SUV stands for sport utility vehicle, but in the world of compact crossover SUVS the actually utility is limited. Even the sport part is almost nonexistent in the lineup, but the ability to travel on trails and take on the challenges of the outdoors certainly has most of the vehicles in this segment unable to actually do more than travel down and unpaved road. These “posers” of the SUV world include the Mazda CX-3, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and Nissan Juke along with many more, leaving us with two that actually do the segment proud in their off road performance which are the Jeep Renegade and the Subaru Crosstrek.
To start with, anything with the Jeep name attached to it should be able to perform well off the paved roads. The Renegade comes in a variety of builds including the Trailhawk which allows it to be an extremely aggressive off road vehicle. The ground clearance for the Renegade comes in at 8.7 inches and the Trailhawk offers a thirty degree approach angle and a 34.3 degree departure angle to be more than just a little capable when challenged with rocks, trees, roots and slopes that you might find along the trails in the mountains.
This trail riding vehicle comes in with AWD that actually acts a lot like a four-wheel drive low setup. Even though the Renegade is equipped with a nine-speed automatic transmission, the vehicle is setup smart enough to treat the first gear as the low gear and give it a 20:1 ratio. There are even several different off road modes with make for a much better drive that offers a significant improvement in stability and control to offer the best performance possible. In the world of compact crossover SUVs the only real challenger is the Subaru Crosstrek.
The Crosstrek is an SUV that offers a look which is shorter than the Renegade and is built for trekking through the mud and trails in a forest rather than crawling over the rocks. As a shorter vehicle the Crosstrek offers a lower driver position but does have the same ground clearance as the Renegade. Unfortunately when put up against the Trailhawk version of the renegade the angles of approach and departure for the Crosstrek are not anywhere as steep as those on the Renegade which makes this a trail rider that is capable and a lot of fun but not one you want to try going over large boulders with.
One of the greatest benefits of the Crosstrek is the full time AWD system that is aboard nearly every Subaru model, but when put up next to the Renegade this is not a major positive because this system doesn’t have the low gear setting because this vehicle uses a CVT instead of a traditional transmission. Does this mean the Crosstrek is a poor performer when it comes to off roading? Not at all; in fact this vehicle is much more capable than those posers mentioned previously to be a great off road choice for those of you who love the trails.
Which one should you choose? The Renegade is made for the outdoors and unpaved areas which means it gives you a harsher ride on the pavement, which is where you spend most of your time. Because of the CVT and lower profile the Crosstrek performs well on the road and still handles trails with ease to be a great ride where you do most of your driving. Certainly this is a difficult choice, but if you see yourself heading to Utah to try your hand at Moab, the Jeep is the one you want by your side.