Updated styling, upgraded cabin for 2019 Jeep Renegade. More turbo power, too?

2019 Jeep Renegade

2019 Jeep Renegade

What changes will make the 2019 Jeep Renegade different?

Tweaked styling, an updated interior, and potentially a new engine choice. These changes will mark the midway point in the lifecycle of Jeep’s first subcompact crossover SUV. Built in Italy, Renegade is Jeep’s entry-level vehicle and shares elements of its underskin design with the similarly sized Fiat 500X and the slightly larger Jeep Compass.

Unapologetically boxy, filled with clever design elements, and one of the best-driving vehicles in its class – on road and off — Renegade’s been a sales success since it’s model-year 2015 introduction. Demand slipped slightly in 2017, but only the Kia Soul and Subaru Crosstrek outsold it in its competitive set.

Why should I wait for the 2019?

To guarantee you’ll get the most up-to-date version of this popular little five-seater. Expect exterior styling changes to be subtle but the interior to get a more substantial freshening. Underhood, chances are the 2019 Renegade may be offered with a version of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine newly available in the 2019 Jeep Cherokee compact crossover. Even with less than the 270 horsepower it brings to the Cherokee, the turbo 2.0-liter would potentially make the ’19 Renegade America’s most powerful subcompact crossover. Another possibility: Renegade’s current top engine, a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder, will gain a fuel-economy-enhancing “mild hybrid” system for ‘19.

Regardless of how it’s updated, the 2019 Renegade is likely to carry over the 2018 model lineup. That would be a roster again anchored by the base Sport trim and ascending through better-equipped Latitude, off-road-tuned Trailhawk, and upscale Limited models. Front-wheel drive would again be standard, with all-wheel drive (AWD) available across the board and included on the Trailhawk, which would also have the necessary off-raod hardware to earn Jeep’s “Trail Rated” designation.

If you do wait for the 2019 Renegade, be aware that prices are almost certain to increase, and given the midcycle updates, dealers will probably be stingy with incentives through most of the model year.

Should I buy a 2018 model instead?

It’s worth a look. Jeep made a handful of enhancements to the 2018 Renegade. A 7-inch touchscreen display with Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect 4 infotainment system is newly standard on the Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited and optional on the Sport. Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk offer an optional 8.4-inch screen that includes imbedded GPS navigation. A rearview camera is newly standard on all models, as are revised interior storage areas that provide more space for small items.

And once the freshened 2019 Renegade arrives, the ’18 will be a tough sell. So dealers will likely offer juicy discounts on ’18s, particularly late in the model year. If you want Jeep cachet on a budget, a 2018 Renegade may be the ticket.

Will the styling be different?

Only slightly. Spy photography of camouflaged test examples suggests subtle tweaks to the front and rear fasciae. You’d probably need to park a 2018 Renegade next to a 2019 to tell the difference. Traditional Jeep styling cues will return. Round headlights and the brand’s trademark seven-bar grille will remain focal points, and the squared-off, upright body won’t change shape or dimensions.

As on the 2018, exterior differences between the 2019 Renegade Sport, Latitude, and Limited models will mostly consist of wheel size and design. Expect the Sport to return with 16-inch steel wheels; 16-inch aluminum wheels would be optional and standard on the Latitude. The Limited grade would again have 17-inch alloys. The Trailhawk would remain the most distinctive of the lot, with chunky off-road tires, flared fenders, red tow hooks, extra ground clearance, and unique badging. Don’t be surprised if Jeep brings out some special appearance packages, such as the recent Deserthawk and Altitude editions.

Interior updates to the ’19 Renegade will be more dramatic. A highlight is likely a new dashboard and central control stack borrowed from the updated 2019 Cherokee. Expect every 2019 Renegade to come standard with the latest Uconnect 4 interface with a 7-inch touchscreen and support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. Also available will be an upgraded 8.4-inch unit with built-in navigation as optional on all but the Sport. Reworked climate dials should improve ease-of-use, but controls for the available heated seats and steering wheel will likely remain part of Uconnect, rather than as discreet buttons as they are on Renegade’s rivals.

Any mechanical changes?

Possibly. Expect Renegade’s current four-cylinder engines to return. Standard on the Sport and Latitude would be a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that should again have 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It would pair exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission. Optional on those grades and standard on the Limited and Trailhawk would be 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Its sole transmission would be a 9-speed automatic.

Some reports say Jeep might adapt the 2019 Cherokee’s new turbocharged four-cylinder for use in the Renegade. In the Cherokee, it produces 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. We figure 225 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque would be more realistic for the Renegade. It would team with a 9-speed automatic transmission and be an option for the Limited and Trailhawk.

While the turbo four would be exciting, perhaps more likely is that Jeep will add its mild-hybrid system, called eTorque, to the 2.4-liter engine. It would consist of a heavy-duty starter motor and possibly a small battery pack and electric motor. It would provide engine idle stop/start capability to improve fuel economy and could boost output to around 190-195 horsepower and 195-200 pound-feet of torque. Again, the 9-speed automatic would be the sole transmission.

Assuming neither of these rumored drivetrains come to pass, our pick for the best Renegade driving experience would be the 1.4-liter engine and 6-speed manual gearbox. This combination provides sprightly acceleration. Changing gears yourself is fun and surprisingly easy. Thanks, Jeep, for making this powertrain combination available with all-wheel drive; most manual-transmission subcompact crossovers are front-drive only. Despite its higher output, the 2.4-liter engine feels no quicker thann the turbo 1.4, a condition we blame on the sloppy-shifting 9-speed transmission.

Trailhawk grades would come with Jeep’s advanced Active Drive Low 4×4 system. It includes five driver-selectable modes, including Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud, and Rock, along with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, underbody skid plates, hill-descent control, and the ability to ford water up to 19 inches deep. In this class, only the Subaru Crosstrek approaches the Trailhawk for off-road prowess.

Will fuel economy improve?

Very unlikely for the 1.4-liter engine, which would repeat its 2018 EPA ratings of 24/31/27 mpg city/highway/combined with both front- and all-wheel drive.

If Jeep doesn’t add eTorque, Renegades with the 2.4-liter four would likely again rate 22/31/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and 21/29/24 with AWD. The addition of eTorque could improve those numbers by 1-3 mpg.

If Jeep adds the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, it would likely be Renegade’s least efficient choice, rating around 20/26/23 mpg with AWD.

Premium-grade 91-octane gasoline would be recommended for the 1.4- and 2.0-liter turbo engines while the 2.4 would again be tuned for regular-grade 87-octane.

Will it have new features?

It’s possible. Most important, Jeep would do well to make advanced safety features available on every ’19 Renegade model. For 2018, driver assists such as rear-obstacle detection, lane-departure alert, and forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking were offered only on the Latitude and Limited.

Jeep could make Uconnect 4 and its 7-inch touchscreen standard on all 2019 Renegades, in place of the 5-inch screen that’s standard on the Sport. We also urge it to make air conditioning, power exterior mirrors, and cruise control standard on the Sport – these amenities that most buyers take for granted are optional on the 2018 model.

The ’19 Sport would otherwise come with power windows and locks, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and pushbutton engine start. Latitude grades would add automatic headlights, fog lights, aluminum wheels, ambient LED lighting, upgraded seat fabric, dual-zone automatic climate control, and access to more options including blind-spot alert, imbedded navigation, heated front seats and steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, windshield wiper de-icer, power driver’s seat, and a trailer tow group that would allow the Renegade to tow up to 2,000 pounds.

The 2019 Trailhawk would again add unique exterior styling cues, 17-inch wheels, full-size spare tire, and hill-descent control. Options availability would be similar to the Latitude, but also include leather upholstery.

Leather would be included on the Limited, along with 18-inch wheels, and most of the Latitude’s optional features.

How will 2019 prices be different?

They’ll increase. Assuming Jeep makes air conditioning, power mirrors, and cruise control standard on the Sport, figure that model with front-wheel drive and manual transmission to start around $20,500. (Estimated base priced in this report include Jeep’s destination fee, which was $1,195 on the 2018 Renegade.)

With front-wheel drive, estimated base price is $23,500 for the Latitude and $27,000 for the Limited. AWD would continue to be a $1,500-$2,000 option on these models. The 2.4-liter engine should again add $1,330 to the Sport and $1,530 to the Latitude. The 2019 Renegade Trailhawk would continue to be AWD only and start at around $28,500.

When will it come out?

Expect a release date for the 2019 Jeep Renegade in fall 2018.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Trax, Ford Ecosport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Kicks, Nissan Rogue Sport, Toyota C-HR

What change would make it better?

Renegade is one of the, if not the, only vehicles on the road that can be ordered without air conditioning. We’d like Jeep to rectify that, along with making driver assists available, if not standard, on all trim levels.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com 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 HowStuffWorks.com, 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]