Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader, checks out Jeep's first ever plug-in hybrid...
The baby, more lifestyle-focused Jeep of the range, the Renegade, has received the plug-in-hybrid treatment. It couldn’t be further away from the world’s first 4×4, the bare-knuckled 1941 Willys-Overland Jeep. Now you can off-road in electric mode, which feels weird, or simply enjoy better fuel economy and emissions on the road. Just remember to charge it overnight….
Prices start at £32,600 for the Longitude version, rising to £36,500 for the Trailhawk one. Most people will opt for a monthly finance deal, either PCP or a straight-forward lease deal. If you have a company car allowance, plug-in hybrids make a lot of sense right now. For example, someone buying their Renegade 4XE for personal use, would pay £374 a month if paying 45 per cent tax. That comes down to £138 a month for business users, because of the government incentives to choose an alternatively fuelled vehicle. if you’re disciplined about charging your car at home every night, you should be able to do most daily trips in electric-only mode, meaning the cost of “fuelling” your car drops considerably.
The Renegade merges the boxy, upright style of the bigger Wrangler with soft edges, reflecting its creature-comfort appeal. It comes in a variety of vivid colours, although we liked the gunmetal grey of our top-spec Trailhawk version. If you pay the extra for this version, there’s also the option of a matt green and vivid orange.
Design cues which tell you this is the hybrid version include blue badges and separate port for the plug on the passenger side.
Inside, the first two trim levels get glossy black surrounds on the air vents and speakers, while these are red on the top Trailhawk model. The rest swings towards the utilitarian side of things, with a small 8in screen, hard plastics and big dials.
You get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto ad DAB radio as standard, as well as forward collision warning and land-departure warning systems. There’s speed assist, traffic-sign recognition and front and rear parking sensors, too.
Options include blind-spot detection, a rear camera, park assist and keyless entry.
We found a disconcerting boom inside the cabin with the windows shut, a sort of low pressure which made us feel a bit nauseuous. But maybe we were just off colour that day. In terms of interior space, think hatchback rather than estate, for leg room. The SUV’s upright stance, however, means there’s a lot of headroom for four adults. The boot is average but the electric battery pack doesn’t interfere with space because it’s hidden under the rear seats. The boot has an adjustable floor and you can fit a spare wheel underneath.
The battery gives up to 26 miles of electric-only driving, and works up to 81mph. Other cars such as the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5 PHEV provide up to 30 miles’ range, but they’re bigger and more expensive cars. There are two power outputs to choose from: 190 horsepower for the Longitude and Limited versions, or 240 horsepower for the Trailhawk. Unless you only ever potter round town at 30mph, you’ll want the 240 horsepower Trailhawk – the others just feel too weak.
You get four-wheel drive and a system of off-roading options. We took the Renegade up and down muddy, rutted, wet Welsh hillsides and it coped far better than we imagined, conquering most of the sort of trails you test a Land Rover on. Hardly surprising, given Jeep’s heritage, but the Renegade is styled more for urban living.
We’re fond of the Jeep brand, with its phenomenal history, but if we were buying one, we’d go for the gorgeous, desirable Wrangler rather than the Renegade, which lacks the Wrangler’s innate charm. So bring on a hybrid Wrangler.