This is the cheap Jeep. The compact Jeep Renegade is no longer offered here, so the upgraded Compass is the brand’s most affordable option.
It’s priced from about $42,000 to $56,000 drive-away and the model we tested was the mid-range S-Limited, available from about $51,000.
Closer in size to the Toyota C-HR than the larger RAV4, the Compass is more expensive than many mainstream rivals.
To compensate, Jeep has loaded the SLimited with an enticing array of equipment.
The impressive-looking cabin is designed around a digital driver display and huge 10.1inch central touchscreen with satnav, Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay and inductive smartphone charging, along with a seriously punchy nine-speaker Alpine stereo.
Some of the cabin plastics are a little hard to the touch, though. It’s powered by a 2.4-litre petrol engine linked to a nine-speed auto and all-wheel-drive. The warranty covers you for five years or 100,000 kilometres.
An urban-focused machine that’s much easier to live with than the truck-like Wrangler, the Compass S-Limited is packed with creature comforts.
Plump for a $2950 premium package and you get a huge sunroof, heated and cooled leather seats, a heated steering wheel and a handy 360-degree camera.
We’re happy to report there are physical buttons and knobs for the dual-zone climate control and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat accommodates a wide variety of bodies. The seats lack support on windy roads, though, and there’s more cabin noise than class leaders.
Jeep upgraded the Compass for 2021, adding safety features such as auto emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, trafficsign recognition, intelligent speed assistance and drowsy driver alerts. Other driver assistance tech includes radar cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. As with many systems in new cars, those features can feel overbearing at times. The lane-keep assistance tugs annoyingly at the steering wheel on roads with narrow lanes.
Impressive on paper, the Compass lacks driving polish. Its steering is short on weight and feel, the brakes on our test example were grabby and the nine-speed auto delivered the occasionally jerky shift.
The 2.4-litre, 129kW/224Nm petrol engine is noisy and scarily thirsty compared to sophisticated turbo rivals (it uses 9.7L/100km of petrol) and the soft suspension’s roly-poly nature lacks precision. That said, the Compass is a good pick for folks who want to go off-road. All-paw traction, terrain-specific driving modes and a spare tyre give it an advantage.
ALTERNATIVES SUBARU FORESTER 2.5I-S, FROM ABOUT $49,000 DRIVE-AWAY
Just as capable off-road, the Forester is a practical pick that can be loaded up with features such as leather, a Harman-Kardon stereo and sunroof.
MINI COUNTRYMAN COOPER S, FROM ABOUT $51,000 DRIVE-AWAY
The Mini matches Jeep’s cool factor while being much better to drive – at least on sealed roads. We wouldn’t go exploring with it.
JEEP WRANGLER, FROM ABOUT $58,000 DRIVE-AWAY
Is this the Jeep you really want? Iconic looks and true go-anywhere ability meet compromised refinement and safety credentials.
The Compass’ new cabin is impressive, making the baby Jeep easier to live with, but it’s expensive and the engine is thirsty.