With customer’s demand increasing for plug in hybrid electric vehicles, otherwise known as PHEV, and emissions regulation becoming more and more restrictive, Jeep started offering hybrid models since July in Europe. The two first models to go through the hybridization process are the Compass and Renegade, both manufactured Italy, and part of the small SUV segment. We went to test both the Jeep Compass 4xe and Renegade 4xe on and off-road in the Lignières Training center. Text: Mickael B. © Photos: Jeep ©

Both Compass and Renegade 4xe have three trim levels: Limited, S and Trailhawk

Both the Renegade and the Compass, in their 4xe plug-in hybrid variant, have two engines available and 3 trim levels. The entry-level Limited trim is only available with the less powerful 1.3 liter 4 cylinder turbo 130 horsepower, plus an additional 60 from the electric engine, bringing a total 190 horsepower. The S and the Trailhawk both come with the more powerful same capacity 1.3 liter engine delivering 180 horsepower, combined with the 60 from the electric motor, with a final output of 240 horsepower. Not mindblowing figures, but perfectly enough for a normal daily use, specially for the main customer of these, which will most likely only use them around town.

Jeep offers a plethora of driving assistances on both 4xe

From the outside, the S, being the more sporty trim benefits from specific 19 inch silver rims, LED front lamps. The Trailhawk comes with specific all-terrain equipments, such as a front bumper to increase front angle. On the inside, all models can be equipped with the new 8,4 inch Uconnect touch-screen navigation system and come with a plethora of driving assistances, such as collision, lane-changing, intelligent speed and traffic road signs recognition systems (only on Renegade). Rear parking camera, automatic parking system and blind angle detection are available as well depending on the version of the Jeep Compass and Renegade 4xe.

The Compass and Renegade’s party trick? Their four wheel drive 4xe transmission

The very interesting point about the 4xe is the clever four wheel drive transmission developed by Jeep. Instead of having both engines delivering their respective power to all four wheels, they created a very ingenious system. The petrol engine only delivers power to the front wheels, while the electric engine delivers its power to the rear wheels. So, what happens when the battery runs out? Does the car stops being four wheel drive? Absolutely not! It’s a Jeep. So it must be four-wheel drive all the time. And it is. Once the battery runs out, the petrol engine will just use some of its power to keep a the electric system going, ensuring your Jeep Compass or Renegade 4xe remains four-wheel drive.

Electric autonomy? 43 km, and various solutions offered for charging

Jeep claims the electric autonomy of the battery is 43 kilometers, but during our test, due to our extensively demanding driving, we were not able to achieve this figure. There are three modes to control the hybrid system, with a pure electric mode, which the car will disengage if you start requesting too much power, a normal hybrid mode, and an E-Save mode, which allows the petrol engine to charge up to 80% the electric engine. Fuel consumption in the first two modes is of course very low but substantially higher in the last one. Jeep offers home charging solutions as both the Compass and the Renegade 4xe, with the standard one charging the car of up to 3.5 hours, while an optional Easy Wallbox can be installed to reduce charging time to less than 2 hours.

Since both cars are based on the same platform, they drive very similarly

How are the Jeep Compass and Renegade 4xe to drive then? As they are based on the same platform, there is of course very little differences between the two. There are several driving modes, two for road use, called Auto and Sport, which increases throttle response and steering, while the other modes are more for Off-Road. On the road, as most power is coming from the front wheel drive petrol engine, there is some important understeer under heavy use, but the chassis and suspensions are pretty good.

Both the Renegade and the Compass drive better than a Range Rover Evoque

We would have appreciated more coming from the rear wheel drive electric motor to induce some oversteer. Still, I think both the Renegade and Compass are better driving experiences for instance in my opinion than a Range Rover Evoque, which has catastrophic balance. Bodyroll is well contained for such high positioned vehicles but we saw some very important differences with some cars that had different tyres, as always. Brakes are good too, and did not tend to fade even after the intensive use we put them through on the track.

It’s a Jeep thing. Living offroad.

“It’s a Jeep thing” says the brand motto. Off-road is the real Jeep thing. In addition to the two Normal and Sport mode for normal road use, there are three which can be used off-road. Snow, sand and mud, rock offer a variety of settings from engine response, gearbox and traction control depending of the terrain encountered. Both the Compass and the Renegade are capable of light off-roading but should not be considered for anything close to obstacle-clearing, due to their low ground clearance and wading depth. We had very good fun though on the muddy hill tracks we tested them, thanks to their small size helping maneuverability.

In addition to 3 offroad driving modes, there’s 4WD lock, low gear and hill descent assist

Both the Jeep Compass and Renegade have three tricks up their sleeves to help the driver while driving off tarmac. A four-wheel drive lock, a low range, and a hill descent assist. The first assistance ensures all four wheels receive adequate power, and sends power depending on each wheels traction issues. Very handy when one wheel is stuck in the mud, or in the air. The low range is not a real one, as neither of both cars have a low range gearbox but it forces lower gears to stay engaged, helping you on steep inclines. Finally, the hill descent is as useful downwards as it is upwards when you get stuck, and works really well.

The Jeep Compass and Renegade 4xe are serious small PHEV SUV

Prices start at 39’900 CHF for the Renegade 4xe Limited and 44’900 CHF for the Compass 4xe Limited. I have a personal preference for the Renegade because it has a more traditional Jeep look. Both of them are very good value for money and if you are searching for a small plug-in hybrid SUV, you should definitely consider both in the many choices currently on the market, and many more to come.

Check out our gallery below and our other drives here.