2016 Fiat 500X vs. 2016 Jeep Renegade: Two Peas, Different Pods

As hard as it may be to believe, the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade are almost identical from a mechanical standpoint. In fact, they even share the same platform, among other things.

Unfamiliar with the concept of an automobile platform? Allow me to enlighten you. To reduce costs and lead times, manufacturers often build more than one model on a common base. Sometimes, as in the case of the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger, the resemblance is strikingly obvious. In general, however, you have to look very closely to find the common threads between vehicles sharing the same platform. For example, the Dodge Dart and the Jeep Cherokee are built on the same platform.

Sibling rivalry

As for the 500X and the Renegade, given that they’re built on FCA’s Small Wide platform, you might expect that the two vehicles would be identical. The differences, however, are enormous.

Firstly, there are the visual differences. The curvaceous 500X adopts the 500’s city car style. Designed by the Centro Stile Fiat studio, the little crossover has a most European look and manages to incorporate the 500’s signature style (better than the 500L does, in any case).
Then there’s the Jeep Renegade, which couldn’t possibly be any squarer. Its silhouette evokes that of the old Cherokees from back in the day, but in a smaller format. Frequent nods to the brand’s past include the pictogram displayed in the lower corner of the windshield, which shows a little military Jeep climbing a steep incline. The Renegade is also taller due to its shape. But if you place the models side by side, you’ll notice that they have the same 2570-mm wheelbase.

The same goes for the interior. While the Fiat and the Jeep have the same screen in the centre of the dashboard and the same infotainment system, each has its own unique style. There’s a rounded dashboard and flat-bottom steering wheel in the 500X, while the Renegade is more angular. Like the Wrangler, it is equipped with a handle just in front of the front passenger. The seats are the same, and although they’re covered differently, they’re equally comfortable. The Jeep has an important advantage over the Fiat: Square and straight, its 360-degree visibility is a cut above.

Photo: Benjamin Hunting

A question of fine-tuning

Our two test models were both equipped with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder Tigershark engine that generates 180 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. It can only be paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive. So, in theory, they should be practically identical to drive, right?
No way!

The engineers tasked with refining them did a great deal of fine-tuning to distinguish the two. The 500X’s suspension is firmer and its steering is heavier. The engine responds more swiftly to the accelerator, giving it the more responsive ride that we associate with European vehicles.
The Renegade, on the other hand, is a Jeep through and through. You can turn the steering wheel with your little finger and you feel the roll if you take a turn too quickly. The little Jeep is also adjusted to use its torque in low gear, making it more pleasant to drive off road.

Each vehicle comes equipped with all-wheel drive, but, yet again, they are different. The Jeep’s adjustable driving modes are designed for driving off the beaten path (snow, mud and sand), while the 500X gets a Sport mode that sends more power to the rear axle.

Then again, the poor quality of the transmission is common to both. In both vehicles, it jerks violently when upshifting and it takes several seconds to downshift manually. Moreover, if you don’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign, the gearbox will take a long time to reengage first gear. In normal conditions, however, it always manages to keep the engine at less than 2000 rpm.

To each his own

We can’t really declare a winner in this contest. Some will prefer the Fiat 500X for its style, while others will be deterred by the perception that the brand is unreliable (even though, to remind you, it is mechanically identical to the Renegade). Personally, I would have trouble deciding: I prefer the Fiat’s ride by far to that of the Jeep, but I like the Renegade’s look and outward visibility much more.

At the end of the day, the real winner is the dealership that sells both vehicles. It will definitely have something you will like!

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