Jeep's new Renegade is globally significant

Jeep’s major reveal at the Geneva motor show was the chunky little Renegade, which will be a hugely important model for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

It is the first small SUV from Jeep, the Italian-American company’s only truly global brand.

Booming worldwide demand for small SUVs means the Renegade has big-time sales potential; enough, perhaps, to push Jeep’s annual sales beyond the one-million mark.

Renegade also shows how FCA (the name adopted after Fiat finally took 100 percent control early this year) will work in practice.

The Wrangler-inspired exterior and soft-form interior with tough-look details were designed in the US, but the Renegade is to be built in Italy, at Fiat’s Melfi facility in the south of the country.

This plant currently produces the Punto, but later in the year will add a new Fiat model that shares the new Renegade’s ‘Small Wide 4x4’ architecture. The 500X, rumoured for a 2014 Paris show reveal, will add a neatly-styled small SUV to Fiat’s expanding 500 line-up.

Some 16 different drivetrain combinations have been developed for Renegade, a record for Jeep, with engines and transmissions coming from Italy, the US and Brazil. There are 1.4, 1.6 and 2.4-litre petrol fours (turbo and non-turbo), 1.6 and 2.0-litre turbo-diesel fours, with manual, double-clutch and conventional torque-convertor auto transmissions. The auto is a highlight, being ZF’s new nine-speeder.

For the Australian market, the nine-speed auto will be teamed with Renegade’s most powerful engine, the 137kW American-made 2.4-litre MultiAir2 Tigershark. An economical Brazilian 81kW 1.6-litre with five speed manual is also confirmed, while Italian 1.4-litre petrol and 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engines are likely to flesh out the local line-up.

Renegade features go-anywhere technology to support the sell-everywhere aspirations.

The off-road-oriented Trailhawk 4x4 model is equipped with a special and class-unique crawler gear for difficult terrain. But it’s the front-drive or 4WD Sport and Latitude (Longitude in Australia) models that will surely account for the majority of sales.

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.

Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!