The Jeep Compass is an important model for the ‘all-American’ brand. The facelifted version was the first Jeep to be built since parent company Chrysler merged with Fiat. It is also one of the first Jeeps to be sold outside America without all-wheel drive. It also fills the gap left by the discontinued Patriot.
The range starts at £17,000, but that buys a slightly breathless 2.0-litre petrol unit. Better to spend a little more and get a 134bhp diesel.
We tested the 161bhp 2.2-litre CRD 4x4 Limited model, with a turbodiesel sourced from Mercedes-Benz. It’s about £1500 cheaper than an equivalent Volkswagen Tiguan or Ford Kuga, and that price difference becomes even more significant when spec-adjusted – leather upholstery, heated electric front seats and Bluetooth are all standard on the Limited.
Jeep says two-thirds of all Compass sales will be fitted with this engine in one of two outputs, the other being 134bhp. It is an in-line four supplied by Mercedes and developed for the Compass, but don’t expect Merc levels of refinement – its clattery at idle and intrusive when pushed hard through the six-speed manual.
The petrol units are variations on Chrysler’s World Engines, and are available in 2.0- or 2.4-litre capacities, the former with a five-speed manual and the latter with a CVT auto. Either way, they're edge cases as far as the percentage of sales go.
The 161bhp 2.2 and the 2.4 petrol engines both feature an active four-wheel-drive system with a locking mode. Power is shifted from front to rear using an electronically controlled clutch. The 2.0-litre petrol is offered only in a front-wheel-drive configuration, the 2.4-litre as four-wheel drive only and 2.2 models are available in both.
There are soft-touch plastics on the doors and centre cubby, but the rest of the fascia feels low-rent and is easily scratched, giving a general impression of mediocre material quality. There’s plenty of head and legroom for adults in the back.
The Compass carries a new grille – although the trademark seven-slat arrangement remains. The headlights, bonnet and front bumper are also new, and give a more upmarket, expensive look.
New management or not, the Jeep Compass is a more old-fashioned kind of 4x4 than a Ford Kuga or Nissan Qashqai. To those who like their off-roaders to feel tough and robust, it could appeal, but on this evidence the Compass lacks the polish to significantly broaden Jeep’s reach and improve its sales fortunes..