Jeep has started the first public road trials of a test mule for a new compact crossover SUV that will replace both the Patriot and Compass in the automaker’s lineup. The new model, whatever it ends up being called, will be positioned between the subcompact Renegade and small Cherokee.
In its five-year strategy announcement made last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU], Jeep’s parent company, confirmed the model for launch in 2016. But as these spy shots reveal, we’re still in the early stages of development, which means we’re unlikely to see the vehicle in showrooms until late in 2016, should Jeep stick to its original schedule. This means it should arrive as a 2017 model.
Although this looks like an ordinary Renegade, those of us familiar with test mules will recognize the stretched rear section. The black band on the vehicle suggests that several inches have been added to the length of the donor Renegade platform (refered to as Small-Wide within FCA). Also borrowed from the Renegade will likely be an independent suspension setup, with MacPherson struts up front and a Chapman strut design out back.
Four-cylinder engines will feature across the range, with the primary unit expected to be a new turbocharged 2.0-liter unit. Expect six-speed manual and nine-speed automatic options in the transmission department. Front-wheel drive will likely be standard with all-wheel drive remaining an option.
It’s too early to talk styling but we’re expecting a rugged, boxy look similar to that of the Renegade and current Patriot rather than the more refined look of the Compass. It will still be instantly recognizable as a Jeep, even to those with only a passing interest in cars, as it’s one of the key model additions in Jeep’s strategy to achieve more than 1.8 million annual vehicle sales worldwide by 2018. Last year the brand sold more than a million vehicles for the first time.