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First drive: 2023 Jeep Avenger. Image by Jeep.

First drive: 2023 Jeep Avenger
Can the all-electric Avenger put Jeep back on the map in terms of European sales?

   



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2023 Jeep Avenger

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Here comes the Jeep Avenger! Whatís it here to avenge? Why, Jeepís relatively lowly ranking in the UK sales charts, thatís what. Up to the end of March, Jeep had logged a mere 1,000 sales in the UK, behind the likes of Jaguar, Polestar, and Lexus and way, way behind its biggest rival, Land Rover. Can the Avenger avenge that figure? Well, maybe ó itís about as zeitgeisty as a car can be, tapping into the twin demands for electric cars and compact crossovers. It uses the same platform as the existing Peugeot e-2008 and Vauxhall Mokka-e, but itís the first car from the vast Stellantis Group to go on sale with the new 54kWh battery and 156hp electric motor that allow it to promise a 250 mile range ó up by 50 miles on the older 50kWh battery. Itís also the first step on Jeepís road to becoming an all-electric brand by 2030 (in Europe at least), and itís already been awarded the European Car Of The Year trophy. But whatís it actually like?

Test Car Specifications

Model: Jeep Avenger Summit
Price: £39,600 (Avenger starts from £35,700)
Motor: 115kW electric motor
Battery: 54kWh (51kWh net) lithium-ion
Transmission: single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 156hp (system total)
Torque: 260Nm (system total)
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: 250 miles (WLTP)
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Top speed: 93mph
Boot space: 380-1,250 litres

Styling

Jeep's styling team has hit the nail on the head. There might be Peugeot and Vauxhall bones under the Avenger's skin, but you'd never know it. The stance, the styling, the whole thing just screams classic Jeep. It's also, rather neatly, the smallest car that Jeep has built since the original Second World War Willys MB (which was properly tiny at just 3.3-metres long) and with a kerb weight of 1,500kg it's far from the heaviest EV around. In fact, it's actually about 100kg lighter than the new electric Renault Megane, which might be useful to know the next time someone accuses you of buying a wasteful SUV.

Aside from the general sense of go-anywhere chunkiness, there are some very nice styling touches. The headlights are counter-sunk into the front bodywork, which offers them a little more protection from unintended bashes and smashes (have you seen the price of replacing an LED headlight unit?). Ditto the foglights and reflectors, while that plastic bash plate under the nose genuinely is functional, and it has its colour baked into the plastic at moulding time to make it scratch resistant.

The traditional Jeep seven-slot grille, which is no longer really a grille of course, can also be modded with off-roady logos and artwork, and you can have one or more of the slots contrast coloured if you like. Speaking of colour, there are some nice options, such as the 'Sun' yellow and 'Lake' green although let's face it, most people will go for the more predictable 'Granite' metallic grey. Even so, it's a smart looking car, with tonnes of kerb-side appeal.

Interior

The Avenger's interior is a little more mixed than the exterior. There's a fascia panel that runs almost the full width of the cabin and can be optionally contrast coloured, and that adds a lot of personality and vibrancy to the inside. It's a shame that brighter colours tend to reflect annoyingly in the side mirrors.

The central 10.25-inch touchscreen is a good one, with a mostly simple menu layout and nice crisp, clear graphics. Optionally you can have disco-style LED mood lighting strips, which look good, and the driver's digital instrument screen is equally good. Mind you, it's not quite as versatile as some other instrument screens, and while our Summit-spec test car had big 10.25-inch screen, basic models get a less appealing seven-inch unit.

There are also some rather-too-cheap plastics about the place, especially on the door cards, while the overly-chunky steering wheel centre doesn't look quite classy enough. Still, we like the push-button automatic gear selector and we'll praise Jeep's people to the rafters for insisting on proper physical air conditioning controls. The front seats are excellent, too.

Practicality

Practicality is actually a bit of a mixed bag for the Avenger. There are good points ó the boot, at 380-litres with the rear seats up, is at least decent (if not exceptional) for the class. Meanwhile, the lack of a traditional gear selector means that thereís space in the centre console for a large storage area, which has a neat magnetised iPad-cover-style lid, which folds back. That storage box is big enough to hold a small backpack. The door bins in the front are not massive, but theyíll hold a medium-sized bottle of water, and there are well-sized cupholders and a small-but-useful storage area under the front armrest.

Overall space up front is fine, but taller drivers might find that the relatively low-set roof makes the cabin feel tighter than it really is. That effect is magnified in the back, where the low roof, small windows, and chunky C-pillar make it quite dark and oppressive for those in the rear. Kids wonít like it at all, we suspect. Legroom, if youíre trying to put adults in the back, is marginal, and because this platform still supports internal combustion models, thereís a vestigial transmission hump in the back, which robs foot room if youíre trying to get three people sitting across the back seat. There are also no rear door bins at all, but at least you do get decent seat-back pockets. Thereís only one USB socket in the rear, though ó those up front get two.

Performance

The Avengerís performance, with its new 156hp electric motor driving the front wheels (and the front wheels only for now ó a more off-road focused 4XE model arrives next year) is more sufficient than spirited. Given that this motor has an extra 20hp over the old one used by the e-2008 and Mokka-e, you might have expected more, but then you look at the torque figure of just 260Nm, which is hardly going to rock your world.

Performance is also dependent on which driving mode youíre in. If youíve selected Eco mode ó and in an EV where youíre trying to stretch the range, why wouldnít you? ó the electric motor is restricted to just 80hp, while in Normal mode it only has 110hp. To get the full 156hp, and 260Nm, you have to be in Sport mode. In fairness, the Avenger feels sufficiently lively when you do that, and itís quite content to cruise comfortably in either of the other modes.

More importantly, its range on a full charge seems like a realistic one. 250 miles is a good distance to squeeze out of a 54kW battery, and the Avengerís standard-fit heat-pump for the air conditioning system helps here. Now, our test drive was in warm, pleasant weather and we didnít spend too much time on motorways, so a long-haul drive in a UK winter might well produce different results, but we found that the 250 mile figure seemed broadly realistic, and after a brisk drive on a hilly test route, the dashboard was showing 200 miles remaining on an 80 per cent charge. If those figures can be replicated every day, the Avenger is sitting pretty.

That said, itíll only charge at 100kW on a rapid DC charger, which isnít brilliant, although with a relatively small battery itís not too bad. However, the 11KW maximum charge on AC power is behind what Renault and Nissan can offer.

Ride & Handling

Are you expecting a compact, electric Jeep to handle like a sports car? Good, because it doesnít. That said, the Avengerís steering is sharper and more incisive than you might imagine. Itís not full of feel and feedback or anything, but itís quick, free from friction, and feels good through a corner. Thereís plenty of grip, and decent traction when you need to put your foot down out of a tight corner or junction. Sport mode sharpens up all the responses, but thereís no adaptive suspension yet, so thereís no real difference to how it scuttles around corners.

Around town, where the Avenger is more likely to be driven, itís pretty good ó the tight dimensions mean that itís easy to slot through gaps and into parking spaces, and aside from a slightly chunky windscreen pillar, forward visibility is good. Itís not so good out the back, but thereís a rear parking camera to help with that. The ride quality is smooth when youíre out on main and country roads, and just feels a touch firm when you get back into town.

What about off-road? Well, in theory the Avenger shouldnít be too shabby. Jeep has raised it up (compared with its Peugeot and Vauxhall cousins) to give it a very respectable 200mm of ground clearance, and the front and rear slope angles are competitive with Ďproperí off-roaders. Of course, the lack of a driven rear axle is, for now, a limitation but there are ó as standard ó adjustable off-road modes for sand, rocks, mud, and snow so you might get further than you think. Along a bumpy, rocky gravel track the Avenger coped with ease where a conventional hatchback or small crossover might have struggled just a little, but that terrain did expose one limitation ó short springs. Without the usual height and bulk of a more traditional Jeep, the suspension clatters and bangs into its bump stops when the going gets really tough.

Value

This is a bit of a moving target. After all, how much as Tesla cut its prices by today? The Avenger's £35,700 starting price for a Longitude model is reasonable enough, and you get the big 10.25-inch infotainment screen, the driving modes, climate control, LED headlights and 16-inch alloys as standard. Our pricier Summit model would cost you £39,600 and comes with the bigger digital instruments, 18-inch wheels, a powered tailgate, and all-round parking sensors as standard. Those prices aren't wildly out of line, but you have to remember that you could have a roomier MG ZS Long Range for £32,995. Equally, if you're looking at a Summit version, the basic Tesla Model 3 costs just £3,000 more and has vastly more range and cabin space.

Verdict

For a first try at an all-electric vehicle, Jeep's new Avenger is pretty good. True, it's pricey compared to some others and hardly the roomiest car around, but it's sweet to drive, great to look at, and surprisingly decent when the road runs out.



Neil Briscoe - 2 May 2023



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2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.

2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.2023 Jeep Avenger Summit. Image by Jeep.








 

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