Jeep to restyle 2018 Renegade crossover. Will it add new models and bolster safety features, too?

2018 Jeep Renegade

2018 Jeep Renegade

What changes will make the 2018 Jeep Renegade different?

Freshened styling, maybe some feature upgrades, and quite likely yet another special trim edition. They’ll be the first notable changes to Jeep’s popular subcompact crossover SUV since its model-year 2015 introduction. Renegade is the best seller in one of the industry’s fastest growing model segments. It leads the Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, and Chevrolet Trax in a class that also includes the Mini Countryman, Nissan Juke, and Mazda CX-3 and will soon expand to include entries from Ford and Toyota. Subcompact crossovers are essentially higher-riding four-door hatchback versions of their makers’ smallest cars, offering all-wheel drive (AWD), sporty versatility, and a slightly elevating seating position to a target audience of urbanites and young singles.

Renegade stands out for its boxy look but also for its Trailhawk model, the by far the most off-road-capable vehicle in a segment that treats AWD chiefly as a snowy-pavement traction enhancer. It also stands out because it’s the only Jeep assembled in Italy, alongside the Fiat 500X, a curvier-looking subcompact crossover with which it shares its understructure and powertrains. That’s a byproduct of Fiat’s control of the Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram truck brands as part of the American company’s post-2009 bankruptcy reorganization.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To get the latest look and most current features. The modifications likely will carry Renegade to its next full redesign, probably around model-year 2020 or ’21. Key dimensions won’t change for ’18. Neither will the body’s overall shape. Expect minor alterations to nose and tail and probably updates to the interior. Very likely carried over will be a choice of two Fiat-designed four-cylinder engines, as well as Jeep’s own off-road AWD calibrations. We’d hope for improved acoustic management to quell Renegade’s sometimes-intrusive levels of wind and road noise and engine coarseness.

Feature changes would be highlighted by an upgrade to the available autonomous emergency braking, giving it the ability to stop the Renegade rather than merely slowing it. Jeep might also get generous and make such basic amenities as air conditioning standard on the least expensive Renegade model. More likely, it’ll add yet another special edition along the lines of the Deserthawk and Altitude versions introduced for model-year 2017. Not apt to change will be a core lineup consisting of the base Sport model, better-equipped Latitude, luxury-tinged Limited, and off-road-oriented Trailhawk.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Yes, if you like the basic Renegade package. The ’17 will be fundamentally the same crossover as the ’18, but it will almost certainly cost less. You’d avoid any model-year price escalation – and you could exploit close-out sales as Jeep clears inventory ahead of the fresher-looking 2018. Any changes to styling or even features shouldn’t be drastic enough to impact future resale value. And you’ll be getting a unique-looking subcompact crossover that rides with surprising comfort, is maneuverable in the city, composed on the highway, and in Trailhawk or Deserthawk guise, capable of venturing further off-pavement than any of its rivals.

Will the styling be different?

Yes. The nose and tail will be tweaked, likely with reshaped lights and fascia. The front grille might also be altered, although it’s certain to retain Jeep’s trademark vertical-bar motif. The 2018 Renegade’s cabin could be similarly updated, mostly with new graphics and perhaps with upgrades to materials that are solid, if not upscale. With no change in dimensions, headroom will again be generous. Rear legroom would remain cramped, though that’s par for the subcompact-crossover class. Cargo volume will again be among best in class. Jeep would do well, however, to carve out additional small-items storage opportunities within the 2018 model’s passenger compartment.

Expect visual differentiators to continue along established lines, with Sport and Latitude models coming with 16-inch wheels (alloys on the Latitude and optional in place of steal rims on the Sport); 17-inch alloys optional on Latitude and, with a unique look, standard on Trailhawk; and 18s as standard on Limited and optional on Latitude. Other distinctions could again include door handles that are black on the Sport and body-colored on the other models, fog lamps standard on all but the Sport, and mirrors with integrated turn signals for Trailhawk and Limited. The Trailhawk should be further identified by such features as a black matte hood decal and red tow hooks. As for new special editions, look to the Deserthawk and Altitude for clues. These two may in fact return, the Deserthawk as a takeoff on the Trailhawk but with black wheels and other appearance touches, the Altitude essentially a Latitude with a more extensive black-out appearance treatment.

Any mechanical changes?

None likely. Expect the Sport and Latitude to continue with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as their standard engine. It should again have 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Jeep has thus far mated this engine exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission. If that doesn’t change for 2018, Renegades so equipped will, along with Fiat’s 500X and the Subaru Crosstrek, be the only subcompact crossovers available with manual transmission and AWD.

Still, the great majority of Renegade buyers will continue to choose automatic transmission. That means they’ll also need to pay extra to equip a Sport or Latitude with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Standard on Limited and Trailhawk and included with the Desterhawk, this engine should again have 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque and use a nine-speed automatic transmission. Providing enough oomph to cope with daily driving, if not to stir your soul, it’s a better all-around choice than the peaky 1.4-liter turbo.

Sport, Latitude, and Limited models will continue with front-wheel drive as standard and Jeep’s Active Drive AWD system as optional. The system normally operates in front drive, with the rear axle disconnected to save fuel. It automatically shuffles power rearward if the front tires slip.

Continuing as standard on Trailhawk (and Desertthawk) will be Jeep’s Active Drive Low AWD system. It adds low-range gearing suited for hard-core off-roading. Both AWD systems will again include Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system with a console knob to dial in maximized performance on pavement, snow, sand, and mud, and with Active Drive Low, on rocky trails. Further setting the Trailhawk (and Deserthawk) apart: standard hill-descent control, functional underbody skid plates, the ability to wade through water up to 19 inches deep, and 8.7 inches of ground clearance, versus the other Renegades’ 6.7 inches with front-drive and 7.9 with AWD.

Will fuel economy improve?

The 2018 refresh could conceivably bring alterations to aerodynamics or refinements to engineering that might boost mileage. Renegade could use some help. Its 2017 EPA ratings were near the bottom of the competitive set, though not by much and were still laudable for such a versatile vehicle. Jeep’s challenge will be to better the 24/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined rating for Renegades with the 1.4-liter engine. This rating applied with both front- and all-wheel drive. Expect Jeep to continue to recommend premium-grade 91-octane gas for the turbo 1.4-liter. The numbers to beat for Renegades with the 2.4-liter would be model-year 2017 ratings of 22/30/25 mpg with front-drive and 21/29/24 with AWD.

Will it have new features?

Enhancements to existing features is the most likely scenario, although Jeep ought to consider expanding availability of some safety items. Renegade’s autonomous emergency braking would benefit from both approaches. It’s thus far been able to slow the Jeep to mitigate a frontal collision. Giving it the ability to stop the vehicle, too, would make Renegades so equipped eligible for the industry’s most coveted safety rating, the Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And making the driver aid available on models other than the Latitude and Limited would better serve 2018 Renegade buyers. The same goes for the optional system that can warn and then automatically steer you back if you unintentionally wander from your traffic lane. It’d also be nice if Sport buyers who want air conditioning no longer were compelled to pay $1,495 for the Power & Air Group option, even if the package does include power heated mirrors and cruise control.

Otherwise, the ’18 Renegade will continue with a nice range of standard and optional features, with every version coming standard with items like pushbutton ignition, power windows and locks, touchscreen dashboard display, and voice command for hands-free phone and Bluetooth streaming connectivity. We’d ask that Jeep simplify its approach to some options groups and eliminate a confusing process by which you must, for example, order a package that includes a power driver’s seat in order to get one with blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts. And availability of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay smartphone integration would be a multimedia upgrade.

Still, a walk through the standard and optional equipment list will again include such amenities as heated front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, and Jeep’s My Sky panoramic sunroof that almost completely exposes the cabin to the outside world above.

How will 2018 prices be different?

They’ll increase, but modestly. Expect the 2018 Renegade’s estimated base-price range of around $19,000 to just over $28,000 to again line up with that of most rivals. Estimated base prices in this review include Jeep’s destination fee, which was $995 for the 2017 Renegade.

Note that you should expect to again spend $2,000 to equip a Sport, Latitude/Altitude, or Limited with AWD. And figure adding $1,330 to a Sport and around $1,530 to a Latitude for the 2.4-liter-engine/automatic-transmission combo.

As for 2018 base prices, with front-wheel drive, the 1.4-liter, and manual transmission, figure around $19,000 for the ’18 Renegade Sport and $22,800 for the Latitude. With front-drive and the 2.4-liter standard, estimated starting price for the ’18 Limited is $26,600. With the more advanced AWD system and the 2.4-liter, look for the 2018 Renegade Trailhawk (and if it returns, the Deserthawk) to be priced from around $28,200.

Among higher-profile options, anticipate imbedded GPS navigation with a 6.5-inch dashboard screen to add around $1,345 to a Latitude and $1,295 to a Limited or Trailhawk. With no change to its capabilities, look for autonomous brake activation to cost $995 on a Latitude or Limited. MySky with a combination of fixed and removable panels should cost $1,095 on the Latitude and, with a combo of a power sliding panel and removable panels, cost $1,495 on a Limited or Trailhawk.

When will it come out?

Expect a 2018 Jeep Renegade release date during spring 2017.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Mini Cooper Countryman, Nissan Juke, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota C-HR

What changes would make it better?

Measures to quell wind rush and, especially on the Trailhawk with its aggressive tread, tire noise. More engine refinement would make rapid acceleration more pleasant. And a rethink of some mandatory options combinations would be a friendly gesture.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]