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Certainly the Wrangler still hews to most of the original elements that made a name for the ex military go anywhere machine. However, most of the world is now paved, or at least outfitted with forest service roads. Not everybody needs a big lift kit and huge knobbly tires, especial not when you have to commute on them.

Enter the Renegade, a cheerful little crossover that’s certainly got the face of a Jeep, but has the underpinnings of an urban runabout. The purists aren’t very pleased about it, but Jeep still stocks Wranglers to please those who want mud on their boots; this machine is meant to keep sales figures in the black and provide a little Jeep flavour that still works if you need to get around in the city.

If you like pugs, you will like the looks of this car. A B segment crossover of the type intended to take on the like of the Nissan Juke, the Renegade makes the most of its small footprint, giving it a squished face and boxy, bunchy appearance.

It’s adorable, especially in a bright colour. The two tone effect imparted by the plastic lower body cladding sets off the front tow hooks, and the iconic round headlights and front grille look eager to please. This is a very happy looking car, making it something of a standout when every other machine on the road looks like it wants to murder you.

Probably the most polarizing element is the X shaped cross in the rear taillights, something I’ve heard many people remark on. They’re a bit odd, but then so is the whole machine: not bad odd, but certainly quirky.

My mid grade tester rode on upgraded (from 17 inch) optional 18 inch alloys, while the base Sport model comes with 16s and the top spec Limited rides on standard 18s. The pick of the litter is probably the runty little Trailhawk, which manages to look tough but cute at the same time.

Inside, the Renegade seems to be a little insecure about the Jeep badge on its nose, and makes up for it by being absolutely festooned with little Easter egg hints to its heritage. There are little Jeep grilles everywhere in here, a giant dash mounted grab handle for the passenger, a topographical map in the cupholder, and “Since 1941” proudly emblazoned on the dashboard.

Taken all together, it’s a little gimmicky, but there’s plenty to like. Because of its boxy outline, the Renegade is plenty roomy front and back, with a trunk space that’s entirely usable. A full 524 litres of cargo capacity is on offer, which isn’t far off larger crossovers like the Honda CRV. With the larger 2.4 litre engine, maximum towing capacity is a little more than 900 kilograms, good enough for a small trailer.

With regards to infotainment, my tester lacked navigation and had quite a small display screen, but was easy to hook up to a smartphone, and the Bluetooth worked well. The optional backup camera was hardly needed given the Renegade’s short length, but it’s there.

One of the most eyebrow raising mechanical bits hidden behind the Renegade’s tough looking sheetmetal has to be its nine speed automatic transmission. and 175 foot pounds of torque. My tester was outfitted with the latter.

For a B segment crossover, these power outputs should be plenty, especially with lots of gears to make sure you’re always in the right ratio. However, the Renegade is a hefty little beast, some hundred kilograms or so heavier than its rivals. Getting up to speed on an on ramp is no big deal, but there’s certainly a sense of weight here. It feels bigger than it actually is.

On the plus side, the extra mass is there because the Renegade has genuine offroad capability. In fact, the approach angles and low range ratio of the Trailhawk version mean this little crossover can go pretty much anywhere a Grand Cherokee can, if not a fully offroad prepped Wrangler. Will owners ever use these abilities? Probably not, but the people who buy North Face jackets don’t intend to overnight on Everest either. Sometimes it’s just nice to know the possibility is there.

And as for on road dynamics, the Renegade is far better behaved than any Wrangler. Fully loaded models do feel fully laden, so if you want a bit of sport from your ride, you might want to stick to a lightly optioned 1.4T model with the six speed manual. The all wheel drive North is probably the volume seller, and while it’s heavier than others in the class, it also drives with space and an airy feel.

While there are plenty of technological add ons for the Renegade, be wary of ticking off the options boxes too much, or this little crossover can get costly. Fitted with just a few items like heated seats and the upgraded stereo, my test vehicle went quickly from $27,495 to the low $30K range. It’s possible to option Limited and Trailhawk versions up to very costly levels.

Having said that, the Renegade offers options you simply can’t get elsewhere, like the removable roof panels. Fuel economy is decent, with official figures rating 8.0 (litres/100 kilometres) on the highway for manualequipped cars, and 11.2 in the city.

Fun and quirky looks; lots of personality; good use of space.

Heavy feeling for the segment; options can get costly The checkered flag A really fun little addition to the Jeep family.

Mini Countryman ($29,950): Another departure from company script, the Countryman burst onto the scene as a new, larger Mini. A bigger Mini? Is anyone else seeing the oxymoron here?

However, like the Renegade, the Countryman does make a lot of sense. It’s got all the quirks and the fun to drive spirit of the original Mini Cooper, just with a greater carry capacity. It can’t do off road what the Renegade does, but it’s livelier on the tarmac.
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