Jeep’s take on the soft-roader is okay but nothing more. Priced keenly, but no bargain.

What is it?

A soft-roader from Jeep, aimed at stealing sales from the likes of Honda CR-V, Land Rover Freelander and Toyota Rav4. Based on the Dodge Caliber platform and built on the same production line, the Compass is the first example of platform sharing within Chrysler-Jeep. A mechanically identical, but meaner-looking Jeep Patriot will follow later this year.

Unlike UK-spec Calibers, the Compass is four-wheel-drive, with a new Jeep automatic on-demand system. Power predominantly goes to the front axle, but an electronically controlled clutch directs up to 60 per cent of the drive rearwards as required. Power comes from either a VW-sourced 2.0-litre manual diesel or 2.4-litre four-cylinder manual or CVT petrol.

What’s it like?

The diesel is the engine to go for or, put another way, it is the lesser of two evils. It is much less refined than in its VW applications and gutless below 2000rpm. Thankfully then, the six-speed gearbox is slick.

Surprisingly, given its off-road credentials, the Compass improves on the Caliber, steering more keenly, riding more smoothly (although not smoothly enough) and turning with a sweeter balance.

It’s better packaged too, with more headroom, but what it doesn’t improve upon is the Caliber’s sub-standard interior.

Should I buy one?

No, not unless you really must have a Jeep. The Rav 4, CR-V and Freelander are all better cars, even if they cost a chunk more than the £18,990 Jeep asks for the Compass (especially when you consider the Jeep’s alloys, leather heated seats and keyless entry).

The biggest rival to the Compass, however, is Nissan’s Qashqai, which is similar on price if not spec, but much better-engineered and finished.

Jamie Corstorphine

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