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Compass puts Jeep back on course in compact SUV market

PUBLISHED: 14:14 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:14 13 July 2018

Jeep Compass, sitting above the small Renegade, takes the heritage brand back into the hugely-popular compact SUV market. Picture: Jeep

Jeep Compass, sitting above the small Renegade, takes the heritage brand back into the hugely-popular compact SUV market. Picture: Jeep

Jeep

For all its off-road SUV heritage, Jeep has lagged in the popular compact class but now it’s out to make up ground with the all-new Compass, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

New Compass more in tune with bigger models in the Jeep range. Picture: JeepNew Compass more in tune with bigger models in the Jeep range. Picture: Jeep

Given Jeep’s legendary off-road SUV heritage and the fact many people wrongly call any rugged 4x4 a ‘jeep’, I’m surprised the brand hasn’t been more aggressive making its presence felt in the burgeoning compact SUV/crossover market.

Wrangler, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are the well-known faces of the brand but the original dumpy Compass did not live up the Jeep image, failed against European rivals and disappeared three years ago.

Under Fiat ownership, and sharing running gear, it launched the Renegade small SUV and that successful new partnership has delivered the new Compass.

Struggling to remember the previous one? Well, this new one makes much more of an impression.

Signature lights all part of Jeep family styling. Picture: JeepSignature lights all part of Jeep family styling. Picture: Jeep

Looks and image

This Compass is going in the right direction to compete as an equal, not underdog, in this fiercely-competitive sector.

It looks the part, accentuating Jeep’s trademark seven-slot grille, in chrome and gloss black, and flared trapezoidal wheel arches complete with protective plastic trim.

It’s also much better quality, inside and out, and gains much Fiat technology, infotainment and connectivity which helps justify pricing at the higher end of the class.

Legroom not an issue but rear seat lack under-thigh support. Picture: JeepLegroom not an issue but rear seat lack under-thigh support. Picture: Jeep

Under the bonnet

The 140 and 4x4 170hp 1.4-litre turbo petrols and 120hp 1.6-litre and 4x4 140 and 170hp 2.0-litre diesels are tried-and-test Fiat engines.

Diesel still suits SUVs, especially those with serious off-road ability, and the 140hp diesel is usefully flexible but needs to be worked to feel brisk, hence 40mpg overall, and gets gruff. Thankfully, the six-speed manual gearbox is precise.

How it drives

The 368-litre boot is deep but has chunky wheelarches. Picture: Andy RussellThe 368-litre boot is deep but has chunky wheelarches. Picture: Andy Russell

Despite high ground clearance and good off-road wheel articulation, the Jeep Compass is pretty good to drive on road too.

The suspension is on the soft side, so generally irons out poor surfaces but the downside, combined with a tall body, is body roll through corners and steering, while responsive, lacks feel.

Models with intelligent 4x4 use fuel saving front-wheel drive in normal use, engaging rear ones when needed. It can send 100pc of torque to a single wheel if only one has traction and be locked into all-wheel drive. Auto, snow, sand and mud driving modes adapt to conditions while a Trailhawk version adds crawl ratio and rock mode.

Space and comfort

Fascia has a more cohesive look than past models and works well. Picture: JeepFascia has a more cohesive look than past models and works well. Picture: Jeep

Front seats are shapely and supportive, the rear bench rather flat and the outer cushions lack under-thigh support. Unless you’re a small child, you won’t want to sit in the middle. Legroom is not an issue, even for taller adults, but headroom is with the £1,200 panoramic sunroof.

Boot space is 368 litres, not much more than the biggest superminis, with a £150 full-size spare wheel – it’s deep but has chunky wheelarches. An inflation kit frees up 438 litres. Rear seats backs split 60/40, but don’t go completely flat, with a load-through flap, which doubles up as an armrest, for long, thin items.

The solid parcel shelf is really awkward to wrestle out of the car.

For added comfort £350 optional ventilated front seats are like sitting in a cool bath on a hot day!

At the wheel

The fascia has a more cohesive look than past Jeeps with big clear dials, a wide information display while a high-level touchscreen, for most functions, works well. You can also feel the quality with soft-touch trim materials at the main contact points.

Controls are straightforward – I like simple, user-friendly buttons and knobs for heating.

Final say

The Compass is an important new model from Jeep, taking it into the compact SUV market, albeit belatedly, but Jeep is a heritage brand, with a desirable badge, which could help it make up lost ground.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: Jeep Compass 2.0 MultiJet-2 140 4WD Limited £31,495 (range from £22,995)

Engine: 1,956cc, 140bhp, four-cylinder turbo diesel with six-speed manual gearbox

Performance: 0-62mph 10.1 seconds; top speed 118mph

MPG: Urban 46.3; extra urban 60.1; combined 54.3

CO2 emissions: 138g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 31pc

Insurance group: 20 (out of 50)

Warranty: Five years or 75,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,394mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,033mm; H 1,644mm


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