First Drive: The Jeep Renegade e-Hybrid adds further electrification to the brand’s lineup

The Renegade’s boxy shape makes it practical, despite its small footprint. (Jeep)

If you were asked to think of a large gas-guzzling SUV, it would likely be a model from Jeep that came to mind first. It’s true, this American brand sells only crossovers and 4x4s, and for years has equipped its cars with large six- and eight-cylinder engines.

But as the climate crisis worsens and legislation forces manufacturers to take action, Jeep is changing. It launched a plug-in hybrid version of its Renegade in 2020, while last year saw the same powertrain installed in its Compass. But now Jeep is going one step further and introducing mild hybrid versions to expand its electrification range, with these being launched on the Renegade and Compass. But are they worth considering?

This e-Hybrid model is set to – eventually – replace the existing petrol Renegade, but sits alongside it for the time being. Instead of electrifying an existing engine, the setup here is completely new to Jeep, including both the unit itself and the transmission.

Although we will explain full details later, a new special edition is also launched for this e-Hybrid. Called ‘Upland’, it aims to focus on sustainability with a range of recycled materials to promote Jeep’s ‘eco’ credentials.

A new powertrain has been developed for the Renegade e-Hybrid. (Jeep)

This new e-Hybrid lineup uses a turbocharged four-cylinder 1.5-liter gasoline engine, combined with an electric motor housed in the new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. There is also an electric motor with a belt starter and generator, which has the task of making the switch between electricity and petrol seamless.

Together, the two power sources produce 128bhp and 240Nm of torque, enabling a 0-60mph time of 9.5 seconds and a top speed of 118mph. Jeep won’t yet quote a fuel consumption figure, but you can expect around 45mpg, with CO2 emissions of 135g/km. All e-Hybrid models are also front-wheel drive – you need the 4xe PHEV if you want four-wheel drive.

Jeep claims the e-Hybrid is 15 percent more efficient than a regular gasoline model. (Jeep)

First of all, this e-Hybrid powertrain isn’t as nice as you’d hope. Although Jeep claims the transition between electric and petrol is “silent”, it really isn’t, with the powertrain feeling clumsy and indecisive at times. The engine itself is held back by the gearbox’s hesitancy too, leading to a whole load of engine noise when you put your foot down.

Although this new e-hybrid promises to be 15 percent cleaner than standard gasoline, it will only run on electric power for a small portion of the time, such as in slow traffic or when braking. Even a gentle tap on the throttle makes the engine literally roar to life.

That said, the light controls on the Renegade make it easy to drive and park around town, while the large windows mean visibility is pretty good.

Chunky looks are an important part of the Renegade’s charm. (Jeep)

Although the Renegade has been around since 2015, albeit with a significant update in 2018, it’s still a smart and fun design. In an age where people are trying to make their cars look like ‘coupes’, there’s something refreshing about its boxy and chunky styling, which makes it look a lot more rugged than many of its rivals.

It’s packed with cool touches, too, like Jeep’s iconic seven-slot grill and big round headlights. This Upland launch edition really stands out too, as it comes in the bright Matter Azur colour, while also getting bronze accents and a contrasting black roof and wheels.

The Renegade’s interior is starting to look a little dated. (Jeep)

Not much has changed about the Renegade’s interior, and that’s the part that’s just starting to show its age. While it still looks and feels sturdy, it’s not as plush inside as many competitors are, while the 8.4-inch touchscreen and analog dials feel a bit old-fashioned now. It hasn’t really benefited from any major changes as part of this move to hybrid either, bar an e-button near the shifter and some slightly different energy diagrams on the trip computer screen.

On the plus side, it’s a pretty practical choice, with its boxy shape meaning rear seat passengers don’t have to worry about bending over. The boot, while not as large in size as some competitors, is still a boxy and useful shape. Clever packaging of the mild hybrid system means it’s no less roomy than the regular Renegade too.

The seats on the special edition Renegade Upland are made from recycled plastic taken from the oceans. (Jeep)

Strangely for a special edition, the Upland is the entry-level option, although you still get a wide range of equipment, including 17-inch alloys, the aforementioned touchscreen, heated front seats and adaptive cruise control. This model also gets a number of ‘eco-friendly’ elements, such as stylish ‘Seaqual’ seats which are made from plastic extracted from the oceans. We’re not a fan of the “there’s only one Earth” message, though—it’s a bit rich for a Jeep that spends 90 percent of its time on gas

Upgrade to the S, and you do without the fancy recycled seats, as well as the eco-friendly branding, although you do get some nice leather trim instead, along with extra safety kit.

It’s worth noting that the e-Hybrid isn’t cheap, with prices starting at £31,130 for the Upland and £1,000 more for the S.

Jeep should be applauded for increasingly pushing to electrify its range, and by the end of the year it aims to have rooted out virtually all of its non-electrified cars in Europe.

However, this e-hybrid doesn’t show the Renegade at its best, as the powertrain lacks refinement and finesse, and it’s not terribly efficient either, based on our first drive. If you want an electrified Jeep, it might be worth stretching your budget to finance the much better plug-in hybrid, or looking at more conventional and noticeably cheaper rivals such as the Ford Puma and Volkswagen Taigo, although neither have the same character like this Jeep.

  • Tested model: Jeep Renegade e-Hybrid Upland
  • Price as tested: £31,130
  • Engine: 1.5-liter mild hybrid gasoline
  • Power: 128 hp (engine)
  • Torque: 240Nm
  • Top speed: 118 mph
  • 0-60 mph: 9.5 seconds
  • MPG: N/A
  • Emissions: 130-139g/km

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