Jeep's little Renegade gets plug-in hybrid tech. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
The Jeep Renegade 4xe aims to broaden the SUV brand's customer base to include those who might be wanting a compact crossover with Plug-in Hybrid technology. What's unique here is Jeep's accomplishment in delivering a PHEV solution that still enables impressive off-terrain ability to be retained.
When a brand like Jeep feels the need to make a PHEV, you realise just how essential plug-in tech is in the family market these days. You might expect the car in question, this '4xe' version of the company's smallest SUV, the Renegade, to be a token eco variant in the range. But no, it comes in all trim levels and is priced quite aggressively. There's even a '4xe' version of the marque's 'Trailhawk' off road-orientated Renegade model, with virtually all that rufty tufty variant's impressive gnarly off terrain ability.
PHEV models are now quite common amongst larger models in the mid-sized sector - cars like the Ford Kuga PHEV and the Peugeot 30008 Hybrid, models Jeep is challenging with a larger Compass 4xe variant using the same drivetrain as features in this plug-in Renegade. The time being though, PHEV tech is rare among small SUVs like this one - currently only the Renault Captur E-TECH offers it.
To create the PHEV drivetrain, Jeep has taken this model's usual 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (which for 'Longitude' and 'Limited' models has 128bhp) and mated it to an 11.4kWh battery pack and a 59bhp electric motor. Total system output is 187bhp for these two mainstream variants, hence the rapid 7.1s rest to 62mph time. The electric motor drives the rear axle, delivering four-wheel drive. And the battery has a WLTP-rated driving range when fully charged of 26 miles. There's also a 'trail rated' 'Trailhawk' version at the top of the range that uses the same electrified layout but mates it to the 1.3-litre petrol engine in an up-rated 178bhp state of tune, taking total system output up to 237bhp. Either way, the power is marshalled by a 6-speed auto gearbox (replacing the usual model's auto 9-speeder).
As usual with a PHEV, there are 'Hybrid', 'Full Electric' and 'Sport' driving modes, plus a battery saving setting which can put battery charge on hold so it can be used in urban traffic at the end of the trip. Plus there's an energy recovery system with two levels of regeneration. Jeep says the PHEV installation doesn't affect the off-road prowess of the top 'Trailhawk' version, but instead enhances it. First because the plug-in drivetrain offers 50% more torque than the alternative diesel. And second because the rear motor allows for independent torque split over the rear axle, allowing torque to be very precisely split between the rear wheels in tricky situations. For these, there are sand, snow, rock and mud drive modes.
Design and Build
Apart from a few extra badges and the addition of a plug-in filler cap, there are no visual differences with this 4xe variant over an ordinary Renegade. The inclusion of standard four-wheel drive means that some the stuff you can't see is a bit different though. Extra underbody protection panels are fitted underneath, all made from recycled materials. Also, there is extensive waterproofing for the battery, the engine, the electric motor and the EV controller, all of which gives the top 'Trailhawk' variant a maximum wading depth of 500mm.
Jeep says it went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that this plug-in variant was created without compromising interior room. The brand says that no space has been lost in the rear cabin and the boot floor hasn't needed to be raised. However, 15-litres of space have been lost in the boot (dropping capacity to 336-litres) because some of the electronic control systems are mounted on the cargo area wall. The battery has been mounted in the floorplan's central tunnel and takes up room beneath the rear seat which in turn restricts the capacity of the fuel down to 39-litres. The seats-down luggage capacity is 1,282-litres.
Market and Model
You're really going to need to want the PHEV tech here as it commands a premium of nearly £7,500 over a 1.3-litre version of this Renegade without the electrified tech. Though of course, such a conventional model wouldn't have 4WD or automatic transmission. You can factor the benefit of those two features into the price premium if it makes you feel a little better in opting for a '4xe' variant.
There are three Renegade 4xe trim levels, starting with 'Longitude' priced at launch from £32,600. Mid-range 'Limited' trim from launch was priced £34,500, with the top 'Trailhawk' version starting at £36,500. Equipment-wise, even base 'Longitude;' trim gets you quite a lot. There's an 8.4-inch 'Uconnect' DAB radio infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus there's full-LED headlights, all-round parking sensors, Dual zone climate control with preconditioning, Hill Descent Control, Forward Collision Warning, Drowsy driver detection and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Mid-range 'Limited'-spec adds leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels and Adaptive Cruise Control, along with 'Forward Collision Warning plus mitigation' autonomous braking. 'Trailhawk'-spec includes customised seats and fashionable red bezels.
Cost of Ownership
Let's start with the WLTP figures: when fully charged, this Renegade 4xe offers an electrified driving range of up to 26 miles. Jeep claims that up to 134mpg is possible on the combined cycle when driving in 'Hybrid' mode; and the brand claims a CO2 reading of under 50g/km. What about charging? Well, with a Mode 3 cable, you can easily recharge your Renegade 4xe Plug-in Hybrid at any public point of recharge, such as a supermarket car park or an airport. With a typical 7.4kW garage wallbox, you'll be able to recharge in just 1hr and 40 minutes. Thanks to My Uconnect Mobile App and My easy Charge card, you can easily recharge this hybrid vehicle using public recharging stations.
Various 'Uconnect' services help you manage the charging regime of your Renegade 4xe remotely from your smartphone. 'eCharge' allows you to find public recharging stations on a provided map, use them and pay directly from your smartphone. Plus you can manage your garage wallbox's functions. A 'My Car' section allows you to check in on your vehicle's battery level from wherever you are. 'My Navigation' allows you to find the nearest public charging station and calculate the route with remaining battery charge. And a 'My Remote' section allows you to manage and schedule recharging, plus via this section, you can precondition your Jeep's climate system so that the car is perfectly warm or cool when you get into it. That way, you won't need to waste battery energy turning up the fan from start off.
It's taken Jeep a long time to get round to delivering any form of electrified power. When it comes to its smallest model, the Renegade though, that doesn't matter because very few obvious compact SUV rivals are offering that either. This feels a slightly higher quality product than the only real alternative PHEV crossover of this size, the Renault Captur E-TECH. And it's impressive that Jeep has been able to build in this technology in a way that enables the preservation of the top 'Trailhawk' model's fabled off-road ability.
Ultimately, it really comes down to whether or not you're convinced enough by the PHEV concept to want to pay getting on for £35,000 for this smallest kind of SUV. If you are, then you'll find plenty to like here.