SUV.

  • avatar
    Shockrave Flash Has Crashed

    A good entry level product can bring people into the brand forever. So if it’s reliable, yes.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Only way I would be interested is if they made some sort of wicked Fiat 500 Abarth rally-styled vehicle with serious ground clearance and enough lights up front to melt the bumper of the car in front of you.

  • avatar
    scott25

    The real question here is why don’t they sell the Fiat Panda here, in all its variants, to finally give the Soul some competition? It’ll do a hell of a lot better than the 500L.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    YES! A mini-Wrangler type vehicle would be a blast, especially if it were street legal as compared to all these off-road-only rigs we see on TV so much.

  • avatar
    gespo04

    I would love if Jeep made a modern Geo Tracker. Small wheelbase, ladder frame, 4×4, stick shift, able to be flat-towed. I love Geo Trackers and I would genuinely buy one of they came out new.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      Agreed. Even though I stick to domestic makers as much as possible, I would love to be able to buy a new Jimny today as is. But even today’s “swamp draining” congress can’t reverse decades long build of regulations that makes the Jimny, or anything like it, impossible to be sold here. And the Hilux cult members can’t blame the chicken tax on this one.

  • avatar
    064462

    I saw one of these today, and thought to myself…………it looks like an updated International Harvester Scout . I’d buy the IH Scout logo- decontent it and sell it as a loss leader .

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I, for one, would give a sub-Renegade Jeep a serious consideration. I looked at the Renegade, and liked most of its attributes except how large it is. The “smallest” Jeep is actually larger than 2D Wrangler, although it is somewhat lighter. If I’m buying a car this big, I might as well buy Wrangler. If they can make something of Mazda CX-3 sized, but with a low gear, I will be seriously tempted to ditch the Wrangler. Now, I must admit that a FIAT 500 sized SUV might be just a little bit too small, but the article says that they want to make it a little longer, which would be perfect.

  • avatar
    mattwc1

    For FCA, it benefits them to increase the branding of Jeep. This will come at the expense of the loyalists but Jeep is the cash cow that keeps on giving. I remember when the Patriot/Compass twins came out and despite the loyalists complaints, the Wrangler continued to sell well. Chrysler had 2 models to sell to buyers with a lower barrier of entry to get into the Jeep brand. Fleet sales and cash on the hood(I see leftover Patriots/Compasses on the lots (6speed auto/2.4/awd) with serious cash on the hood. Probably 15-16k for potential buyers) Despite that fact that these models were/are outdated to the competition means little when they still sold in decent numbers until they were replaced.

    For FCA, the new Compass, Grand Cherokee, and Renegade bring a lot of buyers into the dealerships. The fact that these models even have a tangential relationship to the Wrangler is a PR bonus. The new sub-Renegade model will do further to help sales. FCA is reliant on Jeep to prop up the company.

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