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It looks like a Jeep, only smaller, cuter
Renegade enters subcompact SUV market

Cute might not have been what Jeep was going for with the new Renegade, but there it is anyway.
As the smallest member of the Jeep family, the Renegade has an irreverent, almost toylike appearance inside and out. It's a little quirky, but it works.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles began shipping the Renegade, which is built in Italy, to dealers last week, with most Toledo-area dealers receiving their first shipments over the past couple of days. Jeep said dealers should have a full supply of the vehicles within the next month. The Renegade is the first Jeep built outside North America to be sold in the United States.

Almost a foot-and-a-half shorter than the Toledo-built Jeep Cherokee, the Renegade slots into the growing subcompact sport utility segment. Dealers are hopeful that the vehicle will bring new buyers into the showroom.

Though the Renegade may hurt sales of the Jeep Compass and Patriot, both of which are old models due for replacement, analysts don't expect it to steal any sales from any of the larger Jeeps, such as the Cherokee. In fact, it may help the Cherokee down the road when Renegade drivers are looking to trade up.

Though the seating position would suggest otherwise, the Renegade rides more like a car than a truck. Built in Italy, the Renegade shares its platform with the Fiat 500X. However, there's still plenty of Jeep DNA, especially in Trailhawk trim.

Like with the Cherokee, the Trailhawk version provides goodies meant for off-roading. It also adds cosmetic touches, such as the topographic map pattern of the seat fabric.

The seats are firm, but comfortable. The Renegade doesn't seem to have quite the same level of refinement that the larger and more expensive Cherokee does. There's not a ton of back seat room, but you can legitimately carry adult passengers.

On the road, it feels nimble and light. We drove the more powerful 2.4-liter equipped version, which is paired with the same nine-speed automatic transmission that goes in the Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee. The Renegade also comes with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four cylinder that can be paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.

And though the Renegade certainly doesn't ride like a Wrangler, you're not likely to forget you're driving a Jeep. From subtle to screaming, there are little Jeep design details everywhere.

The famous Willys-style slotted-grille-and-headlight motif is stamped into the speakers, the rearview mirror housing, and a number of other places, including both headlights and both taillights. There are plenty more, but looking for them is half the fun.

Pricing starts around $18,000 for a base front-wheel drive model and around $30,000 for a well-optioned Trailhawk.

Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk proves off-road capabilities
Vehicle named Four Wheeler of the Year by trade magazine


The Jeep Cherokee recently picked up a notable award that should help remove any doubt that in the right trim, the sport utility vehicle has plenty of off-road capability.

 Earlier this month, the editors of Four Wheeler magazine chose the 2015 Cherokee Trailhawk as its Four Wheeler of the Year.
Winning that title is nothing new for Jeep - the brand has picked up 13 such honors - but company officials say it's special in that it is the first major award from an off-road enthusiast publication recognizing the Cherokee's capabilities.

In prepared remarks, Jeep brand chief executive officer Mike Manley said the award "reinforces the fact that the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is unquestionably the most capable midsize SUV on the planet."

Jeep builds the Cherokee only in Toledo.

Four Wheeler only considers new or significantly updated models for the annual award. The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro came in second. Testers cover more than 1,000 miles of terrain ranging from pavement to sand at elevations from sea level to more than 9,000 feet.

"The team of seasoned judges appreciated Cherokee Trailhawk's cutting-edge technology, fresh styling, and luxurious interior amenities packed in a vehicle designed for the 21st century that still maintains true off-road capability," Four Wheeler Editor Christian Hazel said in a statement.

When Jeep confirmed in 2013 that it was reviving the Cherokee name for its new vehicle, a number of critics complained that the company was watering down a proud name that stood for real off-road capabilities by slapping it on a car-based crossover.

But company officials say those voices have quieted as they've been able to show the Cherokee taking on rough terrain.

"We just took the vehicle, let the vehicle prove itself, and started documenting it," said Jim Morrison, Jeep's director of product marketing. "We've seen the acceptance grow since we launched the vehicle."

The base Cherokee comes with front-wheel drive, though four-wheel drive is available across the lineup. But it's the Trailhawk that gets all the real goodies, such as an increased ride height, skid plates, and better approach and departure angles.

Mr. Morrison said Jeep is committed to ensuring that there's a true, off-road-capable version of every Jeep model.

"It's important to us because capability is the cornerstone of our brand. It's important that we stay true to our brand because that's what our customers expect from us, and honestly that's what helps separate us from our competition as well," he said.

Jeep says 15 to 20 percent of Cherokees sold in any given month are equipped with the Trailhawk package. The company sold a total of 178,508 Cherokees in the United States last year.

The other Cherokee models are the Sport, Latitude, and Limited.

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