Is this Avenger EV the car to save Jeep? Jonathan Crouch decides.
Ten Second Review
The Avenger is Jeep's first all-electric model, a small, fashionable contender that unlike most of its competitors is a bit more SUV than Crossover. Virtually all the Stellantis Group engineering here we've seen before, but it's been delivered with a distinctively Jeep vibe.
The first-ever all-electric Jeep represents a key milestone for the brand as it aims to become a world leader in Zero Emissions SUVs. The Avenger, not a name we've seen since the Hillman and Chrysler saloons of the Seventies, is the first of the brand's EVs, the smallest Jeep ever made and a fresh entry point into the company's product range. Two larger EVs will follow it - the luxury Wagoneer S and the off-road focused Recon - as part of what will be a four-strong line-up of Jeep EVs by 2025, with the whole range fully electric by 2030.
The Avenger sits on the same ECMP2 platform as Stellantis Group crossover cousins like the Peugeot e-2008, the DS3 E -TENSE and the Vauxhall Mokka-e, but here that chassis has been adapted for greater ground clearance and a little more off road prowess, even though the car will primarily be sold in front-driven form. It's built at the Group's high-efficiency plant in Tychy, Poland and is positioned just below the familiar Renegade in the Jeep line-up.
For most Avengers, forward motion comes from a single 154bhp electric motor with 260Nm of torque mounted on the front axle and powered by a 54kWh battery. When fully charged, this offers a range of 249 miles. Expect slightly less than that for the forthcoming 4WD version, which adds a further motor on the rear axle. Italy and Spain also get a 1.2-litre turbo petrol model, but unfortunately we won't see that here.
Despite the fact that the Avenger is primarily a front-driven design, Jeep is positioning it as the off-road champion of the EV market's growing SUV B segment. There's a higher ride height (minimum 200mm) than is normal in the class and, thanks to short overhangs that mean better approach and departure angles, it should be more capable off piste than a comparable Renegade 4xe Plug-in Hybrid. There are 20-degree breakover and approach angles and a 32-degree departure angle. All of which might sound irrelevant for an urban SUV but which, Jeep says, will make it better suited for dealing with speed humps, high kerbs and steep multi-storey car park ramps; yeah right. An Avenger though, might give you more confidence than its rivals in a snowy snap. This is the first front-driven Jeep fitted with standard Hill Descent Control and 'Selec-Terrain' driving modes: there are six settings - 'Normal', 'Eco', 'Sport', 'Snow' and 'Mud & Sand'.
Design and Build
For some time now, there's been very little indeed that's American about mainstream Jeep models and the Avenger follows that trend. It's the first Jeep to be designed outside the US and won't be sold there, built in Poland and aimed almost entirely at the European market. Despite that, classic brand design cues are everywhere to convince you otherwise; the trapezoidal wheel arches and the shoulder line reference the Willys Jeep of 1941, the 'floating' C-pillar is from the Compass and Grand Cherokee and of course there's the company's usual classic 7-slot front grille (though it's actually closed off, cooling air directed instead beneath the front bumper). At only just over 4-metres in length (16cm shorter than a Renegade), this is the shortest Jeep ever, but there's plenty of pavement presence thanks to at least 200mm of ground clearance, short overhangs and large wheels of up to 18-inches in size.
Inside, there's a lean dashboard supposedly inspired by the Wrangler, with an upper part made up of a single horizontal 'function beam', which includes all the air vents, ambient lighting and a central 10.25-inch Uconnect infotainment touchscreen. Inevitably, another screen resides in the instrument binnacle, of either 7.0 or 10.25-inches in size depending on spec. The lower side of the dash features a wide open storage shell which contributes generously to the 34-litre stowage space total in the cabin - over double the segment average. The centre tunnel can be moved to fit the sizes of various items - or even removed entirely to accommodate larger objects like a handbag. The battery's 17 modules sit beneath both front and rear seats in space designed to improve rear seat legroom, though that's on the tight side as usual in a small B-segment SUV. Out back, the 380-litre boot is reasonably large by class standards and has a low 720mm loading height, a one-metre rear hatch width and the option of hands-free powered tailgate.
Market and Model
There are three trim levels in the mainstream range - 'Sport', 'Longitude' and 'Limited'. Expect entry-level 'Sport'-spec Avengers to cost from around £30,000. You'll pay around £36,000 for the initial Avenger model to make it here, a full-specced 'First Edition' model, based on 'Limited'-spec but with unique wheels and flashier interior trim. The 'First Edition' can be had in a special 'Volano livery' finish, or can be had with two-tone paintwork with a contrasting-colour roof. It includes rear privacy glass, 18-inch wheels, front and rear full-LED lights, power-folding mirrors and a powered tailgate. There are also 360-degree parking sensors and a rear view camera.
Inside with an Avenger 'First Edition', you get a 10.25-inch full digital instrument cluster, automatic air conditioning, a multi-colour ambient lighting system, a heated windscreen, a height-adjustable cargo area floor and yellow highlights for the dashboard and the heated rear bench. Media is taken care of by a Uconnect 10.25-inch centre screen with wireless 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. This top variant also gets a blind spot alert system; and Jeep's choiciest Level 2 ADAS driver assist systems, which allow drivers to maintain their speed, the distance from the vehicle ahead and the centre of the lane in a completely autonomous way. Traffic Jam assist also allows autonomous driving in traffic.
Across the Avenger range, there's a choice of seven paint colours and available alloy wheels range in size between 16 and 18-inches. Around 100 accessories are available, including graphics for the roof and flanks. This should mean that it'll be easily possible to ensure that your Avenger looks like no other.
Cost of Ownership
We gave you the driving range figure from the 54kWh battery (51kWh usable) in our driving section - 249 miles - though Jeep claims that this could rise to as much as 342 miles in urban driving conditions. The battery can recharge from 20-80% in 24 minutes via a 100kW cable when hooked up to a suitably rapid charger. Just 3 minutes on such a fast charger would add 80 miles of range and 24 minutes could get the battery from 20 to 80%. Energy efficiency is rated at 5.0 miles per kWh. Under the Jeep brand's 'Freedom to Choose' initiative that allows the customer to find the most suitable charging solution, customers here can choose a wall box for domestic charging and/or an RFID card for public charging.
Away from the EV powertrain, Jeep has also given some thought about how to reduce damage caused by low speed impacts, which make up around 70% of accident cases in Europe. With that in mind, the Avenger's headlamps are encased and positioned high up away from low speed impacts. And the skid plates are made of a polymer mould which doesn't show visible scratches. In exposed areas like the doors, cladding is set high to offer extra protection. Thanks to these additions, the brand estimates the customer could reduce potential accident damage costs by up to around £1,000. Like other Jeep models, this one comes with a dedicated Jeep Customer Care service where a team of expertly trained agents will be available 24/7 to answer any questions about your journey.
For a brand that wants to lead the all-electric SUV market, Jeep has had a late start, but we can now expect full-battery models thick and fast from the marque for the rest of this decade. Few of which will be more significant than the Avenger. It competes in a segment now accounting for 20% of all European sales and the company hopes it will be key to correcting its lacklustre sales performance in markets such as ours.
There's a chance that might happen. The brief here - to create a fun, boxy Jeep that's all- electric - has been delivered with the kind of flair likely customers will be looking for. And the Avenger's 'Selec-Terrain' system delivers the kind of poor weather driving confidence that most of this car's competitors lack. You could argue of course that for all kinds of reasons, it's not 'a real Jeep'. But there's no question that it's really what the brand needs right now.