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03 July 2017

2017 Jeep Renegade Sport 4×4 Review

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It’s been about two months since I took the reins of the 2017 Jeep Renegade Sport 4×4. Because the compact SUV’s interior (specifically the interior’s poor fit for a young family) is how I ended up with the keys in the first place, that’s where much of my focus has been in the early stages of the loan. The early verdict: a combination of ooh, oh, meh, and ugh.

Beginning with the first time you sit in the Renegade’s driver’s seat, you’ll notice little stylistic flourishes throughout the cabin that remind you of Jeep’s heritage. There’s a little World War II–era jeep on the bottom of the windshield, a topographical map in a storage bin, a message reminding you to go explore on the push-button ignition, and a big “SINCE 1941” emblazoned above the infotainment screen. (Yes, I’m aware of the it’s-not-a-real-Jeep crowd; I’ll get more into that in the coming months.) These little touches add nothing to the Renegade’s functionality, but it’s fun to hop in your car and notice something new every now and then. There are still no doubt several I have yet to uncover.

I’ve also found the Renegade’s interior adequately spacious. By its very nature, the little Jeep won’t blow you away with its rear-seat legroom or cargo-carrying capacity. But I’ve been leery of putting anyone in the back seat ever since visual assets manager Brian Vance’s struggles with a child seat. As it turns out, normally proportioned adults can fit back there just fine. Would it work as Porter family transportation on a long road trip? Absolutely not. But for everyday driving with everyday people, the second row is plenty functional.

Perhaps my biggest compliment to the interior so far, though, is that I rarely think about it. It’s a simple space that serves its purpose. What it lacks in groundbreaking features, it makes up for by (mostly) doing what it needs to do without frustrating digital volume knobs, complicated menus, or contrived “features” to replace things that have worked just fine for decades. A lot of people might not go ooh when they realize they haven’t complained in a while, but for me, that stands out.

That’s not to say its interior is perfect, though. I spent my first few hundred miles in the Jeep angry at what seemed to be inexplicably poor rearward visibility. I was used to a big, boxy SUV with huge windows and great sightlines, and the Renegade just doesn’t offer that. The quick glance over the shoulder I was used to became a prolonged look, followed by a second look, then an apprehensive glimpse at the rearview mirror and multiple checks in the side mirror. Should I have been doing all those things before? Probably. But it took some getting used to. I don’t count this as a true demerit. More like, “Oh, yeah, mirrors are a thing, too.” I didn’t need to use them as much before. I do now.

Other interior complaints, some mine and some resulting from copy editor Mary Kaleta’s road trip to San Diego: The turn signal is kind of loud, manually adjusting your seat in 2017 is kind of annoying, and the mirrors in the sun visors are so small and so far away that it’s virtually impossible to touch up your makeup before you hit the road.

Finally, I have one major gripe. Our loaner lacks navigation, which is fine. I use my phone’s nav over whatever most cars have anyway. But connecting my phone to the infotainment system is beyond frustrating. The Renegade offers two methods of doing so. While using just the USB cord, though, I’ve found it impossible to both listen to Spotify or a podcast and use my map app’s voice directions. For some reason, when the music cuts out and the instructions for the next turn are supposed to come, I get silence. When the directions are “done,” the music starts up again, but I have no idea where I’m supposed to go next. This problem disappears when streaming audio through Bluetooth. That would be fine if Bluetooth worked seamlessly, but it’s slow to connect, and it’s not always obvious which way my phone is connected until the problem pops up. In an interior that is for the most part praiseworthy in its ability to blend into the background with utilitarian simplicity, this audio issue stands out. Ugh.

More on our long-term Jeep Renegade here:

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