THERE IS no doubt the launch of the compact Renegade SUV is a 'big thing' for Jeep - it is the first result of its Italian venture with Fiat and is its first step into this growing segment of the market.

It is also crucial to the company's success in the UK and, indeed, Europe.

The Renegade was recently launched in the centre of Edinburgh, which isn't the best place in the world to get out and about and test its many virtues, but it emphasises the point that this is more an urban than rural runabout, though I think that would be underselling its obvious talents in the field.

First off, it is quite a striking little car. It has presence and a bold outline that makes it look bigger than it actually is. It has, to my mind, such a 'cool look' (according to the youngsters in my family) that it certainly has within its grasp enough features to make it a cult buy amongst those in their 20s and 30s.

But its shape and its sit-off-the-ground stance, makes this look as if it could handle some pretty rough stuff - though you need to buy the 4 x 4 version for this.

"What?" I can almost hear from you the aghastness of the fact that Jeep has the temerity to produce a two-wheel-drive car of any kind. But they have and it starts with the Renegade, which is being built in a joint Fiat/Chrysler facility in Italy alongside the soon to be launched Fiat 500X, which will be a competitor.

That's to assuage the startling fact that almost all the compact SUVs now have a front-wheel-drive version for those who want the rural look, but without the fuel economy deficit brought on by driving all four wheels. It's a fact that quite often the Mokkas, Kugas, and Yetis, with which the Renegade will compete, are increasingly sold without four-wheel-drive.

That said, Jeep has opted for a dizzying array of engines and spec' levels that it is in danger of confusing potential buyers. There are, for instance, six engine choices courtesy of Fiat - a 109bhp 1.6-litre E-torQ petrol, two 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol turbocharged units of 138bhp and 168bhp, a 118bhp 1.6-litre turbo-diesel and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel giving either 138bhp or 168bhp. Allied to four gearbox options and your mind will go into a spin working out the model for you.

Transmissions are a five and six-speed manual, a six-speed semi-automatic and a conventional automatic with nine gears - the first vehicle of this nature to get such an auto 'box.

The four-wheel drive machines can be specified with or without a low-ratio.

Add, then, the four trim levels available - Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk (early customers get the choice of a fifth model, the Opening Edition) - and you add further confusion.

Although the Sport is the entry level, it still has a high level of spec'. Standard is a five-inch Uconnect touchscreen with a DAB radio and Bluetooth plus auxiliary and USB connectors, a 3.5-inch Electronic Vehicle Information Centre, air-conditioning, electric parking brake and 16-inch aluminium wheels.

But, for country users, the Trailhawk is the model with the most ability off-road. This comes with Jeep's Active Drive Low and Selec-Terrain system, with hill descent control and 'rock' mode. Its ride height is also raised by 30mm, compared to the 4x2 model and has chunky mud and snow tyres

The Trailhawk is also the only one to come with the 168bhp version of the 2.0-litre MultiJet II turbo diesel and the nine-speed automatic transmission - at least that took some choice out of it!

The 168bhp cars can go from 0-62mph in under nine seconds while the 148bhp diesel manual in under 10. Driving in and out of Edinburgh on the test certainly meant full use of the manual gearbox, which began to grow on me the more I drove it.

But if all that action is too much for you, the nine-speed auto is a peach of a gearbox which has already proven itself further up the Jeep food chain in the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.

It's quite fun to drive on the road and handles corners pretty well, despite the ride height and though I didn't have much opportunity to take it off road, the mechanics are there on certain models to allow you to do so with some confidence. The overhang both front and rear looks as though they could handle quite challenging terrain.

Inside, there's tonnes of room for the front pairing, though maybe not so comfy for those in the back. As these things go, it also has a generous luggage space of about 351 litres, which moves up to 1297 litres by folding down the rear seats. All have air-conditioning, but of different abilities depending on the trim chosen.

It's going to be fairly cheap to run. The combined fuel economy figures range from 40.9mpg for the 1.4 MultiAir 4x4 automatic, to 61.4mpg for the 1.6 diesel manual.

But, it's not going to be that cheap to buy. The 1.6 petrol Sport's £16,995 is the cheapest, but most of the expected big sellers will be well into the £20k mark - the highest being £27,995 for the Trailhawk, which is quite an eye-watering amount.

But, I think the Renegade will be a hit and I expect to see its funky and quirky good looks on many Scottish roads.