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Renegade a Euro first for Jeep 

THE Second World War witnessed the arrival of the first Jeep with more than half a million of these drab olive green vehicles built for action.

The first civilian Jeep followed in 1945 and it really is an understatement to say it has gone from strength to strength since.

And the latest chapter in its history is the arrival of a Jeep Renegade – the first vehicle from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to be jointly developed by Italian and American designers and engineers.

It is also the first Jeep to be built outside the USA and then sold there.

Production started at the renewed SATA plant in Melfi, Italy, in July 2014 and the Renegade arrived in the UK in February.

It’s a model that’s not short of character with its distinctive looks and gives Jeep its first player in the fast-selling compact SUV segment.

The new arrival is targeted at taking sales from the likes of Skoda Yeti and MINI Country-man with a selection of 4×4 and two-wheel drive models.

I reckon it’s pretty stylish and rugged looking even with a rather box-shaped back and retains classic Jeep features such as seven-slot grille, round headlamps and trapezoidal wheel arches.

And I also discovered while sampling a couple of the new models that the Renegade is also very spacious.

There’s lots of headroom and legroom in front and rear, and a 351-litres boot is decent enough – expanding to 1,297 with rear seats folded.

There is a choice of four trims – Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk – although early buyers will have the chance to snap up an Opening Edition model as well.

Equipment levels are high and on entry model this includes a five-inch touchs-creen with DAB radio and Bluetooth, air conditioning, electric park brake and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Longitude has the option of four-wheel drive and adds cruise control, LED lighting, leather-wrapped steering wheel, satnav and 17-inch alloys.

Move up to the Limited and additions include 6.5-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, heated fronts seats and steering wheel, leather upholstery, rear-parking sensors, privacy glass and 18-inch alloys.

Trailhawk models share the Limited’s equipment levels and offer the most off-road ability with ride height raised by 30mm, chunky mud and snow tyres, front suspension and transmission skid plates and four wheel drive with low-range select terrain system.

This is also the only model to come with the 170bhp version of the 2-litre Multijet II turbo diesel engine and with a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Other power units on offer are 1.6-litre 120bhp and 2-litre 140bhp diesel, and 1.6-litre 110bhp and 1.4-litre with 140bhp and 170bhp petrol.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to test the off-road abilities of the Renegade but sampled a couple in conditions and roads that the majority of owners will mainly be driving them.

I liked the high driver’s position in the bright cabin and all-round vision was good.

I got plenty of opportunities to sample the six-speed manual gearbox at low speeds in the models I drove as the launch drives started in the heart of Edinburgh.

Gear switches were smooth as I negotiated my way out of the city in the lower powered 1.4-litre petrol-engine front-wheel drive Limited model.

Performance-wise, I was impressed with this 140bhp unit that offers a zero to 62mph time of 10.9 seconds and top speed of 112mph.

Mid-range power was there when required and it sat quietly at motorway speeds.

Ride comfort was good and the Renegade gripped the road well when tackling some winding roads at speed.

I also liked the 2-litre 140bhp diesel Longitude 4×4 version, again with a six-speed manual box.

It was slightly smarter out of the blocks, moving to 62mph in 9.5 seconds and is capable of reaching 113mph.

I didn’t really feel much difference in on-road performance in the dry conditions but the four-wheel ability was there if needed.

A rear axle disconnect system switches between two and four-wheel drive when 4×4 isn’t needed – with four-wheel drive kicking in within 100th of a second.

This model is also capable of achieving fuel economy of 55.4mpg combined with the petrol version I sampled having a figure of 47.1mpg.

There is wide range of two and four-wheel models to choose from – priced from £18,640 to £27,760 – and the Renegade has the looks and ability to grab a chunk of sales from its competitors.

It comes with a wide range of options one of which is My Sky – two lightweight roof panels that can be removed and stowed in the boots.