The woolly, imprecise impression given to you by the Compass’s pedals and gearlever finds its equal in the car’s overly permissive initial body control. It’s loose enough to admit enough pitch and headtoss into the car’s ride on motorways, A-roads and faster B-roads as to disrupt your comfort levels just a fraction, and to make the car carry just a suggestion of restlessness and dynamic coarseness with it wherever it goes.

This is perhaps the result of Jeep’s adoption of ‘frequency selective’ dampers for the car. Each damper has a pair of reservoirs and switches to a firmer damper setting when quicker inputs force the oil it carries through a pre-defined threshold on pressure.

Simon Davis

Simon Davis

Road tester
Electronic stability control and 4x4 system meter out torque on tighter corners to maintain balance and deliver good traction

What that means in practice, on the road at least, is that the Compass isn’t without a sense of suppleness or support; and also avoids backing up its soft initial ride with handling that lets the body run out of control in extremis. Even so, you’d say the car’s ride tuning lacks a bit of sophistication in comparison with a better-checked, better-tied-down compact SUV class average.

The Compass’s steering has a similar flavour in that it’s slightly spongy and vague just off-centre, progressing to improve as you add lock by picking up more tangible road feel. At all times, it feels a touch over-assisted in its normal setting, getting even lighter at parking speeds to the extent that the parking steering mode included on every new Fiat and now FCA model for a decade or more, which adds even more power assistance, would seem superfluous.

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Though the car’s lack of good close body control and its failing on on-centre steering feel combine to make it slightly trickier to drive smoothly and instinctively, neither affects its road-holding. The Compass certainly rolls to greater angles than some of its competitors, but it settles in a mid-corner stance in which it maintains balanced grip levels and good stability.

Hurrying the car through a bend is a benign process too, with the car’s electronic traction and stability controls combining with its four-wheel-drive system to deliver torque where there’s grip to be had, but subtly keeping you from deploying too much.

The Compass stays safe, stable and benign when driven to the limit of grip at Millbrook – and, given its remit, that’s all it really needs to do. That a Jaguar E-Pace or a BMW X1 would zip around with considerably more grip, pace and precision says more about their more road-biased dynamic briefs than any superiority in their dynamic execution.

The Jeep’s fast initial rate of roll comes as a bit of a surprise when you commit it to a tight bend, but the body’s lateral movement is ultimately checked before it undermines the car’s handling stability or steering authority.

The electronic stability control is well-matched to the grip level of the tyres, and quells understeer before it’s allowed to build too far. Leave it on and you can banish any worry that you’re going to run wide by using too much mid-corner power; if you turn everything off, you’ll find quickly that understeer is what you’ll be met with on the limit.

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