Let’s say you want a crossover, and prefer Jeep’s design language. Maybe you need cargo space and off-road ability. The compact and sub-compact Cherokee and Renegade are hot sellers, but are similarly sized, share an engine, and offer the same off-road package. What are the real differences? Here’s a look at where each small Jeep stands out.

Jeep Renegade

A sales and critical success, the Renegade launched into the hot subcompact crossover segment in 2015. It’s notable for its edgy looks, coming off as a cute urban version of the Wrangler. That’s not far from the truth, as the Renegade makes an excellent city car, but can still hit the trails when properly equipped. The design language doesn’t end at the sheet metal, as the interior is just as modern and in-your-face. If the outside is Tonka-inspired, the inside looks designed by Otterbox. It works well though, with comfortable seats and the highly rated Uconnect infotainment screen front and center. Power comes from a pair of four cylinders, with the turbo 1.4-liter base model making 160 horsepower, and the optional 2.4-liter hitting 180. Fuel economy is pretty good either way. The 1.4-liter with a six-speed manual can hit 31 MPG highway, while the 2.4-liter gets to 29. Both of those figures are AWD models and increase slightly with front-wheel drive.

Strengths

Fuel efficiency, outward visibility, ease of parking, trendy styling

Weaknesses

Smallest cargo area of any Jeep, four-cylinder only, not the smoothest ride.

Renegade Buyers

You should be shopping the Renegade if you only rarely carry up to five people, or need to haul small cargo, but also need fuel efficiency most of the time. Front-wheel drive can help you with that, but shop the all-wheel drive models for extra capability in inclement weather. If you live in a densely urban environment, the small dimensions, sharp turning radius, and ease of parking will come in handy on your every drive. It’s also a good 700 pounds lighter than the Cherokee, a difference you can feel in the steering and cornering. Drivers 6-foot-1 and taller should get the optional moon roof for more headroom, or shop the larger Cherokee. Towing is more like a mid-size car, with 2,000-pound capacity. That’s a couple of jet skis and a light trailer.

Jeep Cherokee

While the original Cherokee featured an eight-track player, the current version is a Fiat & Chrysler design that hit the streets in 2014. Slightly larger than the Renegade, the Cherokee registers as a compact crossover. Since it’s like the Renegade’s older sibling, it acts like it, with a mature upscale design inside and out. The exterior is modern crossover in the back, and up front there’s an aggressive take on the classic Jeep vertical grille. Inside, the dash and gauge cluster look like what you might find in the 300 full-size sedan, and the seats are large and comfortable. The Cherokee shares the same 180 horsepower 2.4-liter for its base engine, but gains loads of horsepower and torque with the optional smooth running 3.2-liter V6. With 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque it can get moving, but fuel economy takes a hit, down to 25 MPG highway.

Strengths

Optional V6 power, Trailhawk option for real off-roading, comfortable interior, classy styling.

Weaknesses

Front end styling isn’t for everyone, less MPG than Renegade, rear visibility isn’t great.

Cherokee Buyers

The base Cherokee appeals to many buyers with its softer ride than the Renegade, mimicking a sedan for comfort and quietness. While the Renegade ride can get rough, the Cherokee drives quiet enough to put little ones to sleep in back, and the teenagers won’t text you complaints. The Trailhawk option provides tough as nails looks with armor-like body cladding, raised suspension, upgraded wheels, and tow hooks poking out of the front bumper like a warthog’s tusks. It looks cool and it works. Zero to sixty is a full three seconds faster than the Renegade, making on-ramps and passing a breeze. Towing is decent, at 3,500 lbs it can haul most rental moving trailers. If you are taller, or haul people and their stuff on a regular basis, look to the Cherokee.

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