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Geneva show: Jeep's Renegade young at heart

Young blood: Jeep's Renegade was designed by two young college mates fresh out of a Detroit design school.

20-something designers entrusted with design of Jeep's frisky Renegade small SUV

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Jeep logo6 Mar 2014

By RON HAMMERTON in GENEVA

JEEP tore up its design process rulebook when it set out to come up with its new Renegade small SUV, skipping the conventional navel-gazing ahead of the design process and instead asking two young designers not long out of college to pen a car they would like to have for themselves.

Working on their first proper project as full-time car designers, the two young college mates came up with the Renegade, with one of them responsible for the exterior and the other the interior in the project at Fiat Chrysler Automobile's Auburn Hills design centre in Detroit.

One of them, Ian Hedge, now 27, said he was thrilled when a former Jeep designer who had been privvy to the earliest drawings three years ago came up to him at this week's Geneva motor show and remarked that the finished product looked just like the original concept.

The only constraints on the designers was that the Renegade must look like a Jeep, with the familiar seven-slot grille, round headlights and squared off wheel arches – design features that have been carried through all Jeep models since the original 1941 Willys Jeep.

Although a number of design themes were prepared, the final Renegade was true to the main elements of the young designers' brainchild that targets people of similar age to them.

The Renegade has a soft and rugged elements, with modern touches such as exposed plug-in sockets for smart phones and a fat grab handle on the dash.

Mr Hedge, who was born in Denver, Colorado, but grew up in Holland, said functionality played a big part in the design process, with space-saving items such as an electric parking brake – a first in the small SUV class – making it through into the production vehicle which is to be built for world markets at a Fiat plant in Italy.

“Without that electric parking brake, there would not have been room for cupholders,” he said.

Interior surfaces range from mild to wild, with one – featuring orange leather seat upholstery inserts – inspired by a base jumping suit.

Head of Jeep design, Mark Allen, told GoAuto that the designers spent “an inordinate amount of time” getting the front fascia design right for a small Jeep.

“It would have been death if it came out cute,” he said.

Mr Allen said that contrary to the recent trend of all car-makers, the Renegade's belt line was lowered, not raised, to give the Renegade a taller appearance.

Mr Allen said Renegade drew much inspiration from the rugged Jeep Wrangler.

“We wanted to cultivate all the fun of a Wrangler but in an easy-to-live-with package,” he said.

The design and engineering brief for all Jeeps is that they must be the most capable off-road in their class, and Mr Allen says the trail-rated Trailhawk variant meets the requirement.

Global Jeep CEO Mike Manley said Jeep had a shortlist of four potential names for the Renegade, including Jeepster, but Renegade won out.

The Renegade is due to land in Australia in the second half of 2015, and will be sold in a choice of four specification levels with a selection of three petrol four-cylinder engines and the first nine-speed automatic transmission in its class.

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