Solidity and utilitarianism take priority over elegant design and posh materials inside, although the classic Jeep ‘easter eggs’ dotted about the place raise a smile and remind you that this is not an identikit faux SUV.
Moving off in electric power, there’s the usual eerie augmented whirr to warn pedestrians of your presence. However, our test car sometimes drowned this out with a rather loud transformer-like buzz, which is apparently part of the cooling process.
It’s sprightly enough in EV mode, meaning it’s easy to avoid the engine firing up below the EV top speed of 81mph, at which point the engine is forced into play. And boy does it make itself known when that happens. The four-cylinder unit isn’t the quietest in this application and sounds and feels ever more strained the further you venture up the rev range. It’s fine once up to speed, but that’s mostly because wind noise from the Renegade’s brick-like aerodynamics takes centre stage. Frankly, in refinement terms, it’s off the pace out of town.
Outright performance is entirely adequate for ambling about on this base variant, but it doesn’t really feel as brisk as the figures suggest when full thrust is demanded. It’s not exactly underpowered, yet somebody reading the spec sheet and expecting it to feel leagues ahead of lesser Renegades might be underwhelmed.
Part of that could be down to the six-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, which, while smooth enough, doesn’t offer the change speed and ratio choice of more modern dual-clutch systems. More’s the pity that the 237bhp version (that’s total system output) – which, from a brief drive, is noticeably perkier – is available on only the bells and whistles Trailhawk in the UK.
Efficiency-wise, a mixed 58-mile route around hilly northern Italy depleted the battery in a respectable 27 miles – actually beating the official figure. Even once apparently empty, the Renegade generally keeps enough juice in reserve to pull itself up to about 15mph without the engine thanks to braking and coasting regenerative top-up. Off-throttle regen braking can be enhanced with a button down by the gearlever, but it’s not too fierce even then.
The indicated 58mpg returned over our test route is probably (at an informed guess) 25mpg or so better than an equivalent pure petrol version would manage on the same route. Whether that’s worth the extra initial outlay – it’s around £5500 pricier than an equivalent pure petrol 1.3 – depends entirely on personal circumstances. We’ve no doubt the lower benefit-in-kind rate will appeal to fleet users, though.
One unexpected benefit of the battery’s added weight is a ride comfort boost. Although it’s aided by modest 18in wheels, this Renegade felt noticeably more settled over pockmarked terrain than other versions we’ve tried. The trade-off is pronounced body lean, which combined with the elastic, wholly remote steering means piling into bends at speed is best avoided. Grip is strong enough, but the 4xe feels every bit of its circa-1600kg mass and wouldn’t see which way a Countryman went on a twisting B-road.