HAVING been dragged back from the brink of bankruptcy by Fiat's intervention as recently as 2009 there can be little doubt that the Renegade is a crucial model for the future of Jeep - especially in Europe.
Launched in the UK just over a year ago, it is the brand's first entry into the fiercely competitive small SUV and crossover segment - taking on the likes of the Nissan Juke, Skoda's popular Yeti, the MINI Countryman and the closely-related Fiat 500X.
The Renegade relies on its distinctive Jeep looks and some serious off-road prowess to set it apart from the rest of this increasingly ubiquitous crowd.
Boxy, upright design, round headlights, squared off wheel arches and the familiar vertical-bar grille all conjure up images of the original Willys Jeep, first used by the US military in the forties.
And although two-wheel drive Renegades are available for those who face nothing more challenging than the school run and weekly shop, the brand's 4x4 heritage is very much in evidence in the range.
As the name suggests, the Trailhawk model I drove is aimed specifically at the go-anywhere brigade and offers plenty of extra features for tackling the rough stuff.
It comes exclusively with a 170ps version of Fiat's 2.0-litre MultiJet II turbo diesel power pack, paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, as well as Jeep's Active Drive Low and Selec-Terrain system with hill descent control.
This fully automatic 4x4 system switches between two and four-wheel drive as road and driving conditions dictate and also incorporates low-range gear ratios, diff locks and and a range of selectable bespoke settings for snow, mud, sand and rock.
Trailhawk models also feature 30mm extra road clearance over two-wheel drive models and specially shaped bumpers to tackle steeper approach angles while there is added protection on the car's underside and chunky mud and snow tyres.
The extra weight of the sophisticated 4x4 running gear has some effect on economy but average fuel consumption of nearly 48 miles per gallon is not bad given its capabilities and running costs certainly won't be crippling.
For those who don't stray off-road, two wheel-drive versions powered by a 1.6-litre diesel power pack have potential for up to 61mpg while 1.6-litre and 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol options are also available.
Despite its off-road focus, the Trailhawk is surprisingly pleasant, without being overly engaging, to drive on the black stuff.
The steering is well-weighted and precise, the ride comfortable and settled and that 4x4 system offers rock solid grip. The extra height means a little body roll in bends but overall the Trailhawk feels reassuringly stable on the road.
Inside the Jeep identity is diluted somewhat by some familiar Fiat design cues and a desire to make the cabin quirky - with angular, industrial shapes and two-tone trim as well as a comedy mud splatter instead of a red line on the rev counter and cheeky graphics on the information screen between the dials.
I actually thought that it added interest - but for some it may prove too much of an acquired taste.
There is plenty of personal storage space and room enough for four adults to get comfortable, five at a push, and while, at 351 litres, the boot is not huge it is practical and easy to use given the Renegade's boxy shape.
The split 60/40 rear seats fold down to extend the loadspace to 1,297 litres and the front passenger seat also folds forward to accommodate longer items.
Equipment levels are good across the board but this range-topper boasts dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, leather upholstery, 6.5-inch touchscreen interface with sat nav and Bluetooth, privacy glass, rear parking sensors and stability control.
You do pay a premium for the Trailhawk's off-road capabilities, at more than Â£28,000, but the range starts at a much more competitive Â£17,295 for a two-wheel drive 1.6-litre petrol model.