Dacia Duster, Jeep Renegade, Skoda Yeti, Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 24 Photos Zoom

Jeep Renegade, Duster, Yeti, SX4 S-Cross: Jeep enough for the competition?

It certinly bears a famous name, but in the Renegade with Fiat 500 genes, old friends of the off-road brand could be left gasping for breath. How much Jeep is there in the new compact SUV and how good does it fare against the Dacia Duster, Suzuki SX4 S-Cross and serial winner, the Skoda Yeti?

The question as to what a Jeep actually is has already been asked by Popeye the sailor man 80 years ago. Perhaps this isn't something you are as eager to know now, but it is nonetheless interesting: Eugene the Jeep is the name of a mythical creature from a comic strip by the cartoonist Elzie Segar, the hero of which was the later to become famous Popeye. Presumably, the soldiers names every possible small multi-purpose vehicle after that fabled creature the Jeep, including a small aircraft, a boat, but also the new quarter-tonne truck from Willys and Ford.

The Jeep Renegade lines up against the competition

In any case, it is the most recent and not the most unlikely explanation for the brand name of the small, compact SUV, which in full is called the Jeep Renegade 2.0 Multijet Limited. It is a long journey from the 1941 army vehicle to the 2014 Renegade, and unlike back then, it now has a host of competitors to deal with.

All the cars in the comparison line up with a diesel engine, manual transmission and all-wheel drive: the Dacia Duster with 108 HP, the Skoda Yeti with 138 HP and the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross with 118 HP. The Fiat diesel in the Jeep Renegade also produces 138 HP , which, in the opulent limit finish Limited is not at all cheap. You won't get much change from 30.000 Euros, which also applies to the Skoda and to a limited extent to the Suzuki as well. Only the Duster is much cheaper with a base price of 18,690 Euros. A difference of 10.000 Euros is a strong argument, even for those who don't need to watch every Euro and cent. So what is it capable of, the Dacia?

Plenty of space in the Dacia Duster

It has already taken a beating in one or two other comparison tests - it is not so simple to do justice to the cheap Romanian SUV with a Teutonic scoring and evaluation system. But between us: almost 20,000 Euros isn't really dirt cheap enough (Jeep Renegade: almost 29,000 Euros) that you could overlook all of the weaknesses when it comes to detail. And therefore we will begin with what the Dacia Duster can do particularly well: suspension for instance. With its long-stroke suspension elements it irons over even very bumpy paths, rocking a little back and forth, but proves itself to be very comfortable. A car that was developed for dirt roads between Wallachian villages isn't frightened by the particularly harsh rough road track number 4 at the Bosch Test Centre in Boxberg. Incidentally, it functions just as well when the maximum load capacity (482 kg) is fully utilised.

It also has plenty of space to store every imaginable object, which, by the way, also applies for the Jeep Renegade and Skoda Yeti. This could be anything from cement bags to pig carcasses - the rustic ambience of the Duster invites such cargoes. Passengers don't feel quite so well sheltered, which comes down primarily to the moderate quality of the seats. The loud and distinct self-starting engine does nothing to contribute to the sense of well-being. In addition to this it is rugged and reluctant, its moderate diesel consumption being its best side.

Which brings us to money: the Dacia is of course much cheaper than the Jeep Renegade in terms of purchase price, but its operating costs are on a par with its competitors. In addition to this you have to manage with a very meagre range of multimedia and assistance system equipment.

The Suzuki is small and efficient

Suzuki goes a slightly different direction to Dacia: the cars are packed full of equipment of all kinds and for this are sold at a fairly high price. As such the Suzuki SX4 1.6 DDiS Comfort Plus costs 28,990 Euros ex works and is thus right up there with the Skoda Yeti and Jeep Renegade. However, it is already so well equipped that the only charged additional extra in the price list is metallic paint (500 Euros).

This isn't just useless features such as "front bumper, side sill and rear bumper trim sets," but also many worthwhile extras such as a touchscreen sat nav panoramic sliding roof, xenon headlights ad two-zone automatic air-conditioning. Admittedly, the panoramic roof contributes to the fact that the interior of the Suzuki is not quite as generous as that in the Jeep Renegade, Dacia Duster or Skoda Yeti. Here the ceiling pivots much deeper into the interior, and the rear section considerably restricts the view.

You won't be entirely satisfied by the chassis properties either: the not particularly torsion-resistant Suzuki SX4 has very rough suspension, becoming even more surly when heavily laden and, at the end of the day, is the most uncomfortable car in the comparison with the Jeep Renegade, Duster and Yeti. There are other things that make it difficult to discover the best side of the Suzuki. It bustles around corners, but the steering, ragged, yet completely void of response, ruins the line and the fun. The brakes knuckle down gently, but when warm also looses a little bite. All that remains is the engine. It drives the little Suzuki somewhat inconspicuously forward, but is the most efficient engine in the test, even if the differences here are marginal. On the test equipment it consumes just over one litre per 100 km less than the Skoda – a thoroughly weighty argument.

The Jeep Renegade is well-balanced

The Jeep Renegade is a brand new addition to the market, and we are already doing it the disservice of pitting it against the serial winner, the Skoda Yeti. Knowing full well that it would be a miracle if it were to come out on top against the best-seller from Mlada Boleslav when it comes down to points. It doesn't do that here - that much can be said in advance - but the Jeep from the Fiat plant in the Southern Italian town of Melfi is thoroughly convincing.

Opinion may still be divided with regard to design, but the hardware quality shown by the Renegade in this comparison surprised the test team. This begins with the spaciousness in the boxy Jeep Renegade, which barely any other competitor in this class can offer. It is only the sense of space that suffers at the hands of the thick A and C pillar, which allow comparatively little light into the interior.

Operation is occasionally a little chaotic, more Italian than American, including the touchscreen navigation system, which the otherwise very well equipped Jeep Renegade Limited offers for an additional charge of 1,190 Euros. It also impresses with understandable voice operation and an intuitive user interface.

The Jeep Renegade produces 138 HP

The fact that the engineers in the Fiat Group can do chassis' is well-known; in any case this counts among the successes. The tuning finds the right balance between pleasant comfort and agile handling. The Jeep Renegade is no lively predator when cornering, but it is agile and the steering direct and sensitive. So everything is fine there.

The two-litre Multijet also comes from Fiat, producing 138 HP in the Jeep Renegade, and fits in harmoniously to the overall image. Not quite as smooth-running as the TDI in the Skoda, but rather growling powerfully, and also efficient - in this regard it leaves no room for criticism. One question still remains: can the Jeep off-road? I will say only this: with the programmes of the Selec-Terrain all-wheel system, which can be selected at the touch of a button, it is one of the most talented off-roaders within the compact segment, especially with Winter tyres. Good balance, good traction; only truly hardcore off-roaders will manage to get any further than the Renegade.

Harmonious and solid Yeti

Incidentally, the Skoda Yeti can't go quite so far as the Jeep Renegade, even if, as is the case here, in the Outdoor version with its Offroad Assistant. Even with the assistant activated, it allows a little more torque to discreetly slip away between the axles. However, it can be assumed that most people buying a Yeti are no doing so for its off-road capability. The majority will enjoy the other comforts of the small Skoda SUV. For example, the very good quality of finish, the solid interior and the good seats. The suspension comfort likewise has its own innate quality - only the Duster can manage better, but in it the uncomfortable seat prevents any sustained feeling of well-being.

The very pleasing aspects of the Skoda also include the quiet, sophisticated drive system; it simply feels a class above where it actually is. The disadvantage here: the 2.0 TDI isn't the most conservative when it comes to consumption. The fact that the Skoda is a heavyweight takes its toll: it weighs almost 1,600 kg, and only the Jeep Renegade is similarly weighty. The Dacia Duster and Suzuki SX4, on the other hand, bring 200 kg fewer to the scales.

And while we are on the less attractive sides of the Yeti: it is relatively expensive, costing around 2,500 Euros more than the Jeep Renegade and 4,500 more than the Suzuki once adjusted for differences in equipment levels. For this you get solid quality, but on the other hand you only get the dated Amundsen sat nav for an additional cost of 600 Euros. This doesn't change the fact that the Skoda wins this comparison. However, something else is true following this test: this segment only contains one genuine Jeep, the Renegade.


Hans-Dieter Seufert


20 April 2015
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