Close your eyes and imagine an SUV. If your image of an SUV approximates to something like the original Hummer, you might want to reevaluate your knowledge base. While the Hummer and similar large SUVs certainly have their place, the SUV of today is a little more city and a lot less country. Although it sounded implausible just 10 years ago during the crossover boom, tiny SUVs have carved out a highly-competitive market in an area previously occupied by sedans and hatchbacks. Sub-compact SUVs are now offered by almost every brand and span the gamut from spartan to luxurious. The final decision for many sub-compact buyers will come down to 2019 Ford Ecosport vs 2019 Jeep Renegade. These two SUVs come from respected manufacturers and, despite their foreign origins, are perfect for American urban and suburban customers. How will they compare when pitted against each other? We take a look at the facts and figures to see which cute ‘ute buyers should be parking in their driveway.
The definition of a proper SUV has changed drastically since the original Willy’s Jeep of World War II. Up until the turn of the century, SUVs remained largely boxed-in as bulky 4X4s. Since then, the market has expanded to small SUVs and car-based crossovers. Now, sub-compact SUVs, which are far more similar to a Ford Focus than a Ford Expedition, offer city-dwellers the utility of an SUV with the gas mileage of a compact car.
As consumer preference has moved towards SUVs, the auto industry has responded in kind. SUVs are expected to make up 50% of all light-duty vehicle sales by 2020, a figure that just 10 years ago was nearly unfathomable. But in the last 10 years, crossovers have taken over as the standard bearer for this SUV class – the vast majority of SUVs available today either ride on a car chassis or share an architecture with a sedan. It’s only natural that the sub-compact class would emerge out of this changing landscape.
The value proposition for sub-compact SUVs is basically the same as it is for sub-compact sedans: a smaller version of a large vehicle. This means that sub-compact SUVs offer less legroom and less cargo space than their bigger brethren while achieving much better fuel economy and costing far less. If you want an SUV that will easily get 30+ miles per gallon while starting at less than $25,000, this is the class for you. The Ford Ecosport and Jeep Renegade fit seamlessly into the mold of the sub-compact SUV – they are the cheapest SUVs offered by their respective manufacturers and are also the smallest by a wide margin.
The Ford Ecosport spent its first 15 years in markets across the world; it first appeared in South America in 2003 before moving to Europe and Asia in 2013. The vehicle finally made its way to the US in 2018. The Ecosport currently comes in four different trims: S, SE, Titanium, and SES. This cute ‘ute was able to immediately transfer its international success into domestic sales, coming just short of 55,000 units sold in its first year.
The Jeep Renegade also has foreign roots and is the first Jeep product not made in the US to be sold here. Although manufactured in China and Brazil as well, most Renegades are assembled in Italy alongside its Fiat cousin, the 500X. Unlike the Ecosport, which was the first sub-compact SUV offered by Ford, the Renegade was created to replace the compact Jeep Patriot. Buyers can choose from six different trims on the Renegade: Sport, Upland, Latitude, Altitude, Limited, and Trailhawk. The Renegade has been very successful, hovering around the 100,000-unit mark for the last three years.
Unlike their full-size and mid-size counterparts, sub-compact SUVs are not built for loads of power and torque. Instead, these runabouts focus on agility and fuel efficiency. Despite this, both the Ecosport and Renegade will give you confidence when merging and a small dose of fun when hitting twisty roads.
The S, SE, and Titanium Ecosports all come standard with a 123 horsepower 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine with start/stop technology mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Those who want more power can upgrade to the 2.0-liter I-4 engine, which also comes with start/stop technology. This motor is standard on SES models and is also paired with a six-speed auto.
The base engine for the Renegade is a 160 horsepower 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder mill that can be paired with a nine-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Moving up the ladder is 2.4-liter four-cylinder good for 180 horsepower and available only with the nine-speed auto. Although the Renegade offers more power than the Ecosport, it lacks modern technology like a start/stop feature. This round goes to the Ecosport.
Good fuel efficiency is in the DNA of the Renegade and Ecosport – their diminutive size combined with low-horsepower engines to produce sedan-like economy. Ecosport drivers who choose the 1.0-liter engine with get a combined 28 miles per gallon. Customers of 2.0-liter I-4 will see 23/city and 29/highway splits for a combined 26 miles per gallon.
The Renegade will get 31 miles per gallon highway with both the 1.4-liter and 2.4-liter engines. When it comes to city mileage, the 1.4-liter will get 24 mpg while the 2.4-liter hits 22 mpg. This round goes to the Renegade, which gets better fuel economy out of bigger engines.
The Ecosport and Renegade both offer the state-of-the-art features you would expect to find in 2019 – large touchscreen infotainment systems, a full suite of safety features, and smartphone compatibility. Two of the Ecosport’s features separate it from the Renegade, however. With FordPass Connect, Ecosport drivers can turn their vehicle into a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot perfect for keeping the driver and passengers connected to the world. With the FordPass smartphone app, drivers can:
- Receive key vehicle info and schedule service
- Use FordPay to conveniently pay for service
- Compare fuel prices at stations along your route
- Find, reserve and pay for parking ahead of time
To put it simply, the Ecosport provides a level of connectivity that the Renegade can’t muster.
Price and Warranty
For starting price, a base Renegade or Ecosport will both come in below $20,000, at $18,750 and $19,590 respectively. It’s important to note, however, that any Renegade with an automatic transmission will top $20,000. On the other side of the range, a range-topping Ecosport SES will come out around $28,375. A fully-loaded Renegade Trailhawk will top out at $33,195. The winner here is the Ecosport. It offers a lower starting price when you include the automatic transmission and also tops out below $30,000. While some Jeep enthusiasts may jump at a $33,000 Renegade, you can get a much larger and more capable SUV for that money.
When it comes to warranties, both vehicles offer the same packages. New Ecosport and Renegade owners would get 3 years/36,000 miles basic and 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain.
Truth be told, both the compact SUVs are excellent choices. Both are quality vehicles made by respected manufacturers. Both have attractive combinations of features that appeal to slightly different buyers. What we covered here is by no means the exhaustive list of standard or available features for either vehicle. However, based on the attributes examined here, the Ford Ecosport is the better SUV. Despite many shared attributes with the Renegade, its better tech and price point seal the deal. Perhaps we are allowing a bit of our favortism toward Ford shine through, but what can we say – The proof is in the results.