2016 Jeep Renegade vs 2016 Subaru Crosstrek

Baby Crossovers that Like to Play in the Dirt

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A poser is defined as a person who acts in an affected manner in order to impress others.

In the world of automobiles, there are a ton of posers. Look at all the vehicles that come in a sport trim even though they are anything but sporty. Posers are also abundant in the world of crossovers. Designed to look like off-road ready SUVs, most crossovers can’t handle much more than a dirt trail. Are you going to tackle Moab in a Mazda CX-3 or rock-crawl in a Ford Edge? Nope.

The smaller the crossover, the less likely there’s much chance of real off-road abilities. Joining the CX-3 in the subcompact segment are other “soft-roaders” like the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and Nissan Juke. But there is one exception to this rule with the Jeep Renegade.

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Built to live up to the Jeep name, the Renegade can be had in a hardcore Trailhawk edition that is said to be the real deal when it comes to off-roading. With aggressive all-terrain tires and exposed tow hooks, the Renegade Trailhawk at least looks the part.

Trailhawk Brings the Goods

Offering up an acceptable 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Renegade Trailhawk’s tall boxy shape leads to a 30 degree approach angle, 34.3 degree departure angle and a 25.7 degree ramp brake over angle. For reference, the approach angle may fall short, but the breakover angle and departure are actually better than that of the hard-core Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Jeep Renegade Five-Point Inspection

Unlike the Wrangler, the Renegade does not come with a true two-speed transfer case, but rather an all-wheel drive system called Jeep Active Drive that mimics a four-wheel low setup using the nine-speed automatics first gear for a 20:1 ratio. The Trailhawk also offers multiple off-road modes, which, again, are not actually changing anything mechanically in the Jeep, but rather consists of computer programming that controls the engine, transmission and stability control system for optimal performance in pre-described situations.

An Unlikely Combatant

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But Jeep isn’t the only company known for having fun in the mud; Subaru has earned quite the reputation for getting down and dirty as well. But Subaru’s reputation has more to do with ripping through forest rally stages than Jeep’s notoriety for rock crawling up mountains.

One look at the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek reinforces this. Whereas the Jeep looks like a baby SUV, the Crosstrek looks more like Dakar rally raider. Despite giving up nearly nine inches in overall length to the Crosstrek, the Renegade is actually three inches taller.

The hood line in the Crosstrek is also much lower and the driver position is so much lower in the Crosstrek that the sideview mirror can actually pass underneath the Renegade’s mirror. Yet, the Crosstrek has the exact same ground clearance as the Renegade, thanks to a much shorter horizontally opposed engine.

And that’s 8.7 inches no matter which Crosstrek trim level is purchased. With the Renegade, if the top-of-the-line Trailhawk is not purchased, ground clearance shrinks to just 7.9 inches. But the rest of the Crosstrek’s specs aren’t quite as good. The approach angle is just 18 degrees, the departure angle is 27.7 degrees and ramp brake over angle is 21.1 degrees. Plus, Subaru’s all-wheel drive system lacks any different modes or simulated low-gear settings. It’s just an active torque split all-wheel drive system that, in this case, is paired to a continuously variable transmission.

Hitting the Trails

We took both crossovers to an old abandoned country road to see how they would fare on something a little rougher than just some gravel. This is one area where the Jeep seemed to have the upper hand.

 SEE ALSO: 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Review

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First off, the higher seating position in the Renegade just feels better off-road, even though ground clearance is the exact same in both vehicles. The Jeep’s powertrain also seems better setup for off-roading, with the transmission’s ‘low’ function working exactly as advertised. It makes it easy to make slow, easy throttle inputs and crawl right over obstacles. This also negates the sometimes poor shifts of the nine-speed automatic.

Piloting the XV off-road just doesn’t feel as good. A very touchy throttle can make it hard to slowly creep forward and the low seating position makes it harder to see all of the rocks coming up in front of you.

Jeep-Renegade-vs-Subaru-XV-Crosstrek-15A more pliant suspension setup in the Subaru does help to eat up the trail’s rough surface as opposed to the Jeep’s stiffer ride. But overall, it feels like the Jeep is built to head off road while in the Subaru it’s just a happy accident that it happens to be decent when the pavement ends.

Driving Back to Town

After having fun in the mud, we headed back home and evaluated the two crossovers on-road. As much as these two small crossovers are capable off-road, they will still be used primarily on asphalt and concrete day in and day out.

The Crosstrek is easily the more fluid, smoother vehicle of the duo to drive. The aggressive throttle that was unfavorable off-road becomes a benefit on-road. Even if the Crosstrek’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine only makes 148 hp compared to the Renegade’s 180 hp 2.4-liter engine, it doesn’t feel slower in a straight line. Part of this has to do with the fact that as tested, despite being the larger vehicle, the Crosstrek only weighs 3,186 lbs. compared to the Trailhawk’s hefty curb weight of 3,573 lbs.

Besides acceleration, the Jeep’s weight doesn’t do fuel economy any favors either as the Renegade Trailhawk is officially rated at 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway compared to the Subaru’s ratings of 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.

Compare Specs

Jeep Renegade
vs
Subaru Crosstrek
Vehicle Jeep Renegade Advantage Subaru Crosstrek
Engine 2.4 L four-cylinder - 2.0 L four-cylinder
Horsepower 180 HP Renegade 146 HP
Torque 175 lb-ft. Renegade 145 lb-ft.
Weight as Tested 3,573 lbs. Crosstrek 3,186 lbs.
Rear Seat Legroom 35.1-inches - 35.4-inches
Cargo Capacity 18.5 cubic feet Crosstrek 22.5 cubic feet
Fuel Economy (US) 21 MPG city, 29 MPG hwy Crosstrek 26 MPG city, 34 MPG hwy
Fuel Economy (CDN) 11.2 L/100 km city, 8.0 L/100 km hwy Crosstrek 9.1 L/100 km city, 7.0 L/100 km hwy
Ground Clearance 8.7 inches - 8.7 inches
Approach Angle 30.0 degrees Renegade 18.0 degrees
Departure Angle 34.3 degrees Renegade 27.7 degrees
Break-Over Angle 25.7 degrees Renegade 21.1 degrees
Starting Price(US) $18.990 Renegade $22,445
Starting Price(CDN) $21,690 Renegade $26,670
As Tested Price(US) $33,750 Crosstrek $28,840
As Tested Price(CDN) $38,725 Crosstrek $33,570

Nuances Abound

Ride quality is much rougher on road in the Renegade. It’s choppy at times and makes the Crosstrek feel downright soft over broken pavement. As well, handling favors the Crosstrek on road, but neither crossover is going to light-up a racetrack. But the worst part of the Renegade continues to be the nine-speed automatic. Slow to react and always hunting around for the proper gear, I’d gladly take a CVT or six-speed auto over it.

SEE ALSO: What’s the Best Subcompact Crossover

But just because there are issues with the Renegade doesn’t mean the Crosstrek is perfect. The cargo-cover, regardless if it’s retracted or not, squeaks all the time over bumps – an issue my 2010 WRX had in common. And the Crosstrek’s engine sound isn’t all that pleasing, especially compared to the Renegade’s Tigershark power plant.

Contrasting Interiors

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Inside both vehicles offer about the same amount of rear seat space but the larger Crosstrek does hold a cargo advantage, offering 22.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats compared to the Renegade’s 18.5 cubic feet. Even with the Crosstrek’s interior being much improved this year, it can’t match the Renegade’s far more modern, premium feeling interior.

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The infotainment unit in the Jeep also holds the advantage over Subaru’s, with its quicker operating better laid out design. But when it comes to front seat comfort and outward visibility, the Renegade can’t touch the Crosstrek’s comfortable seats, low belt-line and larger windows.

The Verdict: 2016 Jeep Renegade vs 2016 Subaru Crosstrek

The Subaru Crosstrek is the better on-road performer and the easier vehicle to live with day in and day out. Although the two vehicles match up well option wise, the fully loaded Subaru Crosstrek Limited came in at $28,840 after destination charges compared to the pricey Renegade Trailhawk at $33,750.

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The Jeep does hold an advantage off-road, but it’s not as decisive as the specifications and equipment would have us believe. Despite the huge advantage in approach and departure angles, the Renegade Trailhawk still lacks proper off-road mechanics. Want to do some intense off-roading? A Wrangler, or even Cherokee, can be had at the price of the Renegade Trailhawk and will travel further through the brush.

The Crosstrek may be lacking some interior style and a bit of off-road capability, but it’s better in nearly every other way. Aside from the few who need the absolutely most rugged baby crossover, the Crosstrek is the better choice.

2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

2016 Subaru Crosstrek Limited

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    I like the look of the Renegade, but I’d buy the Crosstrek.

  • David Wilson

    At least try them off road. My wife’s Optra could have handled that road without spilling her French Vanilla.

  • Mike Schlee

    Although the pictures may not show it, the trail had both vehicles scaping various undercaraige components that exceeded the 8.7-inches of ground clearance. That’s always a problem with off-road trails, pictures never do them justice.

  • BobJax

    It’s about reliability.
    I wanted to buy a Chrysler product but in general they have such a bad reputation for reliability and resale value, I reluctantly passed.
    Thus, I own a Subaru.

  • WilloughbyBucksworth

    They didn’t mention safety ratings which might tip a win for the Subaru.

  • Bob Chapman

    Buy American, Buy Subaru…

    hard to believe I know

  • Bob Chapman

    Can’t imagine the jeep had any of the safety features that you can get on the Crosstrek

  • Cody Beisel

    Wait for ringland failure and head gasket problems that plague the boxer engine