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Friday 9 December 2016

Motoring First Drive: Retro Renegade

Jeep's new baby SUV mixes cute looks with rugged 4X4 ability, writes Philip Hedderman

Renegade 2
Renegade 2

If ever there was a car the epitomised the phrase 'runt of the litter' then the Renegade is it.

Yes, it may be small but it is by no means any less capable than its Wrangler big brother or indeed the 'daddy' Grand Cherokee.

Thankfully in this all too often squidgy, touchy-feely keep-in-touch-with-your- feminine-side world, the Jeep brand still runs on pure testosterone.

They don't do rom-coms or DMCs (Deep Meaningful Conversations) or get all excited at 9pm on a Sunday just before the latest edition of the Kardashians.

No, sir.

READ MORE: Third Generation Vitara will be a huge hit with yummy mummies and singletons too

This is still Man Country where men do manly man stuff - and make no apologies for it.

It's the same at this unveiling as the little imp sits proudly beside the WWII Willys Jeep on the lawn of Glendalough House.

The only visible trade-off at the launch of the Renegade are the vibrant, dare I say it, 'girly' colours like Solar Yellow, Sierra Blue and Alpine White.

UNBREAKABLE

Conceding that they were indeed the best colours, I even warmed to the idea that I'd proudly do the school run in one.

Mission accomplished.

Getting blokey blokes to want or need a car that'll be predominately targeted at women is no mean feat.

Firstly, the designers had to stay true to the brand and make it a proper all-singing, all-dancing 4X4.

It also had to look invincible which it does by retaining the classic seven-slot grille, round headlamps and trapezoidal wheel arches.

Chunky rubber cladding encases the whole body from bumper to bumper where even the X-shaped rear lights were inspired by traditional jerry cans.

Inside, the build quality of the cabin is far superior than any of its rivals with every lever, button and switch feeling almost unbreakable.

There's plenty of gadgets in there too with the choice of either a 5 or 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system dominating the cockpit emblazoned with the words SINCE 1941 in military style lettering.

On offer in four trims - Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk - standard kit includes the aforementioned Uconnect touchscreen with Bluetooth and USB connect, air con, electric parking brake and 16-inch aluminium wheels.

Go for the mid-ranged model and you'll get sat-nav, cruise control, ambient LED lighting, a leather steering wheel and 17-inch alloys as standard, while also offering four-wheel as an option. Engine-wise, the 2-WD 1.6 litre diesel will be the Irish choice with 120bhp while a 170bhp 2.0 litre diesel is twinned to the 4WD.

We drove both - the smaller on tarmac around the winding roads of Wicklow which proved a real treat. Visibility is second to none and the massive bulge in the bonnet gave us the reassurance of a much bigger bus.

Inside there was oceans of room for the growing brood and the headroom in the back was surprisingly good.

The steering was a tad light and the turning cycle ridiculously short.

That said, the Renegade was mega comfortable with at top-class cabin and a decent drive.

Take her off road, as we did in the 2.0 litre, and you're back in Man Country and this little mountain goat really came into its own.

Punching well above its weight, it skipped from boggy fields across rivers and up and down rocky forest paths with absolute ease.

Prices for the Jeep Renegade start at €23,500.

The Fabia Monte Carlo will go on sale just in time for the 152 plate. No final prices or specs but a little bird tells us that the sporty slittle supermini will be less than €19,000.

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