Before we start, let’s add some background, because Jeep isn’t quite the all-American brand it once was. Now a member of the giant Stellantis group (it also includes Fiat, Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall and Alfa Romeo, to name but a few), Jeeps are now mixed heritage. In fact, the Avenger is the first Jeep to be created outside of America. Not only was it designed in Italy, but it’s built in Poland and shares Stelantis’s e-CMP2 modular electric platform with the Peugeot e-2008, Vauxhall Mokka Electric and DS 3 E-Tense.
And just in case you’re wondering, this baby Jeep also inherits a name once familiar to British buyers. The Hillman Avenger family car (later Chrysler Avenger and Talbot Avenger) was manufactured in the UK between 1970-81. Stellantis owns the rights to the name thanks to various takeovers.
History lesson over. Now let’s focus on the all-new Avenger – a compact five-door SUV, it’s similar in size to the e-2008, Mokka Electric and DS 3 E-Tense, but a tad shorter.
A classic crossover shape with short overhangs and extra ground clearance, there’s also evidence of Jeep DNA with the signature seven-slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches, chunky silhouette, protective cladding and ‘X’ tail lights.
For launch, there’s just a single-motor front-wheel drive model available (there’s a 4×4 dual-motor version in the works) with 154bhp and 260Nm of torque.
Jeep claims the 54kWh battery is good for up to 249 miles of range (342 miles in city driving), while a 0-62mph sprint takes 9.6 seconds.
The Avenger’s 100kW maximum charging speed means a 10-80% top-up should take just under 30 minutes. And of course, it will charge fully overnight if you have a home wall box.
Inside, its tall, boxy shape means there’s ample headroom front and rear but it’s cosy in the back for passengers with longer legs. The Jeep Avenger’s 355-litre boot is useful, expanding to 1,053 litres with the back seats folded (that’s enough for 2,443 rubber ducks apparently!). Accessibility is good and it looks hard-wearing.
In the cabin itself, there was a little too much black plastic and hard surfaces for our liking, while the leather seats in our test car seemed very firm.
Up front, it’s funky and minimalist, though thankfully there are shortcut buttons under the 10.25-inch central touchscreen for necessities such as climate control and a homepage button. Naturally, there’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, plus a built-in TomTom sat-nav. Overall, the system isn’t class-leading but works well.
The first thing you notice behind the wheel is the high driving position, which most SUV drivers like, though we prefer the option to sit lower. That said, you soon adjust, and then it’s the usual silent and swift progress you’d expect in EV.
Even though the official acceleration time is nothing special, the instant torque makes it seem quicker. What’s more, there’s little road and wind noise to spoil the ambience on poorer surfaces or at higher speeds.
There are six driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, Sand, Mud and Snow. As ever, Normal is just fine, while Eco and Sport dull and boost throttle response.
We tried some brief soft-roading and detected improved traction when we selected Sand on a loose surface, but it was only slight.
We’d be interested to see how it copes in mud and snow but, ultimately, the four-wheel drive will be the model to go for if you want your Avenger to tackle more extreme conditions.
With hill descent control, short overhangs and generous ground clearance, plus 20 degrees of approach angle and 32 degrees of departure angle, it certainly has off-road potential.
Overall, the ride is a tad firm, but it’s nimble and handles well. Body lean is kept in check on twisty roads, while the steering is nicely weighted. Our only gripe is that there’s a lot of pedal travel before the brakes bite, denting your confidence to push on.
Brake regeneration kicks in when you take your foot off the accelerator, though it isn’t enough for ‘one-pedal driving’ and you can’t adjust the regen level via paddles behind the steering wheel. Instead, there’s a ‘B’ mode on the gear selector.
The Jeep Avenger is probably in its element in an urban environment. Not only is it easy to drive, but visibility is fine, there’s are a good selection of cameras and sensors, plus it has a fairly tight turning circle of 10.5 metres.
What’s more, there’s generous cladding around the car, which should repel most car park dings, while the headlights and rear light clusters are slightly recessed, so that there’s less chance of them being damaged too.
As ever with front-wheel drive EVs, the Avenger struggles for grip if you plant your right foot on loose or slippery surfaces, so just take it easy in the wet.
Starting at £35,700, there are three well-equipped trim levels (Longitude, Altitude and Summit) and there’s ample scope for personalisation thanks to various decals, body paints, contrasting ‘floating’ roof colours and accessories.
Based on our first drive on mixed roads, we’d estimate that the Avenger has a real-world range of around 200 miles, though this should increase in an urban environment.
Ultimately, the Jeep Avenger is an impressive debut EV from Jeep and will provide another welcome option in a fiercely competitive sector. Whether we’d say it’s the European Car of the Year is another matter.
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