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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Review: 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus and Jeep Renegade Limited

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      Missing the mark in the subcompact crossover class

    Subcompact crossovers are the hot thing at the moment and automakers are trying to make their models stand out. Whether it is using sleek styling, sporty driving dynamics, or value for money, every automaker is trying their best to get their vehicle noticed. For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, they’re going for a two-prong attack in the class with models from Fiat and Jeep. The Jeep Renegade is aimed at those who want a subcompact that can tackle a trail, and the Fiat 500X provides some chicness for the class. We spent some time in both models to see if they can make some end roads in this growing class.

     


    2016 Jeep Renegade Limited 4X4 7


    While the 500X and Renegade may share a fair amount of mechanicals, the design of the two is worlds apart. The Renegade is classic Jeep with a square body, seven-slot grille, and a set of large headlights. The Renegade also features a fair number of Easter eggs throughout the exterior. The head and taillights feature little Jeep grille-and-headlights logos, and a small Willys MB on the bottom of the windshield. This is basically the vehicle equivalent of a hidden object puzzle you might have done back in school.

     

    Remember the first commercial for the Fiat 500X where a blue pill falls into the fuel filler of a standard 500. The owner turns around and somehow his vehicle has engorged into something bigger. That’s how you can summarize the design of the 500X. Compared to your standard 500, the 500X is 28.6 inches longer and 15.6 inches wider. A lot of the design traits from the 500 such as the round headlights, long chrome bar holding the emblem, and rectangular taillights are present on this crossover.

     

    Moving inside, the Renegade takes some inspiration from the Wrangler with a rugged dash design and a grab bar for the passenger. Higher trims such as our Limited tester feature a decent amount of soft-touch materials. Like the exterior, the Renegade’s interior has Easter eggs strewn about. The tachometer with has a splash of mud to illustrate the redline, a seven-slot grille design for the speaker grilles, and the frame around the radio having ‘Since 1941’ stamped. The only complaint we have with the Renegade’s dash is the placement of the climate controls. They are mounted a bit too low to reach easily.

     


    2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus 9


     

    The 500X’s interior is Fiat’s best effort to date. The overall look has some traits of the standard 500 such as a retro design for the dash. But where the 500X stands out is in the material choices. Fiat went all out with adding soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels to help make the model feel very premium. Our Trekking Plus tester came upholstered in brown leather that added a touch of class that’s nonexistent in other competitors.

     

    Both models offer plenty of head and legroom for passengers sitting up front. In the back, headroom is decent for most passengers even with the optional sunroof fitted. Legroom ranges from decent for most folks to almost nonexistent depending on how tall the person sitting up front is. The seats themselves are lacking sufficient support for long trips. If cargo capacity is a priority, then consider the Renegade as it offers 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up. The 500X is towards the bottom of the class with only 12.2 cubic feet mostly due to the design of the vehicle.

     

    For your infotainment needs, Fiat and Jeep offer a lineup of Uconnect systems from three to 6.5 inches. Our test vehicles featured the optional 6.5-inch system. Uconnect is still one of the easiest systems to use thanks to a simple interface and very fast performance. We hope FCA considers adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in the future.

     


    2016 Jeep Renegade Limited 4X4 8


    In terms of engines, both the 500X and Renegade come standard with a turbocharged 1.4L with 160 horsepower. The downside to this engine is that it is only available with a six-speed manual. If you want an automatic, then you’ll need to get the engine found under the hood of our test models; a 2.4L four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. We’re not fans of the 2.4L in the any of the FCA vehicles we have driven and this trend continues with the 500X and Renegade. Leaving a stop, there is plenty of oomph to get up to speed in urban environments. Out on the rural roads and highways, the 2.4L struggles to get up to speed at a decent clip. Not helping matters is the engine sounding unrefined. The engine noise during hard acceleration could actually drown out the radio.

     

    The one bright spot for the powertrain is the nine-speed automatic. This transmission has been a sore point in a number of FCA vehicles for sluggish shifting and not feeling refined. With the 500X and Renegade, it seems FCA has been able to fix many of the wrongs of the nine-speed. Gear changes are much faster and smoother than in previous models.

     

    Both models can be equipped with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Both models came equipped with all-wheel drive. This system primarily works in front-wheel drive to help improve fuel economy. But if the system detects slip, it will hook up the rear axle and start sending power for better traction. The Renegade has the more advanced all-wheel drive system known as Jeep Active Drive. This system gives the driver the choice of various drive modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud) that adjusts the all-wheel drive, steering, and transmission to provide the best settings for the conditions at hand. There’s also a 4WD lock that splits power 50:50 to provide added traction. Thanks to a freak snow storm in April, I was able to put the system to the test. Driving on some snowy roads, the system was able to keep the Renegade moving without the tires spinning.

     

    The Renegade Trailhawk takes the system a step further with Active Drive Low. As the name suggests, this system features low range via a two-speed transfer case. This allows the Trailhawk to tackle more difficult obstacles such as rocks.

     

    Fuel economy is terrible for the class. The Fiat 500X is rated at 21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined. The Renegade matches the 500X in city and combined fuel figures but is only rated at 29 for the highway. Our average for the week was a very disappointing 22.1 MPG in both vehicles. This is a figure you would expect in a larger crossover, not a subcompact.

     


    2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus 6


     

    The ride in both vehicles is on the firm and harsh side. You’ll be able to tell how bad the roads around you are as bumps and road imperfections are transmitted to the seats. Interestingly, both the 500X and Renegade are quite fun around corners. The vehicles feel agile and the steering has some decent weight. But as the Mazda CX-3 has shown, you can have excellent handling characteristics and a decent ride in a crossover. On the highway, the Renegade is the noisier of the two with a large amount of wind noise coming inside.

     

    As for pricing, the 500X and Renegade get off to a good start. The Renegade starts at $17,995 and the 500X comes in at $20,000. Where it falls apart comes in the higher trims. Our two testers had price tags of just under $32,000 - $31,695 for the Renegade Limited and $31,800 for the 500X Trekking Plus. For that same amount of money, you can get into a well-equipped or even a loaded compact crossover. Neither one of these models is worth their high price tags.

     

    The subcompact crossover class has become a hotly contested class in only a couple of years and you have to show up with your a-game if you want to make an impact. In the case the 500X and Renegade, FCA dropped the ball. The larger four-cylinder engine should be shown the door for its issues in terms of refinement and fuel economy. The ride characteristics need a rethink and the value for money argument is tough when dealing with the higher trim models. This is very disappointing as the two models have some characteristics that should put them a bit higher in the class. The Fiat 500X’s interior looks and feels like something you would find in a luxury model. The Jeep Renegade can go into places that other subcompact crossovers not even dare try thanks to a clever all-wheel drive system and Jeep’s off-road know-how.

     

    But these positive points cannot overcome the numerous issues both of the vehicles have. It would be best to avoid them.

     

    Cheers: Off-Road Ability (Renegade), Interior Styling and Features (500X), Nine-Speed Automatic Is Much Better
    Jeers: 2.4L Is Terrible, Rough Ride, Pricing for Higher Trims

     



    Disclaimer: FCA Provided the 500X and Renegade; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

    Year: 2016
    Make: Fiat
    Model: 500X
    Trim: Trekking Plus AWD
    Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400
    Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/30/24
    Curb Weight: 3,278 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy
    Base Price: $29,000
    As Tested Price: $31,800 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    Trekking Plus Collection 1 - $1,900

     

    Year: 2016
    Make: Jeep
    Model: Renegade
    Trim: Limited 4X4
    Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400
    Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24
    Curb Weight: 3,348 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy
    Base Price: $26,995
    As Tested Price: $31,695 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    6.5-inch Navigation Group with Uconnect - $1,245
    Advanced Technology Group - $995
    Beats Premium Audio System - $695
    Safety and Security Group - $645
    Passive Entry Keyless Enter n' Go Package - $125

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    Great write up, you came to the same conclusion I did in regards to both of these auto's. I could not recommend either one to anyone, friend or enemy.

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    Seen the Fiat....blah.

     

    Like the baby Jeep, but want anything like an auto trans, you hit 25-26k real quick....the stuff you have to add is nuts.....

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    I really liked driving the Renegade Trailhawk to test it out... but it has a 12.7 gallon fuel tank.  The reasons I traded my Patriot were... small fuel tank, coupled with so-so fuel mileage for its size, and the CVT.  A Renegade at 22 MPG would give a theoretical 280 mile driving range.

     

    I believe the Trax would give better mileage than 22, plus it has a 14 gallon tank.  A Trax AWD would theoretically be a better commuter vehicle than a Renegade, plus I have no fear of GM daily reliability.

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    Very neat vehicle, let down by the details,  Kind of fell in love with the Renegade actually, but talked to too many people who had issues with them, many of them serious, to consider one.

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    I know I'm late by almost a year, but just chiming in. I've lurked on this site for awhile after not having my Saturn Vue for almost 5 years. I went Grand Caravan for practicality of my situation. Recently though, I traded my Grand Caravan for a new 2017 Renegade. The tank is a bit small, true, but even with the 2.4 and 9 Speed auto (4x4 version), still getting about 520 kms fuel range per tank in a mix of city/hwy at about 60% / 40%. My average is 9.2l/100kms, which is about 30.5 mpg if I'm driving modestly. All highway, I haven't been able to get more than 33 mpg, but I feel that's pretty damn good for this thing, seeing as I'm beating the EPA. Not sure if the 2017 model year was tuned better than previous years, but I don't know many online who are getting in that MPG range. I don't seem to have the erratic transmission shifting issues that others have had previously. Hopefully the kinks are worked out with the programming.

    Pretty good experience overall. Saving me money on fuel over the minivan, and still getting decent range. I love this CUV, it's an attention grabber for sure, and the 4x4 (although not the trailhawk version) still allows me to go where many in this category cannot. Fun little thing. Just thought I would bring my opinion to the table.

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    This has the potential to sell well in the same way that 1970s Buick Regals had the potential to sell well- sure, it will probably be towards the top of Fiat's best-sellers list, but at that price and with the limited market of something with a Fiat badge, it'll never touch the numbers that it's Jeep brethren will have.

    As much as Fiat will try to deny it, there are still people in the U.S. that remember the X1/9 and 131- those people might buy a Jeep, but I doubt if many of them would touch a Fiat with a 29.5 foot pole.

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    • It has something to do with the shift buttons.
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