FIRST UK DRIVE Our verdict as all-new crossover mixes tradition and tech
All-american 4x4 specialist introduces its new SUV to the UK
JEEP has enjoyed extensive growth in Europe over the past few years, moving from around 300,000 sales in 2009 to nearly 1.4 million in 2016. That success looks set to continue, too, with cars like the all-new Compass vying for market share against some established class giants.
Those who recognise the Compass name may remember the last model, which was launched in 2011. It lasted three years before slow sales forced its axe, but Jeep has higher hopes for the new car.
Design is always subjective, but it’s also a crucial aspect of a Jeep’s rugged appeal. All the basics are there, with an upright front end, the trademark sevenslot grille and trapezoidal wheelarches adding plenty of macho kudos. Some bright colour options give it personality, although the styling won’t be to all tastes.
While the outside is a welcome departure from the family crossover norm, the interior is a bit of a disappointment. Quality is acceptable enough; aside from the cheapfeeling column stalks there are enough high-grade, soft-touch materials and a reasonably solid feel. It’s no Volkswagen Tiguan, but it’s far nicer to sit in than before.
It’s just a pity that there’s little of the personality found in the cheaper Renegade; few of that car’s funky ‘Easter egg’ details have transferred to the bigger Compass, and it’s all a bit dark and characterless. The seats are flat and fairly unsupportive, too, while rear visiblity is pretty woeful thanks to those thick C-pillars. A rear-view camera is only standard on Limited spec and above.
Still, the updated 8.4-inch ‘Uconnect’ touchscreen in our test car is fitted to all but the base models. It’s large, clear and responsive, with plenty of features including Android Auto and Apple Carplay. The design is busy, though, with a mass of menus to navigate through. The Compass comes with a raft of safety tech installed, contributing to the car’s excellent five-star Euro NCAP rating; the old model managed only two stars.
Practicality is a mixed bag. The Compass has 7cm added to the wheelbase compared with the Renegade, and that has a big benefit for legroom in the rear. Average-sized adults won’t find their knees touching the seatbacks, but we’d avoid the panoramic sunroof, which limits headroom. The 438litre boot is unremarkable, too; a Tiguan adds nearly 180 litres to that figure.
We tried the 1.6-litre diesel, which is expected to be more popular than the 2.0 litre, despite only being available with front-wheel drive. The base engine feels sprightly, though, with strong enough performance for most needs and better refinement than the coarse 2.0. It still gets raucous above 3,000rpm, however, and there’s more vibration through the controls
“The Compass handles well. It stays flat in bends, and the steering is light, but accurate and quick”
than in the best crossover rivals. Either way, a claimed 64mpg is impressive.
The Compass handles better than you might expect, given Jeep’s off-road bias. It stays reasonably flat and level in the bends, and while the steering is light, it’s accurate and quick. The car feels grippy and controlled in most conditions, but the ride lets the side down. For all Jeep’s talk of ‘frequency selective’ damping, it seems to fidget about on A-roads, and while the soft set-up deals with large bumps, sharp potholes can unsettle it. With Jeep citing premium cars such as the BMW X1 as competitors, we expected a more sophisticated drive.
Where the Compass is likely to have an advantage is off road. Of course, that will only apply to 4x4 versions, and whether it justifies the price is another question. This Limited model is more expensive than a top-spec Peugeot 3008, but undercuts the equivalent Tiguan – although bosses at Jeep promise that finance deals will be competitive.
“The 1.6 diesel feels sprightly, with strong enough performance for most needs”
Latest 8.4-inch touchscreen is offered on all Compass models bar the entry-level version. On the whole, the cabin feels solidly built
NEED TO KNOW Jeep expects that the base petrol Compass will outsell the equivalent diesel – a first for its modern line-up
ENGINE The 1.6-litre diesel provides peppy performance and is more refined than the 2.0 litre, while it’s claimed to be capable of 64mpg. It’s not available with the four-wheel-drive system, however
STYLING Macho detailing and trademark Jeep design touches help the Compass look distinctive, but the interior is lacking in character when compared with the cheaper Renegade
EQUIPMENT Even the base Compass is well equipped, while Limited spec comes with powered and heated leather seats, a heated wheel, park assist and 18-inch alloys
PRACTICALITY There’s a good amount of legroom for adults, but speccing the panoramic roof limits headroom for taller passengers. A 438-litre boot falls short of the class best