Introducing the 2023 Car of the Year
An American brand’s first battery-powered vehicle was the judges’ clear favourite of the seven shortlisted cars, as Andrew English reports
The Jeep feels comfortable and a bit special in this class of practically identical jacked-up superminis
The Jeep Avenger has won this year’s Car of the Year award, romping away with the voting to muster 328 points including being ranked first of the seven shortlisted cars by 21 of the 57 voting jurors representing 23 countries.
The Avenger faced strong opposition from Volkswagen’s retro-styled, battery-powered minibus, the ID. Buzz, which came second with 241 points and 16 first places, and the third-placed Nissan Ariya electric family crossover (211 and 16), but the Jeep led from the start and never looked like relinquishing that lead.
Kia’s Niro finished fourth with 200 points, with the Renault Austral in fifth with 163, the Peugeot 408 was sixth with 149 points and the Toyota bZ4X /Subaru Solterra seventh with 133.
Accepting the award for the Avenger, Antonella Bruno, Jeep’s European boss, said she was “super proud” to accept the award for Jeep’s first-ever battery-electric vehicle and its first European-designed car. Previous battery-electric winners include the Kia EV6, which won last year, and the Nissan Leaf which triumphed in 2011.
The 4.08-metre-long Avenger competes in the B-segment (small family cars) crossover class, which also contains such accomplished rivals as the Ford Puma and Renault Captur. It uses the latest version of a dedicated battery-electric chassis platform which underpins the Vauxhall Mokka and Peugeot 2008, employing the latest battery and motor technology from the toolbox of parent group Stellantis.
The 54kWh lithium-ion battery eschews the industry practice of merely being fitted flat into the floor, instead being placed around the four-door hatchback body allowing a lower seat height and a taller-riding stance.
Its official Combined range is 249 miles. A 154bhp/184lb ft electric motor drives the front wheels and gives a top speed of 93mph, with 0-62mph in 9sec. Efficiency is quoted at 4.6 miles per kWh and charging times are 24 minutes for 20 to 80 per cent using a 100kW DC fast charger and 8 hours for a 100 per cent charge on a 7.4kW home wallbox.
Prices start at £34,500 with a fully equipped first edition version at a whisker under £40,000.
Like most of its battery-electric rivals, the Jeep is expensive, but it does quite a bit better than the rest of the class including having an attractive exterior design reminiscent of the boxy American 1970s Jeeps along with the signature seven-slot grille first seen on the original Second World War-era Willys Jeep.
The interior is comfortable and commodious, with room for a couple of six-footers on the rear bench with leg and head room to spare. There are also interesting details and useful storage spaces, such as the full-length oddment tray in the facia.
And best of all it drives in an accomplished manner, with good damping control, well-weighted steering and a half-reasonable ride quality. It feels comfortable and even a bit special in this class of practically identical jacked-up superminis from pretty much all major manufacturers.
While some will say that a frontwheel-drive Jeep is a sacrilege, the company needs to expand its sales base in Europe, where these B-segment SUV crossovers are one of the fastest growing markets. A fourwheel-drive version is on the way; first seen at the Paris motor show last autumn, it arrives later this year.
Considering it’s only the first in a series of four new battery Jeeps slated to arrive before 2025, the 2023 Car of the Year Avenger is already proving a good portent.
Here’s the top three from the 2023 contest – and how I assessed the charms of all the shortlisted cars.