After completing our Overland cheap car challenge, two of the three of us were quite sensible and disposed of their cars. I won’t go into spoilers, but both the 4Runner and the Jeep are where they should be.

That said, both participants are now in mourning, to the extent that they now don’t see the possibility of not having an off-road vehicle in their lives. Taylor, of the 4Runner, is looking at buying, wait for it, another 4Runner. George, of the Jeep, wanted, you guessed it, another Jeep.

George had a bit of a problem on his hands, however. He has two cars: a 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit and a 1991 Volkswagen Cabriolet, AKA the Bumblebee. The latter is a “forever car” and cannot be ejected from the fleet. The former is a dependable, presentable daily. He doesn’t want more than two cars, at the moment, and doesn’t want to replace the Rabbit with a 1996 Jeep trash-can as he does, occasionally, need to look professional and doesn’t think rolling up in that would make a great impression. The Bumblebee could work for that, sort of, but needs about $2k in work to get to that status. (New top, AC fix, new wheels, etc)

This, somehow, led George to look at new Jeeps. He wanted something small, practical, and with good ground clearance. The Wrangler was out for a variety of reasons, mostly being rather expensive and not terribly practical. The Cherokee and Grand Cherokee were both too big and too crossovery. And apparently there is another Jeep too. Patriot maybe? Doesn’t matter.

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Ultimately, the Renegade caught his eye. Yes, it is a crossover, technically. Yes, it is mostly a Fiat. Yes, it is built in Italy. No, it doesn’t actually have a transfer case or proper low range. THAT SAID, it is smallish with good cargo room, gets decent gas mileage, is reasonably Jeep-looking, is available with a removable roof, and in the Trailhawk spec actually has 0.5” more ground clearance than his old ZJ.

We went out and test drove a couple… and now he owns one.

The Good

It is good looking, in my opinion, economical, surprisingly inexpensive, well equipped, and allegedly pretty good offroad.

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The Bad

I wouldn’t expect much out of the reliability, the towing capacity is low, it doesn’t have a “real” low range, the top spec engine is still pretty slow, and I’m unsure of how the Jeep “community” feels about them. Not that either of us really care.

Living with it

He has had it less than a week and so far he really likes it. Having driven it a couple of times I can say that I am impressed by the low end “pep” and drivability. The 9-speed automatic tries its best to make the most out of a smallish engine and mostly wins that battle. That said, I did catch the transmission off-guard a couple of times and had to wait impatiently as it tried to decide what to do.

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Cargo space was good, though things got a bit tight after a fairly small Costco run and some stuff needed to go in the back seat, which is fine. People space is also good. The front seats have plenty of room and the back seat is good enough for most uses, though I will say I wouldn’t want to be stuck in them for more than a few hours.

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Overall

I like the Renegade. In a sea of generic garbage it stands out as a beacon of hope. Sure, it is cheap and not made very well. Sure, the styling may be writing checks I’m not sure the off-road ability can cash. Sure, it is a FCA product made by Italians and as such will be about as reliable as a ripe avocado. All of these are minor nit-picks. Most cars have cheap fixtures and how many Jeeps actually ever go off-road? And yes, this ripe delightful car will soon turn into a mushy lump… but that is what warranties are for!

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So yeah. Good for him. I think this car will be a good fit for the next couple of years and I am happy to have it in the driveway.