It is worth it. Both the Renegade Latitude and the Latitude "with Altitude" come from the employees of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the current manufacturer of all things Jeep, in Melfi, Italy.
Jeeps of all sorts, of course, are still manufactured in the United States. The Renegade line is the brainchild and product of FCA, Jeep's Italy-based owner, which also produces things Fiat.
So, FCA is an automotive conglomerate with plants in many parts of the world. I suspect that the Melfi plant is the best one. Here's why: The Melfi people pay excruciating attention to detail, regardless of the trim level of the vehicle involved. "Base" is good "base," well-made despite its reliance on less expensive materials. "Loaded," featuring more expensive wares, is worth the money — largely because of the way the Melfi workers made it.
The 2017 Jeep Renegade is a case in point. It is relatively unchanged from the 2016 model year, except for the confusing nomenclature. There essentially are four trim models: Sport, Latitude, Altitude and Trailhawk. "Altitude" seems to have displaced the previous "Limited" model. Good riddance. I've never understood the logic of sticking a "Limited" badge on vehicles that are sold in mass numbers.
And the Renegade line, as a group, has been selling well since its introduction in 2016. The Sport, Latitude, and Altitude are sold with two-wheel and four-wheel-drive. The Trailhawk, the one you want if you have a genuine interest in off-roading, comes in four-wheel-drive only.
I drove the four-wheel-drive Renegade Latitude "with Altitude package" for this column. It feels more like a sedan than, say, a Jeep Wrangler. If you are looking for the Wrangler experience, buy a Wrangler.
The upgraded Renegade will take you many of the places a Wrangler will take you. But, please keep in mind that "many" is not "all "— over rocks and logs and those sorts of things. The Renegade Trailhawk is the one that will take you closest to that kind of duty. Equipped with the proper towing package, the Renegade Trailhawk also can tow up to 2,000 pounds.
Comfort? The Renegade offers lots of it — great room for the legs, arms and heads of front-seat passengers. Rear room is tighter, and comfort largely depends upon the girth of the passengers sitting there.
But the Jeep Renegade overall is a welcome competitor in the crossover-utility arena that also features the likes of the Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue. It is assembled by the same people who make the well-made Fiat 500x crossover. I cannot give it any higher praise than that.
Nuts & Bolts
2017 Jeep Renegade
Bottom line: The Renegade is one of those crossover-utility vehicles where "loaded" is not a bad or extravagant thing. You get your money's worth in quality, comfort, safety and on-road performance.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Best on-road feel and handling is in the two-wheel-drive models. The four-wheel-drive Altitude felt a tad wobbly on-road. I did not drive off-road or tow anything.
Head-turning quotient: It looks like a Jeep on the outside — vertical grille with round headlights.
Engine/transmission: The upgraded Renegade, as used for this column, was equipped with a 2.4-liter, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (180-horsepower, 175 pound-feet of torque). The engine was linked to a somewhat hesitant nine-speed automatic transmission that also could be shifted manually.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo space with all seats up is 18.5 cubic feet. With seats down, it's 50.8 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 12.7 gallons of gasoline. Premium grade is recommended "for best performance." I used 89-octane fuel, which worked fine.
Mileage: Marginal. I averaged 28 miles per gallon in highway driving.
Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; post-collision safety system; stability and traction control; and side and head air bags.
Note: A full suite of advanced electronic safety items — blind-side monitoring, lane-departure warning, etc. — is available with the "Altitude package." I recommend it.
Pricing: The base Latitude price is $23,495. The price as tested is $32,990, including an estimated $10,000 in options, mostly for the "Altitude package." Jeep dealers are willing to bargain.