According to a recent report by consulting firm IHS Automotive, these so-called B-segment models—also known as superminis—now account for about 2.7 million in vehicle sales annually. Although demand in the U.S. lags well behind that in China and Europe, it's expected to grow here, as well, as buyers continue to downsize.
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In many ways, the new Renegade is a more traditional Jeep than the recently added—and somewhat controversial—Cherokee model. There are the brand's classic visual cues, including the upright, 7-slot grille, the high ground clearance, the short overhangs and tall roofline, which can make the Renegade look, at first glance, a bit bigger than it really is.
The Renegade Trailhawk model will continue to offer potential buyers the sort of off-road capabilities the brand has long been known for. But in this case, the mini-Jeep comes with a new terrain response system which, with a simple turn of the dial, adjusts the vehicle's brakes, throttle and transmission to automatically adapt to five different driving conditions, including rocks, snow, sand, or highway.
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There are other features that Jeep hopes will increase the Renegade's appeal. The new SUV is more lavishly equipped than most of the traditional vehicles that fill the segment. Renegade will be offered—depending upon the market—with an open-air roof system, big touchscreen infotainment system, a built-in WiFi hotspot, and an access package allowing remote starting and door unlocking, as well as access to sports scores, movie timetables and nearby fuel prices.
Jeep has become increasingly daring since parent Chrysler's tie-up with Fiat. Despite its polarizing design—or perhaps because of it—the new Cherokee has become one of the market's hot new entries for the 2014 model year. But in some ways, the Renegade is an even more radical departure from tradition.