New Jeep Avenger 2023 Review

Judgment

Based on this short drive, Jeep’s first truly European offering deserves to find customers. We suspect that the Avenger’s sweet spot may not be the fully loaded First Edition that drives here but overall this is a surprisingly practical and well-sorted small SUV, with enough technical and aesthetic differences to make it stand out in the market. And while purists may scoff at the idea of ​​a front-drive, all-electric SUV, Jeep’s engineers have done an excellent job of sewing in just enough of the brand’s go-anywhere spirit. Precious few small EV SUVs have charm, but you’ll find some of it here.

Europe has long had a love-hate relationship with Jeep. The brand is an American icon, and there is no doubt that what is essentially an SUV manufacturer should be well suited to market trends. And yet Jeep has often struggled to move the right number of its US-centric models here. That’s changing now, the company hopes, with the Avenger – a car engineered for Europe and designed for Europe, and one that will also be built here.

The Avenger is the smallest Jeep production model to date. It’s effectively a sister vehicle to the Peugeot 2008 and DS 3 – and it’ll be made in Poland alongside a couple more stablemates, upcoming baby SUVs from Alfa Romeo and Fiat. It goes on sale in a few weeks and deliveries aren’t expected until late spring 2023 – but Auto Express has been given early access to a very late prototype to see how it’s progressing.

The raw specs look promising enough on paper. The Avenger sits on a development of parent group Stellanti’s CMP platform, and for UK customers at least, it’s an electric car only. There will be four-wheel drive versions, we promised – there really needs to be to really deliver on Jeep’s brand values. But of course, the vast majority of sales are likely to be front-wheel-drive editions like the car we’re driving here. It has a single engine that produces up to 154bhp and 260Nm of torque, depending on which of the car’s modes you use.

There is a 54 kWh battery (51 kWh usable), consisting of 10 cell modules under the rear seat and seven under the front. You get a heat pump (handy) and three-phase AC charging (less practical for most UK buyers) as standard, and fast charging will max out at 100kW – enough, Jeep claims, to take the battery from 20 to 80 per cent charge in 24 minutes. The car weighs just over a ton and a half, and Jeep says it will be able to travel around 249 miles between charges – or 342 miles in stop-start city traffic that allows for more frequent braking energy recovery.

It certainly looks smart enough; the development of CMP has allowed for shorter overhangs (improving the car’s approach and departure angles to match the larger Jeep Renegade), and this and some neat design work around the wheel arches give the Avenger a more planted stance than other cars on the same architecture, despite having a similar width.

There’s a neat integration of Jeep’s seven-bay front grille – now flush to reflect the all-electric powertrain, while the side profile is pure Jeep, with a suitably abrupt drop at the C-pillar, and at the rear there’s a new version of the company’s ‘X “-taillights. Clever placement of the body cladding means that scratches in the parking lot are likely to damage gray plastic more than the painted bumpers or headlight units.

The overall effect is that of a properly chunky little off-roader, and one that extends beyond the compact 4.08m length (by way of comparison, Peugeot’s 2008 is a full 22cm longer).

The image looks to sell, and the good news is that the same can be said for the driving experience. Because this feels not only a thoroughly European creation (and it should, as it was engineered from Italy) but also a definite step beyond the original bunch of CMP models like the 2008 Vauxhall Mokka and DS 3. Within a hundred meters I will notice the difference in ride performance – what feels like a slightly softer initial set-up, but with slightly firmer damping holding things down on some of the rougher access roads at our base for the day, Stellanti’s Balocco test track.

The facility is known for its smooth asphalt and this is where the Avenger feels most at home. The steering is consistently weighted, with a pleasant heft, and it’s direct and quick enough to help you position the Jeep precisely. It does a good job of staying flat in corners and there’s adjustability in the chassis too; if you find the nose washing out in understeer – its natural, entirely predictable characteristic if you don’t behave – then a mid-corner lift can get it back in line. We’d like some road time for a definitive assessment, but we already suspect this car has a better mix of composure, comfort, control and coherence than many of its rivals – including some from Stellantis himself.

This sophisticated experience also depends on the calibration of the throttle in the Avengers’ three road-based driving modes. In Normal you have 107bhp and 220Nm of torque, and if you flick the switch between the front seats to go into Eco mode, those figures drop to 81bhp and 180Nm. In the default setting, there’s enough power for B-roads and motorways, and while the efficiency-focused mode feels a little sluggish on the expanses of the Balocco, the instant EV torque would probably still deliver enough pace in suburban traffic, should you want to get out of every miles of range possible.

That ability to carry speed through corners means you may need a whopping 154bhp and 260Nm in Sport mode less than you might imagine. The best thing to report is that if you demand maximum performance from the Avenger, key elements like pedal modulation and steering don’t lose their balance.

The new electric motor – developed as a joint venture between Stellantis and Nidec – is impressively refined, with almost no whine, even under hard acceleration. The Balocco’s compacted surface probably does the Avenger some favors in terms of rolling refinement, but even so there’s little carryover or road roar, and the worst sound we could detect at 60mph was a bit of wind noise around the wing mirrors.

We tried out one of the off-road modes in the meantime; “Mud” lets the front wheels spin a bit more than usual in an attempt to clear them of mud and find better grip. Our brief test on a puddle-strewn track was slightly less than the more extreme Jeep ‘Trail Rated’ fare, but it showed not only that the front drive can handle slippery, wet conditions, but also how the increased ride height lifts you over many ground obstacles that would thump rivals’ subfloors . Incidentally, the other modes are ‘Sand’ and ‘Snow’ – and there is also a hill control system.

It’s hard to say yet how realistic the 249-mile WLTP range will be, but after a couple of hours of winding the Avenger around Balocco on a chilly November morning, our car seemed on track to deliver around 220 miles. We can see how pushing the ‘B’ switch, to increase the level of energy recovery when lifting from 15kW to 45kW, would help the car travel comfortably further than this distance in town.

Inside, there’s a single spec infotainment system – a 10.25-inch affair that offers Android and Apple integration, along with TomTom navigation – and a digital dashboard that will measure the same size on posher versions and seven inches on lower editions . The central display has a nice interface and the system reacts quickly to screen presses. Extensions to the software’s functionality will also be accessible via smartphones, smartwatches and home assistants.

The dashboard is clean and nicely designed, with drive selector buttons replacing any kind of gear stick and, thankfully, conventional buttons for heating and ventilation – just what is required from a brand with functionality at its core. The finish throughout is smart and tasteful more than lavish, but there are enough body-coloured inserts to brighten the mood, and patterned textures where there might otherwise be bare gray plastic.

There’s room for four adults on board, with noticeably more rear knee and legroom than you’d find in the DS 3 or Mokka, although taller rear seat passengers may grumble a bit about middle seat headroom. The boot is a decent size, at 355 litres, and the adjustable floor has a washable material at the back, in case you use your Avenger to take your four-legged friend for walks.

We’re yet to see definitive UK specs and pricing for the Avenger but we already know customers here will be offered Jeep’s usual upper trim levels, Longitude and Limited. The more modest of the pair comes with full-LED headlights, keyless go, the full range of off-road modes, the smaller of the digital dashboards, electrically adjustable side mirrors, rear parking sensors and 16-inch alloy wheels.

The range will increase the wheel size to 17 inches and features the larger instrument panel, flashy front seats, adaptive cruise control and a power tailgate with hands-free gesture control.

European customers will be able to buy an entry-level version with 16-inch steel wheels, but there are currently no plans to bring it to the UK. However, British buyers will be able to cop the first edition, which gets 18-inch wheels, ambient lighting, a wireless smartphone charger, heated seats and windscreen, folding side mirrors and full-LED taillights.

Beyond these trim levels, Jeep plans a relatively simple offering based on option packages (examples include Tech, Winter and Seats), and a choice of seven colors. But customers will then be able to customize their cars further at their dealer, by applying graphics to everything from the front grill to the roof.

Model: Jeep Avenger First Edition
Award: £38,000 (estimated)
Motor/Battery: 1x e-motor, 51kWh (usable)
Power/Torque: 154 hp/260 Nm
Transfer: Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62 mph: 9.0 seconds
Top speed: 93 mph
Scope: 249 miles (WLTP)
Max charge: 100 kW DC (20-80% in 24 min)
For sale: January 2023

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