Of all vehicle brands, Jeep best represents off-road adventures with its current lineup of five purpose-built vehicles. Now Jeep has added a new wrinkle to its evolving portfolio with the 2016 Jeep Renegade. It’s the smallest Jeep and offers two engines, four-wheel drive, and, most important, Trail Rated capability.

Let’s explore 5 reasons to drive this unique small Jeep.

Reason #1: Jeep Style and Design

The Jeep Renegade is boxy and if you look closely, you can see Wrangler design in its DNA. It shares a platform with the Fiat 500X, but the boxy design immediately distinguishes the two vehicles. Where the Fiat 500X is round like the popular style of crossovers, the Renegade is boxy and features design that looks best wearing a Jeep badge.

Like the 500X, the Renegade competes for sales against the Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V. If you like the size of those vehicles, the Renegade is worth a closer look.

Reason #2: Two Engines and Two Transmissions

The Jeep Renegade’s base engine is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. It’s standard on the Sport and Latitude models. If you’re one of the select number of people who enjoy using and can handle a manual transmission, this is the powertrain for you.

If you seek more power, the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that makes 180 horses and 175 lb-ft of torque is where you should focus your attention. This engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly although it periodically struggles to find the right gear for the conditions. Overall, however, the smooth drive may make you entirely forget you’re driving a Jeep.

Reason #3: Up to 31 MPG on the Highway…in a Jeep

Though it shares the same powertrain as the Fiat 500X, the Jeep Renegade doesn’t quite match the Fiat’s fuel-economy ratings of up to 34 mpg on the highway. The Jeep Renegade still returns an impressive 31 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in the city if you’re driving the smaller 1.4-liter engine with front-wheel drive. That combo should average 27 mpg in combined driving. That’s excellent for the subcompact SUV class and outstanding for a Jeep.

The more powerful powertrain with four-wheel drive should average 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for a combined 25 mpg average. That should allow you to drive more than 300 miles on a tank of gas. I covered more than 600 miles of mostly highway driving in a four-wheel-drive Renegade with the 2.4-liter engine and averaged 26 mpg.

Reason #4: 2016 Jeep Renegade Starts at Only $17,995

The Jeep Renegade isn’t the least expensive Jeep you can buy. That honor falls to the Jeep Patriot at $17,595, but I recommend you steer clear of that vehicle. The Renegade starts at $17,995 for the base Sport model and rises to $26,745 for the Trailhawk model that is a legitimate off-road machine.

My test model was the 2016 Jeep Renegade Latitude model that starts at $23,295. The red paint job was sharp while the black and brown cloth seats were functional but not particularly memorable. It included a 5-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth, a backup camera, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Most important, my tester included the upgraded 2.4-liter engine and 17-inch wheels that added more power to the equation and $1,400 to the price. Throw in the $795 “Popular Equipment Group” that added power driver and passenger seats, dual climate control, 9-speaker audio system, plus a keyless entry system ($200) and remote start system (another $200) and a $995 delivery and handling fee, and my test model cost $26,980.

Reason #5: An Award-Winner

Though the Renegade was new for 2015, it quickly earned awards from a number of automotive publications. Kelly Blue Book awarded the Renegade the following accolades: “10 Favorite New-for-2015 Cars,” “10 Best All-Wheel Drive Vehicles Under $25,000,” “10 Tech Savviest Cars Under $25,000” and “10 Most Fun SUVs.” Meanwhile, Autoweek awarded the Renegade the “Editor’s Choice Award for Most Fun” and Wards Auto named it one of “Ward’s 10 Best Interiors for 2015.”

Renegade Is Rising in Popularity

Jeep drivers generally like larger and more powerful vehicles. That explains why the three biggest-selling Jeeps are the Cherokee, the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee. Through November 2015, the Renegade is the worst-selling Jeep of 2015. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that the Renegade — a vehicle that didn’t arrive in showrooms until April — is outselling the Compass and the Patriot, which puts it on track to the be the fourth best-selling Jeep in 2016.

That’s an impressive achievement and it appears Jeep has the right combination of affordability, Jeep capability and Jeep style in the new Renegade. Given the choice between the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade, I would choose the 500X simply because I prefer the styling. However, the Renegade looks like it will be a player in the coming years.

2016 Jeep Renegade photo copyright Waterdog Media, Inc.