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.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Jeep likes hiding design features around its latest cars. The Renegade had a Willys Jeep climbing its windscreen surround, now the Compass has the Loch Ness monster below the rear window

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. High-strength steel links and an isolated subframe for 4x4 models should also bode well for off-road durability.

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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.

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