Jeep’s volume-selling crossover adopts a plug-in hybrid powertrain

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This week, we’re testing an Alfa Romeo. Well, sort of.

As appealing as the Giulia and Stelvio are to the enthusiast, their bespoke Giorgio platform is just a bit too specialised and expensive for volume models; and Alfa Romeo is in desperate need of a true volume model, more specifically a posh compact crossover.

Most crossovers look a bit vanilla, but this one has the very distinctive Jeep face, with the seven-slot grille and square styling. It now always has LED headlights too.

That much was clear well before Fiat Chrysler Automobiles merged with PSA to form Stellantis in January last year. And so the obvious base from which to develop said posh crossover (the Tonale, revealed last week) was the Jeep Compass. It’s the right size, it was available and an all-important plug-in hybrid powertrain was in development for it.

However, the story goes that when new Alfa Romeo CEO Jean- Philippe Imparato tried the Tonale, he wasn’t too impressed so ordered the launch date to be put back to make the car Alfa Romeo-worthy. When we tested the Jeep Compass in 2018, we gave it just three stars, so we would be inclined to agree.

In the meantime, that plug-in hybrid Compass has come to the UK, along with a facelift that’s relatively minor on the outside but rather more drastic inside.

Reassessing the Jeep Compass, here in 4xe (pronounced ‘four-by-ee’) plug-in hybrid form, therefore gives us a taste of what to expect from the forthcoming Tonale. At the same time, Jeep itself could use a strong new model, because the iconic US brand, too, has long traded on superficial charm without enough substance to make it stick for demanding British buyers.

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The Jeep Compass line-up at a glance

The Compass engine range currently includes a regular 129bhp turbo petrol at entry level and a range- topping 237bhp plug-in hybrid, but it will be fleshed out later this year with a 48V mild-hybrid petrol and a cheaper, less potent PHEV.

The trim levels are somewhat puzzlingly named: Limited sits above Night Eagle and below S, while the Trailhawk serves as the alternative, off-road-optimised range-topper.


2 Jeep Compass 4xe 2022 road test review side pan

We say it’s an iconic US brand, but Jeep claims the Compass was developed specifically for Europe and pre-facelift cars were actually built in India. Production for the facelifted version has moved to a factory near Melfi in southern Italy, where the Compass comes off the same line as the smaller Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X.

Regardless, it looks unmistakably like a Jeep, and the recent facelift serves to keep it fresh. The trademark seven-slot front grille and square jaw therefore remain, but the headlights – now always LEDs – are slightly slimmer and there’s a new thin, horizontal slat running across the front bumper. The biggest visual change for the facelift is inside, but more about that later.

No self-respecting manufacturer offers a crossover without the option of two-tone paint. But it’s expensive here, at £1100, and with S trim, your only other choice is plain black

The other big evolution for the Compass is a major shake-up of the powertrain line-up. That the diesels have been put out to pasture won’t surprise many, but more remarkable for Jeep – which profiles itself as a maker of off-roaders and is also seen as such – is that conventional four- wheel drive systems are out, too.

The cheapest Compass is now a front-wheel-drive, manual, 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol. A 48V mild-hybrid version with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox will arrive later this year, but for the time being, if you want four-wheel drive or a self-shifter, your only choice is the new 4xe plug-in hybrid that we’re testing here.

It uses the same 1.3-litre engine, which still drives the front wheels exclusively. Providing the four-wheel drive is a 59bhp, 184lb ft electric motor sitting on the rear axle.

As crossovers go, the Compass 4xe still ought to make for a decent off-roader so long as you get the right version. It’s available in two trim levels. S, like our test car, is the road-oriented choice and comes with 19in wheels and performance summer tyres. The more off-road- capable Trailhawk comes with lifted suspension, mud and snow tyres, a breakover angle of 20.9deg, ground clearance of 213mm and a wading depth of 500mm.

Those figures won’t impress Land Rover Defender owners, but apart from the wading depth, they beat the Range Rover Evoque P300e; and with the help of a suite of electronic aids, a Trailhawk will get to places most crossovers and SUVs wouldn’t dream about.

On this occasion, we didn’t test the Compass 4xe’s off-road prowess, because our S-spec test car came on Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres and electronic aids ultimately can’t compensate for inappropriate rubber.


10 Jeep Compass 4xe 2022 road test review cabin

We recently looked at the facelifted Jaguar F-Pace, which had most of its old plain interior retired in favour of something that felt pricey and had a genuinely unique ambience. Jeep has tried something similar here, but the result isn’t quite as successful.

Make no mistake, the inside of the Compass has been transformed, and for the better. There are plenty of soft materials, and the layered dashboard with a metal-effect trim strip is more visually appealing than before. It combines modernity with common sense by having a 10.1in touchscreen and a plethora of charging ports as well as plenty of physical buttons.

Jeep takes Easter eggs seriously. Its classic fascia is everywhere, a Willys Jeep climbs the windscreen frit band and the Loch Ness monster even appears.

However, the design still manages to be quite forgettable, and it suffers from a random mix of materials and textures that makes it feel quite cheap. Some parts, like the steering wheel and gear selector, give you the impression that you’re in a substantial premium car. Others, like the foamy dashboard top, the thin leather on the armrest and the flimsy mirror adjuster, just suggest Detroit airport rental car. The seats, which are thickly padded and covered in a fairly low grade of leather, contribute to that feeling.

Things improve in the back. The Compass is smaller than most of its rivals but, thanks to a fairly high-set bench and plenty of space under the front seats for rear passengers’ feet, it actually has commendable legroom.

Head room isn’t excessive, but as long as you don’t add the panoramic sunroof, even moderately tall adults will be fine. Unlike in most cars, the middle seat is set slightly lower, which makes it more usable.

While the rear passenger area is more spacious than expected, the boot is fairly small. It gives up only 18 litres from the petrol model, but that’s not particularly capacious in the first place, and the added hybrid technology makes the boot shape slightly awkward. The false floor helps to level out the load area again and the charging cables can be stored beneath, so it remains reasonably practical. But there are much roomier crossovers out there.

Jeep Compass infotainment and sat-nav

The Uconnect 5 multimedia system is the unlikely star of the show here. We’ve tried and liked it before in the new Fiat 500, and it’s no different here.

Every UK Compass gets a 10.1in touchscreen and a 10.25in digital dial cluster. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and an inductive phone charger is fitted on all but the cheapest version. Only 4xes get sat-nav as standard, though.

The touchscreen is reasonably large and generally responds well to inputs, there’s a row of permanent shortcut buttons on the bottom of the screen and it’s possible to configure additional shortcuts yourself. It also retains a physical volume knob and an additional rotary knob. The gauge cluster, meanwhile, can be customised to your own preferences.

We ran into just two niggles: the touchscreen can take a few seconds too long to boot up and the ‘rheostat’ switch to dim the gauge cluster was inoperative.


21 Jeep Compass 4xe 2022 road test review charging port

A combined 237bhp sounds very healthy for a medium crossover. A kerb weight of 1872kg as tested with half a tank of petrol dulls the fun somewhat, but in our performance tests, the Compass 4xe still managed to get to 62mph in 6.7sec. That’s not too far off the Hyundai i20 N, a bona fide hot hatch. It’s also quicker across the board – from a standing start and in gear – than the Range Rover Evoque and Peugeot 3008 PHEVs.

Yet the Jeep simply doesn’t feel that quick in everyday driving. To blame is the gearbox. We suspect it’s more a calibration issue than a hardware issue, because the six-speed torque converter shifts slickly and quickly. The trouble is that it tends to either keep the revs extremely low or send them noisily soaring to the redline.

When we tested the Renegade with the same powertrain last summer, we remarked on the less than perfect gearbox calibration. Evidently, a fix isn’t the work of a few months, but hopefully it’s possible to solve the issue within this car’s lifetime.

There’s a sweet spot of effortless mid-range shove, but the software is very reluctant to let you access it. To do so, you have to use the manual mode, which works well, responds keenly and lets the engine run to the limiter, but this isn’t the way most will want to drive a hybrid crossover.

The dim-witted transmission really detracts from an otherwise fairly well-resolved powertrain. For instance, there’s no jerkiness when the motor hands over to the engine or vice versa. Controlling which powers the wheels is also as easy as it gets, thanks to separate buttons for Hybrid, Electric and E-Save, rather than complex menus or one button that cycles through modes. Helpfully, E-Save mode can be configured to either maintain the battery’s level or charge it up while you’re driving.

In E-Save mode, the car feels a tad sluggish as it avoids using the motor, but you can be confident that the level of charge will be maintained. With just 59bhp available from the motor, it’s hardly brisk in Electric mode, but, making 184lb ft of torque, it’s mostly fine for normal driving. Accelerating up to motorway speed on electric power alone does require some planning, but once it’s there, the car can maintain 70mph without issue.


22 Jeep Compass 4xe 2022 road test review on road rear

We were surprised to see that our test car came on Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres rather than something more off-road or economy focused. Jeep does fit off-road-capable all-season tyres to the Trailhawk, but the S comes on the sporty Goodyears.

Any notion that the Compass 4xe will trouble the BMW X1, Seat Ateca or any of the other dynamic options in the class is quickly dispelled, however. Those tyres do ensure that the limits of grip are relatively high, but you never feel particularly inclined to go anywhere near them.

Light and numb steering doesn’t give you the confidence to push on, even though grip is relatively strong; suspension is surprisingly firm, stopping the car being bouncy.

The main culprit is the steering. Even at town speeds, it feels a little woolly, which ironically is something you might expect with off-road tyres.

The lack of precision is something you get used to, but even at higher speeds, the steering is light and feeds back no information about grip levels whatsoever. This isn’t a car that gives you the confidence to go any quicker than a gentle canter.

It’s not all bad, mind. You might expect a Jeep to be soft and wallowy, and that would be consistent with the lifeless steering and pillowy seats, but the Compass 4xe is quite firmly suspended, giving it remarkably good vertical body control. And yet bumpy B-roads are still dispatched without fuss, because there’s enough compliance to absorb the bumps.

There is noticeable body roll, subjectively amplified by the seats, which are set high and don’t offer much lateral support, but the movements aren’t excessive, let alone inappropriate for this type of car. 

The dynamics of the powertrain are also well sorted. The engine acts exclusively on the front axle and the motor only on the rear, so that means 178bhp and 199lb ft are going to the front and 59bhp and 184lb ft are going to the rear. That’s a very front-biased arrangement, and that’s what it feels like: the balance is safe and secure, and neither traction nor torque steer is ever an issue.

Keeping the front and rear drive separated doesn’t mean that when the battery is ‘empty’ you lose the four-wheel drive. The car’s brains will always try to reserve about 3% of battery capacity and top it up using regenerative braking. That way, even when you haven’t charged the car, it can add some rear drive when necessary and generally function as a regular full hybrid. Conversely, in EV mode, it’s rear-wheel drive only.


‘Am I comfortable in this car?’ should be an easy question to answer, but somehow in the Compass it isn’t.

Subjectively, we found there to be an above-average amount of road noise, with some wind whipping around the door mirrors. However, our sound-level gauge disagreed, and it turns out the Compass is on par with most of its rivals. The seats are confusing, too.

When you first climb into them, you might perceive them as particularly welcoming: the driving position is tall and commanding, with plenty of adjustment, and the squabs and backs are squishy in a way that you won’t generally find in German cars.

Spend some more time in them, though, and you will find that they lack support. The soft padding isn’t quite as comfy as it initially seems, the squab is a touch too short for taller drivers and the shape changes your posture in such a way that causes lower back ache for some.

The chassis equally confounds expectations. The firmness may initially be disappointing, but sharp road imperfections are rounded off very well for a car with 19in wheels, even if rough surfaces can introduce some patter. The tight body control means the Compass 4xe manages to avoid the nauseating floatiness that can plague heavy and softly sprung cars, too.


The new Compass has all the modern active driver aids that you could wish for. All but the cheapest model get adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane keeping assistance, blindspot monitoring, traffic sign recognition with speed assistance, driver drowsiness monitoring and a system that checks for traffic coming from the sides when reversing.

The trouble is that none of it works all that well. The ACC is easily spooked by cars in another lane, the LKA is fairly typical in being annoying off the motorway and active lane following is due to be included but wasn’t on our test car. The speed limit warning, collision warning and blindspot monitoring are all too intrusive in their default settings.

There are two saving graces in the form of a chunky button to turn off the LKA and a button to switch between ordinary and adaptive cruise control, but that shouldn’t be a substitute for mature systems.


1 Jeep Compass 4xe 2022 road test review lead

So far, the Compass 4xe isn’t looking like the new class leader, and unfortunately it doesn’t redeem itself on value, either. The PHEV range starts at £39,895 for the off-road-ready Trailhawk. It’s fairly well equipped, but it lacks the electrically adjustable seats, four-way lumbar support, automatic tailgate and leather upholstery of the S, so unless you have a use for the Trailhawk’s off-road kit, we would recommend the £1000 upgrade.

Its £40,895 price is still £1000- £2000 more than for a similarly equipped Ford Kuga PHEV or Hyundai Tucson PHEV, though.

Compass isn’t expected to compete with the smartest buys in its class for residual value, but does respectably.

There aren’t too many options, and most of them are reasonably priced. That said, you can easily stray into the territory of the much longer-range Toyota RAV4 PHEV and more expensive-feeling BMW X1 xDrive25e. The Compass 4xe is fairly pricey, then, and because its residual values aren’t predicted to be as strong as those of its rivals, it won’t get any cheaper on finance.

Plug-in hybrids have the potential to seriously reduce how often owners need to visit fuel stations, and while that is of course true for the Compass 4xe, it comes with some caveats.

First, the battery may not eat much into the boot, but that’s because it takes up some of the space that was originally meant for the petrol tank. That leaves it at just 36.5 litres. Even if you start with a fully charged battery, that leaves a total range of only just over 300 miles.

The total range isn’t helped by the short electric-only range. The 30 miles (under WLTP testing) allow it to just sneak into the 12% band for company car tax, but in 2022, that sort of range is mediocre at best. In the real world, only 22 miles remain, whereas the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid 225 manages a real- world 31 miles and the Toyota RAV4 PHEV and Suzuki Across siblings can do 46 miles.

The efficiency of Jeep’s 1.3-litre petrol engine should be decent, at least, as the Compass achieved 46.9mpg on our economy run in E-Save mode, which is similar to figures returned by its rivals.


23 Jeep Compass 4xe 2022 road test review static

The confident, square-jawed face, the quirky references to old Jeeps (as well as the Loch Ness monster) and the dogged off-roadability: it all gives the Compass 4xe character, which is something that’s missing from most crossovers. Because of that, it’s easy to like. It doesn’t, however, make it a competitive product.

It does have some good qualities: the Trailhawk version is one of very few choices in this segment with actual off-road credentials; it’s quite quick flat out; its infotainment is excellent; its standard equipment is quite generous; and anyone will be able to make sense of the interior’s logical buttons and switches.

Unless you’re going to do any off-roading, go with the S trim level. It’s reasonably well equipped, so avoid adding too many options, especially the expensive two-tone paint. Three-pin charging cable and Technology and Convenience Pack are useful additions

Sadly, though, it doesn’t offer great value; the plug-in hybrid system is behind the competition on range, efficiency and drivability; the chassis is a mixed bag; the driver assistance features lack finesse; the amount of space in the cabin and the boot is average; and the interior’s fit and finish is inconsistent.

Depending on your priorities, the Compass 4xe might still appeal, and we can still see certain use cases for its off-roadability, but overall it’s a car that’s hard to recommend.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.