It feels like the world and his wife is joining the electric party with thousands giving themselves a Christmas present.

According to the motoring bible, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the best selling car in December was the electric Tesla Model 3 with its new rival the Volkswagen ID.3 fourth.

In a frantic year when Covid virus restrictions sent petrol and diesel sales into free fall the only winners were pure electric, up by more than 70,000 on 2019, and pug-in hybrids which jumped from 35,000 to nearly 67,000.

So despite everything 2020 was not a bad year for Jeep to launch a plug in hybrid version of the Renegade even if the company is a bit late to the electric party. Perhaps they were hanging on to get it right and to be fair they haven’t done a bad job producing a sophisticated piece of kit.

May be we should cut through some of the jargon because I have been on the electric trail of late with a couple of self charging hybrid Toyotas. These have a petrol engine and use braking resistance and deceleration to recharge the battery which powers an electric motor but cannot be charged from the mains.

A PHEV, aka the Renegade 4xe, is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with a petrol engine and battery pack that can also be charged from the mains to power an electric motor. The advantage is that the Renegade can run for up to 26 miles on electric power only with zero emissions.

A self charging hybrid is at its best around town but will only manage about a mile on electric before the battery pack needs recharging.

Renegade made a big statement when it arrived in 2015 because it was different and funky. At the time I said it was a modern day version of its granddaddy, the Wyllys Jeep, the most recognisable vehicle of World War Two. Vertical grille, flat bonnet with the square jawed look that typified the Yank soldiers who drove the wartime jeep.

Six years on it might not turn as many heads but Renegade is still an SUV like no other and the plug-in hybrid model should be giving a much needed sales boost. Jeep has paired an 11.4kWh battery with two electric motors to give up to 26 miles travel without using the petrol engine at up to 81mph limit. This is why you can achieve between 123 and 134mpg. Once the battery power is spent the engine kicks in which is good for around 50mpg – that is the best I could manage.

As with most hybrids Renegade is quick off the mark thanks to the extra kick from the electric motor, and the turbocharged 1.3 litre performs well if a tad noisy when pushed.

Most of the driving is a mixture of petrol and electric with the option to switch to three driving modes including E-save which continues to harness battery power for the motors. Jeep engineers have pretty much thought of everything but it is worth studying the detail to get the best out of the car.

This is a good family car whether it’s hybrid or not with the high roofline providing plenty of headroom while there is ample backseat legroom. Boot space is not the biggest in its class but it has two levels which I always find useful.

It is also well off for the luxuries we like and very strong on safety features.

Apart from a badly fitting fuel filler flap, which looked too small for the space, build quality is good with a nice feel to the dashboard trim. The layout for the instrument binnacle is logical which is more than can be said for the centre console which is a mish-mash of buttons and switches, some of which are too much of a stretch when driving.

One area where Renegade excels over the opposition is off road. This car is a master of mud, snow, sand – you name it. And there lies a potential drawback.

Renegade PHEV is expensive against some key rivals and you have to ask if hybrid drivers really need all this off road technology?

As part of the Chrysler dynasty the company has been on life support more than once and is entering a new chapter merging with the ever expanding Peugeot-Citroen empire under the name of Stellantis. Jeep celebrates its 80th anniversary this year and is no doubt hoping to survive a lot longer.

At least Renegade still puts a smile on your face.

Need to know

Renegade 4xe Limited

£34,500 (starts £32,600)

6 speed automatic

1.3litre petrol; 130bhp+60bhp electric motor

0-62mph 7.5secs; 113mph


49g/km. 1st tax £10

Insurance group 13

Boot: 330 litres