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The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Road Test - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR

THE crowded com­pact SUV mar­ket is about to get even more con­gested.

As sales of SUVs are on track to over­take pas­sen­ger cars in Aus­tralia next year, Jeep is poised to launch its most con­certed ef­fort yet in the boom­ing seg­ment with a new gen­er­a­tion Com­pass.

The scaled-down ver­sion of the Grand Chero­kee is de­signed to be Jeep’s ri­val to the Mazda CX-5, Toy­ota RAV4, Subaru Forester and the like.

It will sit above the tiny-tot Jeep Rene­gade in the re­vamped line-up but don’t ex­pect a su­per-sharp price de­spite the model be­ing built in In­dia, where labour costs are a frac­tion of those in North Amer­ica, the source of the cur­rent model.

The sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Com­pass is likely to kick off with a price above $30,000 when it goes on sale in lo­cal show­rooms in late 2017.

Ex­pect a choice of four­cylin­der petrol or diesel power, al­though the ex­act en­gine lineup is yet to be con­firmed.

A 2.4-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine mated to a nine­speed auto is ex­pected to be the start­ing point in the range.

De­spite its tough looks, the iconic seven-slot grille is in fact just for show.

It is blanked off for bet­ter aero­dy­namic ef­fi­ciency; in­stead the new Com­pass gets its cool­ing air from vents in the lower part of the fas­cia.

The front bumpers on citys­licker ver­sions of the new Com­pass are so low they would barely man­age to clear a kerb (the Toy­ota RAV4, Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 have greater “ap­proach an­gles” in 4WD par­lance) but the Trail­hawk mod­els have classlead­ing off-road abil­ity thanks to taller sus­pen­sion, big­ger tyres and cut­away bumpers.

Should you truly want to get off the beaten track, the new Com­pass is also avail­able with switch­able 4WD hard­ware, heavy-duty front and rear dif­fer­en­tials and a su­per-low range gear ra­tio for steep climbs and de­scents.

How many buy­ers take up this op­tion re­mains to be seen. Jeep be­lieves it’s im­por­tant that at least some mod­els in the range can live up to the “go any­where” hype.

As with most new mod­els ar­riv­ing in show­rooms, the Com­pass will be avail­able with a suite of tech­nol­ogy such as au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing, radar cruise con­trol, lane- keep­ing as­sis­tance, sen­sor key and elec­tronic park brake.

Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto smart­phone con­nec­tion will be part of the touch­screen (seven-inch or 8.4-inch, de­pend­ing on the model grade).

Lux­ury mod­els will come with a power tail­gate and du­al­pane sun­roof, a rel­a­tive nov­elty in the com­pact SUV class.

If the growth in com­pact SUV sales is a guide, the Com­pass could over­take the Grand Chero­kee and quickly be­come Jeep’s best-sell­ing model.

De­spite a record new-car mar­ket with a large swing to SUVs, Jeep sales have dropped by more than 50 per cent this year — and from a peak of 30,000 in 2014 to a lit­tle more than 10,000 so far in 2016.

The com­pany says cur­ren­cy­driven price rises have been the main cause of the sales slow­down.

But Jeep says it plans to turn around sales in Aus­tralia as it trims prices — and as more new mod­els come on stream.

It is also con­sid­er­ing in­creas­ing its fac­tory war­ranty cov­er­age in Aus­tralia from three years to five years — a tac­tic in­tro­duced more than a decade ago by Korean maker Hyundai to give buy­ers peace of mind and since fol­lowed by oth­ers.

Newly ap­pointed Jeep Aus­tralia pres­i­dent and CEO Steve Zan­lunghi says the com­pany is “look­ing at all the dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties that we have to build the brand. We are look­ing at war­ranty, cus­tomer per­cep­tion (and) cost of own­er­ship.”

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