Jeep Com­pass 2.0 Mul­ti­jet II 140 ROAD TEST

Jeep has pro­moted its old cross­over to com­pact SUV mar­ket sta­tus. Will it be a hit?

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

The Com­pass is Jeep’s as­sault on the lu­cra­tive com­pact SUV mar­ket. Their ranks are nu­mer­ous, and led by the likes of the Volvo XC40 and Volk­swa­gen Tiguan, but few do much to em­brace the util­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ples their raised ride heights es­pouse.

It shouldn’t there­fore come as a sur­prise that a com­pany with 70 years of off-road­ing know-how should seek to lever­age its ex­pe­ri­ence and ap­peal to driv­ers who might just want some sub­stance to match the style. It’s why the Com­pass not only has a stylishly raked roofline but comes with a switch­able, Gkn-built all-ter­rain four-wheel drive, and why it matches a more lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed in­te­rior with sus­pen­sion hard­ware de­signed to pro­vide proper wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion. The gear­box is also fit­ted with a ‘crawl ra­tio’ ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing max­i­mum torque to ei­ther axle and yet ameni­ties such as an elec­tri­cally op­er­ated tail­gate and 19in wheels are avail­able as op­tions. In terms of sheer ver­sa­til­ity, very lit­tle else in this class comes close – at least on pa­per.

That’s why we’re road-test­ing the Com­pass. No­body should doubt the mak­ers of the Wran­gler – a ver­i­ta­ble moun­tain goat of a ma­chine with an en­vi­able his­tory – can de­liver a ro­bust and ruggedly ca­pa­ble com­pact SUV on a bud­get. But equally, merely cloak­ing such a car in an at­trac­tive body is no guar­an­tee of sat­is­fac­tory on-road man­ners. With un­re­fined en­gines and a chas­sis eas­ily f lus­tered on British roads, the pre­vi­ous Com­pass was tes­ta­ment to this. Can this lat­est it­er­a­tion do any bet­ter?

DE­SIGN AND EN­GI­NEER­ING

Where the old Com­pass was a slightly awk­ward, un­gainly look­ing thing, this new model man­ages to com­bine a de­gree of so­phis­ti­ca­tion with some of that rough-and-ready aes­thetic Jeep is famed for. The iconic seven-slot grille con­trib­utes to a com­mand­ing front end, while squared-off wheel arches and a wide stance lend the Com­pass a pres­ence that’s ar­guably more dom­i­nant than we’re used to from the es­tab­lished soft-roader set. Peel back that ex­te­rior and you’ll find the Com­pass is based on Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles’ ‘small wide ar­chi­tec­ture’ (which also un­der­pins the smaller Rene­gade), al­beit here in ex­tended-wheel­base form. A range of petrol and diesel four-cylin­der en­gines are avail­able – our test car came in 2.0-litre, 138bhp Mul­ti­jet II diesel flavour, with four-wheel drive and a six-speed man­ual gear­box.

While for most com­pact SUVS off-road­ing will likely be lim­ited to grassy fields or a slightly muddy for­est car park, Jeep claims the Com­pass of­fers class-lead­ing prow­ess off the beaten track. Sus­pen­sion is by way of Macpher­son struts and coil springs up front, while the rear em­ploys a Chap­man strut ar­range­ment (read: sim­pli­fied multi-link) – sup­pos­edly for greater axle ar­tic­u­la­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties. High­strength steel links and an iso­lated sub­frame for 4x4 mod­els should also bode well for off-road dura­bil­ity.

The Gkn-sourced, clutch-based four-wheel-drive tech­nol­ogy,

mean­while, in­cor­po­rates a dis­con­nect­ing rear axle and power take-off unit. Un­der nor­mal con­di­tions, power will only be sent to the front wheels in or­der to im­prove fuel econ­omy, al­though the rear axle will come into play when a short­age of trac­tion is de­tected. A 4Wd-lock func­tion is also present, while Jeep’s Selec-ter­rain sys­tem of­fers Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud driv­ing modes.

While we don’t have a ded­i­cated road test quarry in which we can put this off-road tech un­der the mi­cro­scope, a glance at the Com­pass’s tech­ni­cal specs pro­vides some in­sight as to how well it should fare against ri­vals. As far as ground clear­ance is con­cerned, the Com­pass puts 215mm be­tween its un­der­car­riage and the floor, while its breakover an­gle is 22.9deg – re­spec­tively, that’s a 15mm and 2.9deg ad­van­tage over a VW Tiguan. Volvo’s XC40, mean­while, of­fers 211mm of ground clear­ance and a 22deg breakover an­gle, so there’s pre­cious lit­tle sep­a­rat­ing the Amer­i­can and the Swede. The Volvo of­fers su­pe­rior wad­ing depth too: 450mm ver­sus the Jeep’s 406.5mm.

IN­TE­RIOR

Jeep is play­ing to a more ma­ture and so­phis­ti­cated mar­ket here than it was, three years ago, with the Rene­gade cross­over. It has cre­ated an in­te­rior with less in the way of vis­ual charm and in­trigue – but, in­stead, what’s clearly in­tended to be a more re­fined and lux­u­ri­ous am­bi­ence, and a more up­mar­ket feel.

But, judged against com­pact SUVS’ in­creas­ingly high stan­dards on per­ceived qual­ity and fit-and-fin­ish, our test car’s rel­a­tively plain, mono­tone and or­di­nary-feel­ing cabin failed to make much of an im­pres­sion. Parts of the Com­pass’s in­te­rior clearly rep­re­sent at­tempts at ma­te­rial rich­ness, but they’re not all con­vinc­ing (the cheap-look­ing ‘leather’ on the cen­tre arm­rest is a case in point). Mean­while, the car’s nicer in­gre­di­ents are sig­nif­i­cantly out­num­bered by plenty of fit­tings (HVAC, head­light and in­fo­tain­ment con­trols) that look or feel a bit cheaper than the likes of the Tiguan and XC40 now lead you to ex­pect.

The Com­pass’s cabin is ad­e­quately com­fort­able and broadly pleas­ant. Our test car’s front seats were a touch too flat to of­fer de­cent sup­port and didn’t have enough head re­straint ad­just­ment for taller driv­ers to make them­selves en­tirely at home, but er­gonomic con­trol lay­out and ad­justa­bil­ity were oth­er­wise good.

This isn’t a par­tic­u­larly spa­cious car by class stan­dards, but it’s

com­pet­i­tive. Head room is eaten into in both rows by Jeep’s ‘dou­blepane’ sun­roof, and typ­i­cal leg room in the sec­ond row is only an av­er­age 740mm. The boot of­fers less load­ing space, ac­cord­ing to the tape, than you’ll find in a Tiguan, DS 7 Cross­back or Mazda CX-5, al­though our test car’s load­ing depth was a lit­tle ad­versely af­fected by an op­tional-fit tem­po­rary spare wheel that pre­vented use of its lower boot floor set­ting.

The car’s in­stru­ments are pre­sented clearly. Its trip com­puter is easy enough to read and to nav­i­gate via the thumb con­soles on the slightly awk­wardly shaped spokes of the steer­ing wheel. Mean­while, our test car had both USB and three-pin AC power sock­ets for the use of sec­ondrow pas­sen­gers. The lat­ter socket is use­ful for charg­ing tablet PCS and other power-hun­gry mo­bile de­vices.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The 2.0-litre Mul­ti­jet II diesel en­gine in the Com­pass has been in ser­vice through­out FCA for a decade now – and, at times, par­tic­u­larly when the car’s start­ing from cold or when haul­ing hard from low speed, it sounds and feels ev­ery inch the decade-old power unit.

Though it’s crotch­ety un­der load and of­ten feels soft in its re­sponses to the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal, how­ever, the diesel isn’t ac­tu­ally short on out­right torque or real-world pulling power. The boosty, mid-range-cen­tric power de­liv­ery be­came very ap­par­ent on the day of our test­ing. The Com­pass needed plenty of revs to make a fast get­away, but then in­sisted on up­shifts no later than 4000rpm in or­der to main­tain the best rate of ac­cel­er­a­tion. Other more mod­ern diesels are cer­tainly more flex­i­ble.

But com­pare the Com­pass’s in-gear ac­cel­er­a­tion with that of its ri­vals (3070mph in fourth: 12.1sec) and you’ll find em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence to sup­port our ob­ser­va­tion that, in its sweet spot, the Jeep can cer­tainly knuckle down; it would have plenty of lowrpm torque for as­sertive off-road­ing or tow­ing, for in­stance. The Skoda Ko­diaq 2.0 TDI 150 we tested in 2016 wanted more than a sec­ond longer for the bench­mark 30-70mph fourth gear sprint. Also, for all the ex­tra ap­par­ent coarse­ness of the Com­pass’s diesel, it was only a deci­bel nois­ier than the Skoda when cruis­ing at both 30mph and 70mph – proof that the Jeep’s en­gine set­tles well enough from its loaded gruff­ness when be­ing driven in part-throt­tle con­di­tions.

The Com­pass’s con­trols are uni­formly medium-of-weight, though the gear­lever has a spongy tac­tile feel as you shift that makes you a lit­tle un­sure whether the gear you’ve se­lected has re­ally en­gaged. There’s a slightly woolly feel to the clutch pedal ac­tion too, though nei­ther is enough to be re­ally prob­lem­atic to the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, nei­ther is wel­come.

Even less wel­come, how­ever, and speak­ing par­tic­u­larly ill of Jeep’s at­ten­tion to de­tail when it comes to the car’s level of dy­namic fin­ish, is the irk­some com­bi­na­tion of that vague feel­ing clutch with an elec­tronic hand­brake that doesn’t en­gage au­to­mat­i­cally or dis­en­gage quickly enough and an en­gine starter gen­er­a­tor that doesn’t act quickly enough to restart the 2.0-litre diesel at the traf­fic lights. Too of­ten, then, as a re­sult of a three-way con­flu­ence of in­com­pe­tence, the car causes you to stall – un­til you’re ei­ther used to its quirks, or suf­fi­ciently scarred that you re­mem­ber to turn off the en­gine stop-start func­tion in the first place.

While small­ish pedal pads seem to make for the po­ten­tial to miss the brake en­tirely when at­tempt­ing an emer­gency stop, we never ac­tu­ally missed it in sev­eral full pedal pres­sure stops. Our test car, on its op­tional 19in rims and high-per­for­mance SUV Bridge­stone tyres, hauled up strongly on dry Tar­mac. Cus­tomers should ex­pect some com­pro­mise to that, of course, from Trail­hawk mod­els (on 17in wheels, hy­brid off-road tyres).

RIDE AND HAN­DLING

The woolly, im­pre­cise im­pres­sion given to you by the Com­pass’s ped­als and gear­lever finds its equal in the car’s overly per­mis­sive ini­tial body con­trol. It’s loose enough to ad­mit enough pitch and head­toss into the car’s ride on mo­tor­ways, A-roads and faster B-roads as to dis­rupt your com­fort lev­els just a frac­tion, and to

make the car carry just a sug­ges­tion of rest­less­ness and dy­namic coarse­ness with it wher­ever it goes.

This is per­haps the re­sult of Jeep’s adop­tion of ‘fre­quency se­lec­tive’ dampers for the car. Each damper has a pair of reser­voirs and switches to a firmer damper set­ting when quicker in­puts force the oil it car­ries through a pre-de­fined thresh­old on pres­sure. What that means in prac­tice, on the road at least, is that the Com­pass isn’t with­out a sense of sup­ple­ness or sup­port; and also avoids back­ing up its soft ini­tial ride with han­dling that lets the body run out of con­trol in ex­tremis. Even so, you’d say the car’s ride tun­ing lacks a bit of so­phis­ti­ca­tion in com­par­i­son with a bet­ter-checked, bet­ter-tied-down com­pact SUV class av­er­age.

The Com­pass’s steer­ing has a sim­i­lar flavour in that it’s slightly spongy and vague just off-cen­tre, pro­gress­ing to im­prove as you add lock by pick­ing up more tan­gi­ble road feel. At all times, it feels a touch overas­sisted in its nor­mal set­ting, get­ting even lighter at park­ing speeds to the ex­tent that the park­ing steer­ing mode in­cluded on ev­ery new Fiat and now FCA model for a decade or more, which adds even more power as­sis­tance, would seem su­per­flu­ous.

Though the car’s lack of good close body con­trol and its fail­ing on on-cen­tre steer­ing feel com­bine to make it slightly trick­ier to drive smoothly and in­stinc­tively, nei­ther af­fects its road-hold­ing. The Com­pass cer­tainly rolls to greater an­gles than some of its com­peti­tors, but it set­tles in a mid-cor­ner stance in which it main­tains bal­anced grip lev­els and good sta­bil­ity. Hur­ry­ing the car through a bend is a be­nign process too, with the car’s elec­tronic trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trols com­bin­ing with its four-wheel-drive sys­tem to de­liver torque where there’s grip to be had, but sub­tly keep­ing you from de­ploy­ing too much.

BUY­ING AND OWN­ING

The Lim­ited Com­pass tested here might be the third-high­est of four trim lev­els but, start­ing at £31,495 and cost­ing more than £36,000 with op­tions, it will seem pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive to many, and rightly so given its var­i­ous weak­nesses. In­cluded as stan­dard are 18in al­loys, pri­vacy glass, elec­tric leather seats and sev­eral bits of off-road-re­lated hard­ware – and so as­sum­ing the car will be used pre­dom­i­nantly on tra­di­tional roads, cheaper Lon­gi­tude trim rep­re­sents bet­ter value. The wheels are an inch smaller, but in­cluded are a re­vers­ing cam­era, Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto, the larger 8.4in touch­screen and dual-zone cli­mate con­trol.

Fur­ther down the line, the Com­pass is ex­pected to hold its value rea­son­ably well – al­most iden­ti­cally to a com­par­a­tively priced Tiguan, in fact, though some way be­hind the XC40, which is our cur­rent pick of the class.

But given its mod­est power out­put, the Jeep should cer­tainly re­turn bet­ter fuel econ­omy than it does. Its tour­ing fig­ure of 44.8mpg is only marginally bet­ter than the much more pow­er­ful D4 XC40 and some way off the slightly more pow­er­ful Tiguan TDI 150, which man­aged more than 50mpg.

In its sweet spot, the Jeep can cer­tainly knuckle down

MODEL TESTED 2.0 MUL­TI­JET II 140 4WD LIM­ITED Price £31,495 Power 138bhp Torque 258lb ft 0-60mph 11.0sec 30-70mph in fourth 12.1sec Fuel econ­omy 37.6mpg CO2 emis­sions 138g/km 70-0mph 46.8m

Many sto­ries con­cern­ing the ori­gins of the seven-slot grille ex­ist. One of the more in­ter­est­ing says it came about be­cause a Jeep was the first ve­hi­cle to be driven on all seven con­ti­nents.

Old Com­pass was taken off sale in 2015

Width 1000-1050mm Height 400-720mm Length 800-1620mm Sub­woofer of Beats Au­dio stereo robs load­ing width in a boot that hasn’t got much to spare. Floor would ad­just down­wards but for op­tional full-size spare wheel.

Front seats are too flat in the base to pro­vide de­cent lat­eral sup­port and the head­rests didn’t ad­just far enough up­wards for our tallest testers.

Typ­i­cal leg room 740mm Sec­ond-row space is pretty av­er­age by class stan­dards; suf­fi­ciently so that you should avoid the panoramic sun­roof if taller oc­cu­pants will be trav­el­ling reg­u­larly.

Our Com­pass re­sponded de­ci­sively when its brakes were ap­plied sud­denly. The slug­gish stop-start set-up meant get­ting the 19in wheels turn­ing again was less easy.

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