The Jeep Avenger is that rare thing; an instantly appealing package. It’s probably for that reason it’s been named European Car of the Year 2023, something proudly proclaimed with a sticker on the rear screen.
It’s all the more remarkable because the Avenger shares so much of its underpinnings with its half-siblings in the vast Stellantis group, most of which have been out for a while – ie Peugeot e-2008, Citroen e-C4, DS 3 E-Tense, Vauxhall Mokka Electric and Fiat 600. Also worthy of the attention of the small electric SUV buyer are the new Smart #1 and forthcoming Volvo EX30.
It’s getting crowded in this market segment, but the Jeep remains a highly competitive contender in its field (and that probably hasn’t been said since Jeeps were chasing the Wehrmacht through the Ardennes).
It doesn’t represent any great technological breakthrough, it’s probably a bit on the slow side (almost 10 seconds to get to 60mph), and it won’t turn that many heads. It is simply a fine package that strikes all the right compromises. That’s more of an achievement than you might assume.
As the judges note: “The Jeep Avenger has proved to be a perfect combination for most uses: it is compact and agile for city use, has enough power and torque to navigate any kind of road, and a good range even for medium-range trips. Even though it’s just 4.08 metres long, there’s plenty of room inside. It is a complete car, not a city car. But above all, it has a design that rocks”.
It feels like the right size, for one thing, for very many buyers. There’ll come a point when the world’s car makers coalesce around a sweet spot for various types of electric cars and the Jeep Avenger may well define it for small models. It’s big enough, efficient enough, tall enough, to accommodate the necessary battery pack to allay “range anxiety” (which is still “a thing”) but still small enough to make sense on our overcrowded roads.
A range of around 240 miles should be sufficient for most people on most journeys (but always remember that with battery elective vehicles, or BEVs, how far you can go on a given charge is heavily dependent on driving style and the ambient temperature, and much more so than with an internal combustion engine.
Jeep Avenger Summit
Price: £41,375 (as tested; range starts at £27,600)
Drivetrain: Single electric motor, powered by battery pack
Top speed: 93mph
Fuel economy: 4.2m/kWh
CO2 emissions: 0
On the other hand, the instant readouts of the remaining range are usually very accurate. The interior space of this Jeep is adequate for four adults (theoretically it can seat five), and the boot is wide and reasonably deep. Given Jeep’s utilitarian image it would have been nice to see the front and rear seats folding completely flat for safe carriage of longer loads, I have to say. It just takes the edge off its versatility.
Disappointingly too, given the marque’s heritage, the Avenger doesn’t yet come with an all-wheel drive option (rumoured to arrive next year, along with a petrol-engined variant), but you do get an automatic hill-descent control plus special settings for sand, mud and snow – surfaces that can be especially tricky for electric vehicles because of their high torque.
The Avenger is very much a wheel-at-each-corner type of design, which means that it has good ground clearance for off-road use, and it helps with the roadholding too (a 20-degree approach angle, 20-degree breakover angle, 32-degree departure angle and 200mm ground clearance, to be precise).
It’s attractive enough, as well. Bright colours suit its exuberant personality, and bits of the cabin are “painted” in the same colour as the bodywork, reflecting an older era of more basic motoring. The frontal styling has the traditional Jeep look of round headlamps, plain grille and seven vertical slats, though more square-looking these days. Around the sides they’ve given it a kind of “finned” look that’s more reminiscent of Citroen and DS. It’s not jarring at all, but a bit strange to borrow another brand’s look.
On the road you can be reminded of just how comfortable Jeep’s Peugeot-inspired platform is, and on a par with larger cars with more prestigious badges. There’s a bias towards a soft ride, which helps if it ever goes off-road, and it’s a very pleasant way to take a long journey.
The gear selection and major controls are easily accessible with proper buttons, dials and switches, on the dash and via the steering wheel. Regretfully there’s no “head up display” where, say, speed, warnings and satnav directions are projected onto the windscreen – more of a valuable safety than a gimmick in my view.
Jeep has never been all that happy at this compact end of the market, and this is the first all-electric product it’s launched. The MG ZS remains the BEV SUV value choice, while the Hyundai and Kia products are generally more efficient, but, as I say, the Avenger has all-round ability and a likeable personality.
For those of us who have a soft spot for the marque – it does have a great history – it’s a very welcome arrival indeed and should help secure its distinctive figure. The Avenger deserves to do well.