What is it?
The first fruit of Jeep’s self-proclaimed ‘product led resurgence’. Next week, the first of the American SUV brand’s revised models, enhanced under the auspices of the Fiat Group, goes on sale in the UK: the facelifted Compass.
With the smaller Patriot now dropped from British showrooms, this compact 4x4 will be Jeep’s entry-level model for the medium term. It’s got a new grille, headlights, bonnet and front bumper for a smarter and more expensive look, while on the inside there are some classier chrome trims and soft-touch plastics.
The Compass range starts with the very reasonable 2.0-litre petrol-powered Sport model, priced at £16,995, which becomes one of the very first cars that Jeep has ever sold outside of the US without all-wheel drive. There’s a sub-£20k, front-driven, 134bhp diesel option too.
Our test car was the 2.2-litre CRD 4x4 Limited model, running a new-to-Jeep commonrail turbodiesel engine sourced from Mercedes-Benz, and a part-time four-wheel drive system with a lockable 50/50 power split. Priced at under £24k, it’s about £1500 cheaper than an equivalent VW Tiguan or Ford Kuga; and coming with leather upholstery, heated electric front seats, Bluetooth – and 161bhp – it offers generous power and standard equipment for the money.
What’s it like?
Although it looks compact, there’s plenty of room in the Compass’ cabin: a high roof line provides more than enough head- and legroom for adults in the back. The new soft-touch plastics on the doors and centre cubby are welcome, but the rest of the fascia feels hard and is easily scratched, and the general impression is still only of mediocre material quality.
And regrettably, that Daimler-derived engine hasn’t turned the Compass into a refined car to drive, either. It’s quite clattery at idle and intrusive at high rpm, but does provide plenty of low-end torque, which you can tap into easily via a slick six-speed gearbox.
At relaxed motorway speeds this Jeep is quiet enough, and has enough compliance to ride well. On more challenging B-roads it’s short on vertical body control, and is often flustered by bumps in the road. Inconsistent and sticky steering feel makes the Compass difficult to position precisely in a corner too, and on coarse surfaces it produces plenty of road noise.
Not the most resolved car to drive on the road, then – but a capable 4x4 for sure, with 20 degree approach and departure angles, and rated to tow 2000kg on a braked trailer.
Should I buy one?
Only if you’re sure you want a proper off-roader. New management or not, this Jeep is still a more old-fashioned kind of 4x4 than a Ford Kuga or Nissan Qashqai. It remains to be seen whether drivers used to better-mannered car-like SUVs will accept its rougher edges.
To those who like their offroaders to feel tough and mechanically robust, it could appeal - but on this evidence the Compass lacks the polish to significantly broaden Jeep’s reach and improve its sales fortunes.