JEEP has revealed that it is considering a tiny SUV for Europe that would slot beneath the current Jeep Renegade.
Due around the end of this decade, it would attract younger and urban buyers to the American 4x4 fold, and would probably feature advanced lightweight tech such as Fiat’s TwinAir two-cylinder petrol powertrains to help keep those crucial CO2 emisssions down.
Speaking to the Aussie media at the LA Auto Show last week, the global head of Jeep, Mike Manley, admitted that his brand could not ignore the ongoing downsizing trends in more developed parts of the world such as in Europe and Japan.
“(A sub Renegade Jeep) is something that we’re looking at now,” he said. “In some markets we’re seeing a strong emergence of A [segment] or super-compact SUVs, and Europe is one, with all the German and French manufacturers piling into it.
“I think the time will come where we’ll need one of those as well.”
One scenario could see Jeep teaming up with Fiat to produce a rebodied and raised all-wheel drive version of the next-generation Fiat Panda sub-B city car, in the mould of the Panda Trekking sold briefly in Australia between 2013 and 2015. While that particular vehicle was front-drive, in Europe a 4x4 version is also available, featuring a full-time AWD system using two open differentials and a rear-mounted electronically controlled coupling to shuffle torque to whichever axle needs it.
Sounds just right for any future baby Jeep, then, especially as such a car would be of about 3.8m in length. And that would fit nicely in the carmaker’s ever-evolving line-up, which currently consists of the 4.2-metre long Renegade, 4.4m Compass (due in the final quarter of next year in Australia), 4.6m Cherokee and 4.8m Jeep Grand Cherokee. A 5.0m-plus Grand Wagoneer has also been announced for 2019.
Whether Jeep actually decides to sell a baby SUV in Australia remains to be seen, especially as the Renegade has yet to fire with just 847 sales year-to-date (compared to almost 15,500 buyers for the best-selling Mazda CX-3). The conspicuous failure of the Fiat Panda Trekking, which kicked off from $24,000 for a 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel at launch three years ago, must also still be a sore point for FCA.
No doubt it will be studying the spunky little Suzuki Ignis’ fortunes closely. To be released in Australia in the first quarter of next year, the 3.7m Japanese super-compact crossover will be powered by a 67kW 1.2-litre four-pot atmo unit, driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual or CVT transmission.
A huge hit in its home market, Suzuki expects big things from the Ignis in Australia as well. Watch this space. Jeep certainly is.