We get to grips with the newest member of the Jeep family – the mid-sized Compass SUV…
What is it?
The all-new Jeep Compass has the unenviable task of taking on everything from the Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Karoq, Kia Sportage and Seat Ateca to the Volkswagen Tiguan, Peugeot 3008 and Jaguar E-Pace.
Slotting in between the funky Renegade and long-serving Cherokee, it’s a thoroughbred 4×4 competing in a market dominated by many so-called ‘soft-roaders’ – cars that look like SUVs, but are generally front-wheel drive and never leave the comforts of tarmac.
Inevitably, there are compromises to be made and the Compass has its fair share – which is a shame because I wanted to like this car more – and it’s a looker.
It’s handsome, looking like a smaller Grand Cherokee from the front, while it has a distinctive, clean profile and pert rear end.
The Compass is well put together with a solid feel, while the interior errs more towards durability than luxury, but it’s nonetheless a very pleasant place to be.
In fact, it’s one of those few cars that’s comfortable from the moment you get in. There’s a commanding driving position with good visibility, while the seats are both comfy and supportive.
There’s plenty of space up front and behind for six-footers and the cockpit layout seems well thought out.
A little more traditional than the current minimalist trend, there are buttons and dials to complement the 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, so no fumbling around for the air-conditional controls here.
Boot space is a decent 438 litres or a very useful 1,693 litres with the rear seats folded. The back seats don’t go completely flat, while the rear parcel shelf is a little tricky to extract.
If it’s economy you’re after, then the most frugal engine on offer is the 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel which returns 64.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 117g/km.
Move up to the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel and economy drops to 54.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 138g/km. The range-topping 168bhp diesel, which has four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, is capable of 49.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 148g/km.
If you prefer petrol, then there’s a choice of a 138bhp or 168bhp 1.4-litre unit – the former returning 45.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 143g/km, the latter 40.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 160g/km.
Priced from £23,355, the Compass is available in four trim levels – Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk, which is designed for more hardcore off-road use.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED tail lights, leather steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control and AEB (autonomous emergency braking), but you’ll have to stretch to Longitude or above if you want the bigger 8.4-inch infotainment screen.
Upgrade to Longitude and you also get 17-inch alloys, front foglights, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera and keyless entry. Limited adds a heated steering wheel, leather seats, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors and 18-inch alloys. There’s more safety kit, too, with blind-spot and cross-path detection, plus Parksense self-parking.
I tested the Compass in Limited trim, powered by a 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel with four-wheel drive and a 9-speed auto gearbox. Packed with options, it would set you back more than £38,000.
So far, so good, but now for some compromises…
For starters, the diesel unit is not the most refined on the market. It makes its presence immediately known on start-up, followed by gruff initial acceleration. Thankfully it soon settles down and progress is reasonably brisk with a 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds and a 122mph top speed.
It pulls pretty well, but it’s not the most powerful of 2.0-litre diesels. The transmission is smooth enough, but I can’t say I always agreed with its choice of gears, especially on downhill stretches.
The ride is comfortable, if a little on the floaty side, but it’s here that the biggest compromise appears. Jeeps may have a legendary off-road ability, but most of the Compass competitors are aimed more at road use.
You are aware of its size and there’s a degree of bodyroll when cornering on more challenging roads – the opposite to say the Mazda CX-5’s sporty feel. That said, traction is excellent and if you take it easy, the Compass will work just fine for you.
What’s more, on those few days of the tear when snow, ice and flooding hit the UK, you’re in a very capable 4×4 with a simple sand/snow/ice dial in the centre console, so there’s plenty of grip and excellent ground clearance.
So let’s finish on another positive note, because Jeep is now able to offer extra peace of mind for buyers. From June 2018 all new Jeeps come with a new 5-3-5 warranty plan, which includes a five-year warranty, a three-year servicing programme and five years of roadside assistance.
Verdict: The Jeep Compass is a good-looking, spacious, well-equipped mid-sized SUV with genuine off-road ability. It’s let down a little by an unsophisticated diesel engine and ride, but ultimately it’s a durable choice in a very competitive sector – and it’s now blessed with a generous five-year warranty.