For a long time, there has only been one compact SUV that advertised any real off-road performance. The Jeep Renegade comes from a brand with a long history of building capable off-roaders, and the Trail Rated badge on the side gave many drivers the hope of having an affordable off-road machine. Unfortunately, the Renegade almost entirely failed to live up to that promise. Fortunately, there is now a better option available at your local Ford Bronco Sport dealer. Let’s dig into how the Renegade failed to bring off-road performance to the masses and how Ford has succeeded at that same task.
If you are still wondering why the Jeep Renegade is that bad, it starts with the fact that the Jeep Renegade is really just a Fiat. Yes, a lot of Jeep haters like to call all Jeeps Fiats ever since the merger of Chrysler and Fiat to create FCA in 2014, but in the case of the Renegade, it is actually the truth. The Renegade shares a platform with the Fiat 500X and was originally intended only for the European market. But Jeep saw a market niche that hadn’t been filled and decided to introduce the Renegade to American drivers as an affordable off-road SUV. In contrast, the new Ford Bronco Sport is all-American and was designed for off-road performance from the ground up.
For most off-road enthusiasts, performance is key, as you’ll want to find a vehicle that supplies sufficient amounts of torque output, along with a dedicated 4×4 system. Comparing the two vehicles side-by-side, you will find that the Jeep Renegade is rather inadequate on both counts. The standard engine is a 2.4L 4-cylinder, while the upgraded option is a 1.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder. The Bronco Sport also has two engine options, but they are both turbocharged, and even the base 1.5L makes similar power to the upgraded Renegade option.
Bringing hard numbers into the equation, the Renegade’s base engine produces 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. Although this is ample for everyday performance, it’s outpaced by the Bronco Sport’s base engine’s ability to produce 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. This increase in performance is substantial for such a smaller engine, but it’s all thanks in part to it being a turbocharged engine and not a traditional one. Generally, fuel efficiency is rather similar between the two vehicles, but the base engine in the Bronco Sport will net you better fuel mileage.
EPA-estimated rates of the Renegade are dependent on if you’ve opted for either 2WD or 4×4, but since the Bronco Sport is only available in a 4×4 configuration, we’ll be looking at the Renegade’s performance with 4×4. With this in mind, the 2021 Renegade’s base engine receives an EPA-estimated rating of 24 MPG combined, compared to the small turbocharged engine in the Bronco Sport, which gets a rating of 26 MPG combined. After establishing that the base engine inside of the Bronco Sport is a much better option than the one found inside of the Renegade, both vehicles offer an additional engine, so we took a closer look.
Starting with the Bronco Sport, the second available engine is turbocharged like the base offering, except this one is a larger 2.0L 4-cylinder that drastically improves the performance of the vehicle. For the Renegade, the second available engine is also turbocharged. However, it is a much smaller 1.3L 4-cylinder; that is even smaller than the base engine for the Bronco Sport. While offering a turbocharged engine is an excellent idea for an off-road SUV, Jeep shot itself in the foot by using such a low-displacement design. Ultimately, this means the Renegade has underwhelming performance – especially when compared against the duo of capable turbocharged engines offered in the Bronco Sport.
The aforementioned turbocharged 1.3L 4-cylinder in the Renegade only produces 177 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. While torque output is higher than the base engine found within the Bronco Sport, it falls short in horsepower. Compared to the turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder in the Bronco Sport, it’s simply a night and day difference, and performance is on a whole other level, not just against its base engine but against the entire line of the Renegade. Ford’s turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder produces 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. To put this into a clearer perspective, it is a monumental 41% increase in horsepower, along with a 32% uptick to torque output, a must for a premium off-roading experience.
Selec-Terrain vs. G.O.A.T.
It’s worth noting, however, that both vehicles offer various modes that you may apply depending on the terrain you’re driving over. For the Renegade, Jeep has branded this Selec-Terrain, Ford has implemented G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Terrain) in the Bronco Sport. Both of these features essentially serve the same purpose. Compared against one another, G.O.A.T. may also mean the Greatest of All-Time. This is because, at the standard level, Selec-Terrain only offers three available terrain modes, these being mud, sand, and snow for the winter seasons. Opting for the more expensive Trailhawk trim will also net you a Rock Mode, which you’ll want for heavy off-roading.
We honestly feel three terrain modes just isn’t enough, especially if Jeep wants its customers to take the Renegade as a serious contender in the market for off-roading. This isn’t a worry with the Bronco Sport, as its standard configuration will still net you with up to seven available modes to select from. The standard modes available in all trims include Normal, Sport, Sand, Slippery, and Eco, while the higher trims add Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl. The Bronco Sport has everything and more when compared to the Renegade. Combined with the standard 4×4 and HOSS suspension of the Bronco Sport (and the upgraded twin-clutch 4×4 system in the Badlands edition), it is clear that Ford has gone all-out in building an affordable compact SUV that is genuinely designed for off-road adventure.
And the Winner Is
While the Jeep Renegade may be advertised as having excellent off-roading performance, there is little substance to those claims. The Renegade was built on a platform designed to handle narrow European streets, not the American wilderness, and that fundamentally limits it. Jeep’s questionable decision to not include a more capable engine (say, the 2.0L turbo from the Jeep Cherokee with its 295 lb-ft of torque) has further handicapped the Renegade. While it is clear Jeep was targeting an affordable price point, Ford has demonstrated that you can have the capability without sacrificing off-road performance.
Without a doubt, Jeep has its dedicated fans, with many swearing by the brand’s quality and off-roading performance. And if you are looking at a Jeep Wrangler or Grand Cherokee, then those fans are right. But when it comes to lower-end vehicles like the Jeep Renegade, we have to question how much Jeep is really there. Jeep has been resting on its laurels and has gotten by so far simply because no one has challenged it. But with the new Bronco Sport, it is becoming amply clear just how bad the Jeep Renegade actually is.