Rugged but contemporary compact SUV joins the Jeep range
It’s taken a while, but Jeep is finally taking on the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, Seat Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan with its new Compass compact SUV.
The old Compass was pretty nasty and went well beyond its sell-by date to 2015, but a still-growing SUV segment plus growing Jeep sales worldwide indicate that the American company could yet make hay by filling this gap in its portfolio.
Jeep makes much of its ability to deliver ‘authentic off-road capability’ at this end of the product range, but the demands of marketing mean that can’t be at the expense of showroom snazz. So, while the Compass has a type of rear suspension designed to provide greater up-and-down wheel movement and, thereby, better off-road skills than the norm, it also has style-heavy 19-inch alloys that look potentially vulnerable to attack by the countryside. Likewise, the two-tone black and light grey interior might not be ideal for a day’s mud-plugging.
Jeep Compass 2.0 Multijet II 170 4WD Limited Auto
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Torque: 280lb ft
Gearbox: 9-spd automatic
Top speed: 122mph
Fuel economy: 49.6mpg
CO2/BIK: 148g/km, 28%
Nevertheless, the Compass can be ordered with a £650 Towing Pack, and it has useful driver assistance features like hill descent control alongside its provision of four-wheel drive across most of the model range (some front-wheel-drive variants are available). The four-wheel-drive setup that was also seen on the Renegade and Fiat 500X restricts power to the front wheels when grip is normal and only brings in the back axle as necessary. There’s push-button lock for four-wheel-drive and a ‘Selec-Terrain’ dial with four custom driving modes: Auto, Sand, Snow and Mud. Our exploits in a range-topping Limited spec car on dry roads were almost all in Auto mode.
This is no restyle of the funky Renegade. Visually, the Compass is quite restrained, not to say a bit Evoque-y, butched up by square wheel arches and a burly stance. The wide C-pillars only serve to cut rear visibility, but you’ll look good enough on the run to school or Centre Parcs.
In terms of interior space the Compass is determinedly mid-pack, with good headroom, a good driving position and an all-seats-up luggage capacity of 438 litres.
On high-spec cars like the Limited the latest iteration of Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment system includes an 8.4-inch touchscreen. It’s a responsive unit, and pleasingly simple both in its rendering of maps. We like Jeep’s retention of old-fashioned but user-friendly physical buttons elsewhere in the cabin, although the scattery layout of the centre console switchgear leaves plenty to be desired. A space for your mobile phone near to the USB connectivity port would have been handy to make the most of the Uconnect’s Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality, but there isn’t one.
The 170 is the most powerful diesel Compass, but even with a nine-speed automatic transmission, this 1,540kg car doesn’t seem as sprightly as the claimed 9.5-second 0-62mph time might suggest. The engine isn’t hugely refined and that gearbox isn’t the smoothest on fast downchanges. It occasionally gets confused on steady throttle settings.
Cornering is decent enough, the solid feel of the five-star Euro NCAP performing Compass being enhanced by the sort of meaty steering weight that’s not common in this segment. Our test vehicle had 19-inch wheels, a £700 extra, but there was reasonable suppleness in the A-roads ride. Country lanes revealed an amount of pattering and road noise that we think might still be present even with the standard 18in wheels.
This Limited diesel car is dearer, less powerful and less efficient than the equivalent top diesel-powered 4WD Seat Ateca, but a brief go in a livelier four-wheel drive 168bhp petrol Compass made us think that this might be where the real Compass value lies, especially for UK buyers who are mainly using it on the road. For those demanding more serious off-road skills, a Compass Trailhawk equipped with low-range transmission will be along in summer 2018.