As its name implies, the 2021 Jeep Renegade rejects the conventional traits of other subcompact crossovers. Sure, its abbreviated dimensions and adorable design are hallmarks of this segment. But its legitimate off-road capability and available removable sunroof make it the pack mule in a class of mall cruisers. Of course, the absence of an eco-friendly model (at least until the plug-in-hybrid model arrives) and premium-priced trim levels that don’t feel premium at all are areas where the littlest Jeep stands out for the wrong reasons. While the Jeep Compass looks more mature, and the Jeep Cherokee can tow more and tackle tougher trails, the 2021 Renegade will still satisfy fans of the brand with its boxier aesthetic, open-top option, and off-road capable Trailhawk model.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, the Renegade receives a slew of newly standard driver assists and additional trim levels. All models now have blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and more. The lineup also adds an 80th Anniversary Edition and an Islander Edition. The former rolls on Granite Crystal 19-inch wheels wear trim-specific badging and have distinct interior appointments. The latter has silver 19-inch rims, passive hands-free entry, a panoramic sunroof, and a special island-themed hood decal and embroidered seatbacks. Renegade Sport has a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that replaces the old 5.0-inch display, and the Limited and Trailhawk get more standard features.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
It’s a good thing that Jeep owners enjoy raw experiences because there is no polish to the Renegade’s standard four-cylinder engine. Needing 9.0 seconds to reach 60 mph, the optional turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder isn’t much of an improvement in either refinement or performance. It makes a little less horsepower than the base 2.4-liter engine, but the turbo engine’s redeeming trait is the extra 25 lb-ft of torque (200 total) it develops low in the rev range to help the Renegade accelerate away from stops. Both engines pair with a nine-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. While all-wheel-drive models can tow up to 2000 pounds, Jeep doesn’t recommend towing with front-drive versions. The Renegade is not intended to hustle hard, but it holds it’s own better than one might think. While it can feel stiffly sprung in its most off-road-oriented Trailhawk model, the ride in other versions is generally composed and comfortable. Steering is quick to respond to driver inputs, and there’s less body roll around corners than you might expect from a vehicle shaped like a Christmas ornament. If an engaging driving experience is an important factor, the turbocharged Kia Soul and the Mazda CX-3 both offer better performance and much more fun.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
As with the exterior design, the Renegade’s interior is made to appeal to the part of our brains that once created full-length dialogues between two dinosaur-shaped erasers. It’s filled with odd shapes, toyish trimmings, and small design surprises—such as maps imprinted into cupholders and the phrase. Consider us amused. Too bad its chunky roof pillars make for significant blind spots, by far the most egregious in this class of vehicles. The Renegade’s seats have clearly been doing their yoga stretching exercises, as they have no problem folding flat to create a level load floor. But even then, the space is average at best. Limited storage pockets and the lack of a full-length door cubby upfront make storage opportunities scarce compared with other vehicles in the segment.