Jeep Renegade 4xe review – does a hybrid Jeep make sense?
We get one a bit muddy finding out
It's fair to say the Jeep Renegade is one of those cars that you either get or you don't. It's not exactly the biggest, toughest Jeep out there, but it has a daily-drivable, urbanite appeal that's resulted in it being a pretty decent seller for Jeep in Europe.
And now you get can get a plug-in hybrid version. Called the 4xe (pronounced four-by-Eeeee), it uses a 1.3-litre petrol engine to drive the front wheels, and an electric motor for the back ones. So, Jeep says, it's still got the 4x4 skills to be worthy of the Jeep name. But is it any good? Watch the video below to find out (and to see me dripping with rain in a rooftop tent), or read on for more thoughts.
First things first – you can get the Renegade 4xe in two flavours, which alter the power of the combustion engine. There's an entry-level version which gets 130hp through petrol power, topped up by 60hp of electric power for a combined 190hp.
Then the top-spec Trailhawk model gets 180hp from the engine and the same 60hp from the electric motor, for 240hp in total. The electric motor generates 250Nm of torque.
I drove the 240hp version (of course), and while it never felt quite as brisk as its 7.5-second 0-62mph time suggests, it was always capable of overtaking dawdlers on soggy Welsh roads.
But you don't buy a Jeep Renegade for speed, you buy it for daily driving. And despite a few concessions brought about by being hybridised (the boot is 31 litres smaller than the regular Renegade at 351 litres, and the a petrol tank capacity is down to just 36.5 litres), the Renegade 4xe does the normal stuff really quite well.
It makes sense – the Renegade's a squat, boxy thing that fits in well around town, so why not make it a hybrid?
The ride is settled and not overly firm, and although overall weight is up to 1,770kg it still corners well enough to hoof down country lanes at the legal speed limit without any worries. It'll even crack 81mph on electric power alone, though you'll have to be relatively gentle on the accelerator so you don't call upon the noisy power of the petrol engine.
Bring the noise
Ah yes, the petrol engine. It is noisy. Put your foot down hard in any of the three powertrain modes (including the electric-only mode) and the engine awakens and heads for the redline with a bit of a racket. You end up driving more gently, trying your best to keep the revs down so you don't have to shout at your passenger. On a partial throttle and in normal driving it's perfectly fine, but it does rear its noisy head when you want to dart into gaps in traffic.
The interior is fine, but it does show its age a little
In terms of driving modes, you get the normal hybrid mode, which uses electric power only where sensible and calls in the petrol engine quite readily; electric-only, which does its darn-tootin' best to only use the electric motor; and E-save, which is the one you press when you're on a motorway and want to switch to pure petrol power to save some charge for later in the journey.
Jeep says that the Renegade 4xe is as capable as a regular Renegade off-road, and we had the chance to tackle some very slippery muddy tracks on a steep hillside. You get a swathe of off-road modes and a virtual diff lock to help you out.
The Renegade gets a dainty blue Jerry-can centre cross in the 'D'. What a collection of words that was
Even on road tyres, the Renegade handled the forest tracks and grassy slopes with one-hand-on-the-wheel ease. Obviously it doesn't have the wheel articulation of something like a Wrangler, but it'll still leave competitor small soft roaders spinning their tyres in the National Trust car park.
Should I get one?
The entry-level 180hp Renegade 4xe will set you back £32,600, and the top-spec Trailhawk I drove with some options was £39,100. Those aren't especially small pricetags, but they're about the same as you'd be paying for a reasonably powerful hybrid SUV from other makers.
Is it worth the money? Just about.
It's a niche car – if you like the way it looks and you like the idea of having near-silent urban transport backed up by some proper off-road ability, then it's a great choice. In fact, it's almost the only choice, certainly at this price point. However, those are some pretty out-there criteria, and I imagine most people will be happy to settle for a more modern-feeling hybrid SUV and forego the mud-plugging nature of the Renegade.