Jeep Avenger review: its first all-electric model just might also be one of its best

Jeep Avenger car electric battery review test drive exterior front
Jeep Avenger car electric battery review test drive exterior front

Avenger? Surely that was the badge on Hillman’s rival to the Ford Cortina in the Seventies, the first and last car to be designed under US giant Chrysler’s takeover of the Rootes Group in 1967. It became the Talbot Avenger and soldiered on to 1981 and the name was disinterred in the Nineties on the back of a Dodge, which is a Chrysler-owned marque, before finally going to that great vendetta in the sky in 2014.

But the thankless task of coming up with genuinely new car names, not to mention the parlous cost, means that few manufacturers let their old car names slumber for long, and now Avenger has been dusted down and glued to the back of Jeep’s first all-electric model, a small family SUV, which debuts in the UK next summer priced from about £34,000.

This B-segment sector is Europe’s largest new-car market, occupying about 20 per cent of total sales and it divides roughly half and half into large and small models. The Avenger fits into the smaller sector, though at just over 4 metres long it isn’t really small at all. To be precise this new Jeep is 4,084mm long, 1,776mm wide and 1,528mm wide on a 2,562mm wheelbase. It weighs 1,536kg and carries four in comfort and five at a push. It doesn’t have a quoted towing weight so trailer owners should look elsewhere as we won’t be getting the 1.2-litre petrol model.

The Avenger is the first of four new battery-electric Jeeps arriving before 2025. The others are a Cherokee, a lower-riding and smoother Wagoneer and a small Wrangler-like model called Recon. At the Paris motor show, Jeep also showed a 4x4 version of the Avenger.

Jeep Avenger car electric battery review test drive exterior rear
Jeep Avenger car electric battery review test drive exterior rear

I’m not sure what to make of the styling; for a Jeep it appears to have been touched by the wand of blandness, although in this generally drab class of cars it’s quite a looker. Standout rivals include Ford’s Puma, but that’s not available in pure battery form. The smart money rival is the Chinese-produced MG4 at around £28,000 for a longer range and a larger battery, although from some angles it resembles a crashed spaceship.

Vital statistics are a pretty standard lithium-ion NMC battery with 102 cells from CATL, with an energy capacity of 54kWh giving a WLTP Combined range of 249 miles. The platform is Stellantis’s eCMP 2 which is the second-generation battery chassis and the electric motor is the latest 154bhp/184lb ft version of the permanent magnet AC unit driving the front wheels. Fast charging capability is up to 100kW DC and the Avenger has an 11kW onboard charger. Charge times range from 24 minutes for a 20 to 80 per cent fill on a 100kW DC fast charger to eight hours on a 7.4kW home wallbox.

Intimate interior

The Jeep feels compact and intimate, but far from cramped. In the front seat the passenger sits quite close to the driver, but their elbows won’t clash. Switches are sensitive and easily identified. The graphics on the touchscreen and instrument binnacle are nicely realised but not flashy, although the indicator repeater sounds like a frog trapped in a box. In the rear, there’s head and leg room to spare for a six-footer, and the bench seat is well stuffed and comfortable.

This is the First Edition model of the Avenger, but there’s a refreshing lack of every option being thrown at it, as is usually the way with these things. Seats are still manually adjusted and there’s a pleasing mechanical operation about everything apart from that dreaded extra for SUVs, the creaking motorised tailgate.

Jeep Avenger 2022 rear seats
Jeep Avenger 2022 rear seats

The rear seat backs fold 60/40 per cent on to their bases and with the boot floor in its highest setting the load bed is virtually flat. The load area is hardly massive at 380 litres, but it’s a useful space at least one metre wide, though it’s 720mm off the ground so old dogs beware.

There’s evidence of being built to a price, such as the recycled cat-fur load cover and the shiny plastic dashtop, but it doesn’t completely assuage a feeling of being well-built and thoughtfully designed. The charcoal-coloured plastic body sides, for example, hark back to the days when Renault hadn’t worked out how to paint the plastic on its Seventies R5, but they also make the Avenger multi-storey car park proof; Jeep estimates that could amount to up to £1,000 saved in patch-up paint and dent repair during a lifecycle. Yes, you could learn to park better, but what about the other guy?

Jeep Avenger car electric battery review test drive interior
Jeep Avenger car electric battery review test drive interior

On the road

The systems engage without fuss and the Avenger is ready to drive away in a couple of seconds. The accelerator feels progressive and it’s easy to pull away gently even on a slope. Braking control is very progressive even down to a standstill, and on a fairly seriously broken-up track down the Alpes Maritime, it was possible to trickle down with ease with the regenerated current flowing back into the battery cells.

Entry-level (in the UK, at least) Longitude trim gets hill descent control, which should get you off a grassy slope, but I wouldn’t want to tackle much more than that in the front-drive Avenger despite its Sand, Mud and Snow driving modes. Jeep was keen to show us how the braking-based traction control systems would allow the vehicle to make progress when cross axled (one driving wheel in the air) on a series of perforated steel ramps.

Jeep Avenger 2022 review off-road
Jeep Avenger 2022 review off-road

Unfortunately, nature doesn’t always provide such well calculated tests of the car’s abilities. With 200mm of ground clearance (230mm of safe fording depth) and short body overhangs which give decent entry and departure angles coming on and off slopes, this Jeep should go where they’ve built a road or even a decent track, but it’s not been near the infamous Sierra Nevada Rubicon Trail in testing and consequently doesn’t carry the company’s legendary Trail Rating.

The 17 modules of the battery pack sit on top of the steel underplate and are grouped mainly under the seats so the footwells are clear and seat heights are lower as a result. It’s a neat system and makes you wonder why we’ve become so obsessed with mounting the battery packs in a flat plate under the floor and then sitting on top of them. It also allows Jeep to equip the Avenger with a cheaper but slightly technically inferior twist beam rear axle to go with its MacPherson strut-suspended front.

That electric motor gives the car quite brisk, but not tyre-shredding performance. On a 42-mile route driving briskly up to almost 1,000 metres above sea level and then down again, the battery range looked to be about 217 miles against the claimed 249, although the standard heat pump heater wasn’t switched on and overall speeds were quite modest.

Out on well-surfaced roads in Normal drive mode, the Avenger flows neatly from bend to bend, and body roll is well contained but not at the cost of too much side-to-side pitching. Even on the 18-inch wheels of First Edition the ride is supple and only moderately crashing over sharp-edged bumps and pot holes. This feels like a well-worked compromise; agile without being overtly stiff. The steering is a little over assisted but the small (10.5-metre) turning circle and quite speedy steering-rack ratio helps create an impression of wieldiness, especially around town. That, and the compact dimensions and straight-sided body sides make it quite easy to place.

Jeep Avenger car electric battery review test drive exterior
Jeep Avenger car electric battery review test drive exterior

Drive a bit faster and the Avenger shows a certain reluctance to turn into a corner which is right and proper for a family car, but once in the corner the steering is responsive enough, and the handling is confidence inspiring. Overall, the Avenger really does feel more than just adequate; in fact, it feels like someone has spent much time and love calibrating the drivetrain and dynamics.

The Telegraph verdict

This market, while strong, is notoriously inured to badge envy, so while Jeep gets people interested it doesn’t necessarily get their wallets out. A basic warranty of three years doesn’t help in this respect when you are asking people to take a punt on something all new, and plenty of rivals from Kia, Hyundai, MG and Renault have much longer standard warranties.

That’s the bad news. The good is that the Avenger is a nicely engineered and finished battery vehicle that will suit a lot of folk right down to the ground. I’d be interested in what the 4x4 is like to drive, but as a suburban run-around with the capability of going to see far flung relatives, it will do nicely.

The facts

On test: Jeep Avenger

Body style: five-door B-segment SUV

On sale: Summer 2023

How much? £34,000 to £39,000 depending on spec

How fast? 93mph, 0-62mph in 9sec

How economical? 4.6 miles per kilowatt hour (WLTP Combined)

Electric powertrain: 54kWh (gross) 51kWh (net) lithium-ion NMC battery, permanent magnet synchronous AC motor, front-wheel drive; 11kW onboard charger (100kW DC capable)

Charge times: 24min 20-80% on 100kW DC fast charger, 8 hours for 100% on 7.4kW home wallbox

Electric range: 249 miles (WLTP Combined)

Maximum power/torque: 154bhp/184lb ft

CO2 emissions: 0g/km (in use without charging), 26.1g/km inc charging

VED: £0

Warranty: 3 years; battery guaranteed to maintain 70% of its charge capacity for up to 8 years and 100,000 miles

Spare wheel as standard: no (not available)

The rivals

Kia Niro EV

from £36,245

Kia Niro EV 2022
Kia Niro EV 2022

The latest version has full-on SUV looks, although its predecessor was claimed not to be an SUV. It’s still the go-to model among EV family hatchbacks, with a 285-mile range from the 64.8kWh battery. It’s well built and reasonably equipped even in the lowest ‘2’ spec and, in this iteration, it rides and handles reasonably.

MG4 SE long range

from £28,495

MG4 EV 2022
MG4 EV 2022

While the range starts at £25,995 for the SE with a 51kWh battery and 218-mile range, this long-range model is a fairer (if much cheaper) comparison, with its 64kWh battery delivering 281 miles of range and 0-62mph in 7.9sec. Drives really nicely, with a fine combination of ride and handling. Its looks will take more getting used to, as will its pretty awful software interface and touchscreen, but that goes for others, too. And think what you could do with the almost £7,500 you’d save in buying the MG.

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