As we’d expect from any “real” Jeep, the all-new Renegade was designed and engineered in the good old U.S. of A. But ssshhh, it’s actually built on a global Fiat platform, by Fiat, in Italy. I literally burst out laughing when a gentleman in a brand-new Jeep Cherokee pulled up beside me, rolled his window down and advised me that my Renegade is not a “real Jeep”. I thought that was pretty rich, coming from someone who was also driving a Fiat-based Jeep.

While the reactions to the Renegade’s styling were love-it or hate-it, most were on the love-it side – plenty of people asked what it is, and then declared that they liked the looks. I did too and appreciated the effort put into setting the Renegade apart from the competition while making it obvious that it’s a Jeep product. Its squarish, boxy shape implies utility and capability – it suits the Renegade’s implied mission.

Yes, the classic seven-slot Jeep grille is intact – it’s nearly vertical, just like the windshield, and the whole vehicle has a rough-and-tumble sort of look. But they’ve somehow imbued the Renegade styling with a bit of fun and character – including the strange square tail lights with “X”s in them – the X motif comes from army jerry cans. In fact, many of the Renegade’s features appear to be exaggerated and overemphasized – the huge round headlights and the huge wheel wells are examples – to catch your eye. And it works. The black decal on the hood gave my bright Sierra blue Renegade a bit of a rugged Tonka-truck appearance and its 17-inch rims look like they mean business. You get a full-size spare too.

Once you’re in, you’ll find that the cockpit has an open spacious feel to it thanks to the ample head room. The interior materials are just OK – the dash is made from a giant piece of soft-touch plastic but otherwise you will find plenty of cheaper-feeling hard plastics around the cabin. It is mostly black and the few splashes of coloured trim that are likely supposed to come off as playful do little to liven the somber mood.

It wouldn’t be a Jeep if it didn’t have blocky, brawny styling and grab handles aplenty – that’s all here. Fit and finish is middling, with interesting anomalies like the foam insulation pad blatantly sticking out where the bottom of the steering column meets the underside of the dash.

I really like the large driver information screen between the gauges – it is easy to read and navigate and provides access to a ton of information. The comfortable seats are heated, as is the steering wheel. The smallish 6.5-inch touchscreen handles all the media, phone and navigation goodies. I quite like the Uconnect interface and found it easy to handle. The sound system is quite good. There’s a dual-zone climate control system below.

The Big Little Comparo: Subcompact Crossovers & SUVs

Overhead, the Renegade continues to give Jeep heritage (that loves removable body panels) a nod. Two solid roof panels make up most of the roof – the front one is a sunroof that tilts and slides back, but both are actually removable for an open air driving experience. You get a big nylon bag that fits across the floor of the trunk to hold the panels after you’ve popped them out.

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