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

Last Updated October 23rd, 2017

What changes make it different?

The expected styling refresh is delayed while Jeep instead updates the cabin, upgrades infotainment systems, and introduces a conventional dual-pane power sunroof. These are the first notable changes to this popular subcompact crossover since its model-year 2015 introduction. The ’18 alterations include first-time availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces, introduction of the dashboard’s biggest-ever display screen, and inclusion of a rearview camera as standard on all trim levels. New seat fabrics and additional storage areas further spiff-up the cabin.

Renegade is the best seller in one of the industry’s fastest growing model segments. Its lead over the second-place Honda HR-V is shrinking fast, however, and rivals such as the Subaru Crosstrek and Chevrolet Trax are outpacing it in year-over-year gains. The class also includes the Mini Countryman, Mazda CX-3, Toyota CH-R, and the Nissan Juke and Rogue Sport; it’ll soon expand to include the Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona, and Kia Stonic.

Subcompact crossovers are essentially higher-riding four-door hatchback versions of their makers’ smallest cars, offering all-wheel drive (AWD) 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, by far the most off-road-capable vehicle in a class that treats AWD chiefly as a snowy-pavement traction enhancer. It also stands out because it’s the only Jeep assembled in Italy. It’s build alongside the Fiat 500X, a curvier-looking subcompact crossover with which it shares its understructure and powertrains. That shared engineering is a byproduct of the post-2009 bankruptcy reorganization that placed the Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram truck brands under Fiat control, creating Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Why should I buy a 2018?

Because you’re drawn to its unique styling and discover it’s got great utility and is surprisingly rewarding to drive. Add to that the Jeep image, symbolized by the trademark vertical-bar grille and, here, by “X”-accented taillamps that evoke military jerry cans, an homage to the brand’s World War II roots. Perhaps you fancy the mix of AWD and a manual transmission; Renegade’s one of the few crossovers available with that combination. All versions feel solid, are maneuverable in the city, and composed on the highway. The Trailhawk model is more capable off-pavement than any rival. Headroom is generous but cramped rear legroom is par for the subcompact-crossover class. Cargo volume is among best in the competitive set.

With freshened styling on tap for 2019, you’ll likely see some attractive late-season incentives as dealers work to clear model-year-’18 inventories. Yes, that means buying an ’18 gets you a Renegade that’ll soon look a little dated. But it’ll be fundamentally the same crossover as the ’19, which will carry over the upgrades introduced this year. And any changes to styling or even features for ‘19 shouldn’t be drastic enough to impact future resale value.

The 2018 lineup repeats four core models, drops one special edition added for ‘17, the adventured-themed Deserthawk, and returns another, the black-accented Altitude. The 2018 engine roster reprised a pair of Fiat-sourced turbocharged four-cylinders. The base Sport and better-equipped Latitude models again come with a 1.4-liter and are available only with manual transmission. Optional on those models and standard on the upscale Limited and off-road-ready Trailhawk is a more powerful 2.4-liter available only with automatic transmission. Every version comes standard with items like pushbutton ignition, power windows and locks, touchscreen dashboard display, rearview camera, and voice command for hands-free phone and Bluetooth streaming connectivity.

Should I wait for the 2019 Renegade instead?

With its sales lead shrinking and newer rivals gaining ground, maybe Jeep should have updated Renegade’s styling for model-year ’19. Wait for the ’19 if you agree — and don’t mind suffering the inevitable model-year price escalation for what’ll essentially be the same basic vehicle as a 2018 Renegade. On the upside, you’d be getting the look that’ll carry this crossover through to its next full redesign, which probably will come for model-year 2022.

Key dimensions won’t change for ’19. Neither will the body’s overall shape. Expect minor alterations to nose and tail, likely reshaped lights and fascia. The grille might also be altered, although it’s certain to retain the vertical-bar motif. The 2018 interior updates are apt to carry over, though we’d like to see improved acoustic management to quell Renegade’s sometimes-intrusive levels of wind and road noise and engine coarseness.

Topping our list of hoped-for feature changes would be an upgrade to the available autonomous emergency braking system, 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, the Sport. Also possible are yet more special editions along the lines of the Deserthawk and Altitude

Is the styling different?

Only inside. The center console gets a needed boost in small-items storage space thanks to a relocated USB port and room freed up by a change in the layout of the Selec-Terrain dial used with the AWD system. The fabric upholstery standard on all but the Limited (which comes with leather) is revised, and some instrument and control bezels have more refined-looking bezels. The look of the dashboard’s central touchscreen evolves thanks to newly available 8.4- and 7-inch displays; they replace a 6.5-inch screen as Renegade’s largest.

Outside, Renegade again goes its own way, with a chunky upright character and big, round headlamps versus the varying degrees of swoopy bodywork and squinty headlights favored by its competition. It does in fact have the highest roofline in the class, and no rival dares imitate its gas-can-inspired taillamps.

Visual differentiators among the Renegade trim levels continues along established lines. Sport and Latitude models again come with 16-inch wheels; alloys standard on the Latitude and optional in place of steal rims on the Sport. Seventeen-inch alloys remain optional on Latitude and, with a unique look, standard on Trailhawk. Eighteens are standard on Limited and optional on Latitude.

Other distinctions 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 is further identified by such features as a black matte hood decal and red tow hooks. The Altitude essentially a Latitude with 18-inch alloys with a gloss black finish complimenting that also applied to its grille and exterior and interior trim.

Any mechanical changes?

None. Sport and Latitude continue with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as their standard engine. It again has 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Jeep mates this engine exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, making Renegades so equipped, along with Fiat’s 500X and the Subaru Crosstrek, 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 again has 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque and uses 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.

If Fiat engineering brings a sense of European road manners to the Renegade, it’s Jeep’s expertise that’s evident in this crossover’s off-road prowess. Sport, Latitude, and Limited models continue with front-wheel drive as standard and Jeep’s Active Drive AWD system as optional. The system normally powers the front wheels, with the system disconnecting the rear axle to save fuel. It automatically shuffles power rearward if the front tires slip.

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

Does fuel economy improve?

Recalculations account for some 1-mpg loses in a couple ratings categories, but the 2018 Renegade’s EPA numbers remain near the bottom of the competitive set — though thankfully not by much. It’s the price you’ll pay for the cube-y cuteness and robust build.

Sport and Latitude models with the 1.4-liter engine and its manual transmission rate 24/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined with both front- and all-wheel drive. (Their 2017 rating was 24/31/27 mpg.) Jeep continues to recommend premium-grade 91-octane gas for the turbo 1.4-liter.

Renegades with the 2.4-liter and its automatic transmission rate 22/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 21/29//24 with AWD. The 2017 ratings were 1 mpg less for front-drive models in highway driving, but the same for AWD versions.

Does it have new features?

An upgrade to Chrysler’s Unconnect 4 infotainment system brings a 7-inch-diameter dashboard display featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as optional on the 2018 Renegade Sport and standard on the other models. It replaces a less-sophisticated system that used a 5-inch screen. The 5-inch setup, however, is newly standard on the Sport, after being optional for ’17. That change means the Sport joins the other models with a standard rearview camera, which had been part of the 5-inch-screen option.

Introduction of the CarPlay and Android interfaces makes it possible to display your smartphone map apps on the dashboard screen. But for real-time GPS capability in the absence of a cell signal you’ll again need the imbedded navigation system. That, too, is upgraded for 2018, becoming part of the newly available Uconnect 8.4 system. This replaces a 6.4-inch screen with an 8.4-inch display and, like the system with the 7-inch screen, incorporates satellite radio. Unconnect 8.4 is optional for Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited models.

Those three trim levels are also available with Renegade’s new dual-pane power sunroof, a traditional arrangement in which the forward panel tilts to vent and can be opened fully while the aft panel is stationary. It’s optional on all but the Sport model. Returning as an option on all models is Jeep’s My Sky dual-panel sunroof design, in which the forward pane power vents and slides and, along with the aft pane, is fully removable, exposing both seating rows to the outside world above. No longer available is the basic My Sky system that used two manually removable panels with no power vent or slide capabilities.

On a more serious note, we had hoped Jeep would expand the availability – and capability — of some safety items. Alas, Renegade’s autonomous emergency braking system remains capable of slowing, but not stopping, 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 that driver aid available on models other than the Latitude and Limited would have better served 2018 Renegade buyers. The same goes for the LaneSense system that can warn and then automatically steer you back if you unintentionally wander from your traffic lane. It remains optional only on Latitude and Limited.

It’d also be nice if Sport buyers who want air conditioning no longer were compelled to pay extra for it. To get air conditioning on a 2017 Sport, buyers had to come up with $1,495 for the Power & Air Group option, which at least also included 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 the aforementioned pushbutton ignition, power windows and locks, touchscreen dashboard display, and voice command for hands-free phone and Bluetooth streaming connectivity.

Are 2018 prices different?

They’ll almost certainly increase, but modestly. Jeep had not released 2018 Renegade pricing in time for this review, but expect the 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, 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.

With front-wheel drive, the 1.4-liter, and manual transmission, estimated base prices are 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 to be priced from around $28,200.

When does it come out?

Expect a 2018 Jeep Renegade release date during late fall 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]