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Baby Jeep might slip under Renegade

Baby boomer: Jeep could be making a light SUV that is smaller than the Renegade crossover.

Jeep investigates trekking into unchartered territory with a tiny light SUV

23 Nov 2016


JEEP is considering a sub-Renegade light SUV aimed at urbanites seeking a compact high-riding crossover from early next decade.

Although believed to be in the early stages of discussion, a sub-four-metre-long 4x4 hatch would be the smallest model in the company’s near nine-decade history, opening up fresh conquest opportunities at the bottom of the market.

According to Jeep CEO Mike Manley, the idea of a tiny SUV is spreading in some parts of the world such Europe, Central and South America, and in Asia, so it makes sense to be prepared if or when the segment hits critical mass.

“In some markets, we're seeing a strong emergence of A- [segment] or super-compact SUVs, and Europe is one, with all the German and French manufacturers piling into it,” he told Australian journalists at last week’s Los Angeles motor show. “I think the time will come where we'll need one of those as well.”

Set to be considerably shorter than the 4.2 metres of the Renegade, the unnamed project would probably rely on Jeep’s Italian taskmasters, Fiat, to supply the downsized forced-induction two-cylinder petrol and four-cylinder diesels required.

Fiat, of course, already offers such a vehicle – the Panda 4x4 – and has done so for years, meaning that any future iteration could be twinned with Jeep to help give the American off-road icon instant access to the fledgling segment.

That Panda 4x4 is fitted with a full-time all-wheel drive set-up, and is considered a pioneer in the field since the original Panda of the early 1980s offered surprisingly adept off-road capability.

Other immediate rivals would be the imminent Suzuki Ignis, a 3.7m long front-drive five-seater crossover that is due in Australia in early 2017 and powered by a 67kW 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual or CVT automatic.

Jeep will be watching the Ignis closely, since the conceptually similar current-generation Panda Trekking failed to find an audience in Australia during its short tenure here between late 2013 and mid-2015.

Furthermore, the Renegade has yet to set the small SUV segment alight, with just 847 registrations year-to-date compared with the class-leading Mazda CX-3’s 15,493 units over the same period.

Jeep’s spread of models is separated by a scant 200 millimetres, beginning with the aforementioned 4.2m Renegade. The all-new Compass out in a year’s time is 4.4m long, followed by the Cherokee at 4.6m, while the Grand Cherokee is at 4.8m. The upcoming Grand Wagoneer, a luxury-focused flagship 4x4, will probably eclipse the five-metre mark when it arrives in about 2019.

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