Review: Jeep Compass

First impressions of the five-door Jeep Compass are good. Rated to tow 1,000kg, it is made at Fiat's factory in Ranjangaon, Pune, India.
First impressions of the five-door Jeep Compass are good. Rated to tow 1,000kg, it is made at Fiat's factory in Ranjangaon, Pune, India.
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The Jeep Compass is the US brand’s latest deviation from ultra-rugged-all-terrain towards urban family pet.

The slightly smaller Jeep Renegade has been a massive hit. The Compass is a larger model, based on the same “platform” which originated under the Fiat 500X. The two brands have been partners for several years.

Being a Jeep with Italian innards you may think it is made in either the US or Italy: wrong. It is built in Ranjangaon, India.

As with many all-rounders, the drive can be to the front wheels (2WD) or to four wheels. The default mode for the 4x4 version is front-wheel drive.

Prices start at £23,355 for the 2WD sport with a 120hp, 1.6 Fiat diesel engine rated at 64mpg and 117g. The 0-62 mph time is 11 seconds.

Next in the range is the plusher Longitude at £26,355 with 4x4 drive or £25,315 with a 1.4 litre 140hp petrol engine and 2WD.

Any of these will be fine but for built-in navigation you’ll want the Limited which brings Bluetooth, smart-phone connections, a larger display screen, powered leather seats and so on, at £28,315 with the petrol engine; £29,355 with the 120hp diesel; £32,125 with a 2-litre 140hp diesel and 4x4; or £32,925 with a 170hp 1.4 petrol engine and automatic gears. The Limited tested here had a 170hp version of the 2-litre diesel, with 4x4 and automatic gears at £34,925.

The Compass with 4x4 drive is capable over soft ground with enough ground clearance for rutted tracks – just watch the front spoiler. The Trailhawk is the focused off-roader, with the spoiler removed and less risk of dirtying its nose or bottom. It has extra ground clearance, under-body protection, 17-inch off-road-tyres and hill descent control. The engine, the price and the UK arrival date are awaited.

The immediate problem for the Compass is that the price for a Limited (the model you’ll want) takes it into conflict with potential rivals like the Range Rover Evoque, Volvo XC40, Audi Q3, BMW’s road-biased X2 and the larger Land Rover Discovery Sport.

The first impressions of the Compass Limited are good – the bold styling, the robust look, the famous seven-slat grille, that word Jeep on the nose. It is an antidote to the familiar posse of school-run lifestyle SUVs.

An against-trend choice does appeal to the maverick but then I’m not the buyer. I can’t see many folk on the school run swapping an Evoque or Discovery for a Compass. The interior will not inspire desire. It is smart but not a match for a Volvo or Audi or the Land Rover pair, certainly not for the BMW.

First learn your “apps”. The screen display is full of “apps” and icons which you touch to trigger their content. Through these you can adjust and select, add or delete. For example, the Compass arrived with steering which tugged left and right – as if a tyre was flat.

This proved to be caused by the lane-correction system being set on the highest intervention when the car. I de-selected and the steering became normal. The choice is yours – and it may be a life-saver for the careless or sleepy driver and other road users.

This lusty Fiat diesel engine is noisy when starting up and accelerating but it cruises quietly. You may also notice tyre noise and road rumble. The standard wheel is 17-inches but the demo car was on 19s with low-profile Bridgestone Dueller tyres (a £700 extra). They clashed visually with the squared-off wheel arches. The combo gave snappy steering but must have affected refinement on everyday roads.

And yet, and yet… after several days the Compass had become a happy companion. The nine-speed automatic gearbox did its changes without a jerk or hesitation. A trip for its picture session into an ancient drovers’ track was a doddle.

The 4x4 selec-terrain system has an auto setting which chooses whether to drive all the wheels or just the front ones. You can manually select the optimum traction for snow, sand or mud. The fuel consumption is officially 49.6mpg. The trip computer recorded 39mpg. The acceleration is fierce enough, with a 0-60mph time around nine seconds.

There are few surprises in the cabin, with plenty of storage space, easily-folded rear seats, a multi-tier cargo deck, covering a full-size “temporary use” spare wheel (worth having at an extra £150). The rear parcel shelf is fiddly to remove/replace without folding the seats.

Rear passengers have a three-pin socket and a USB port. The leg and headroom is generous, even with the full-length, part-opening sunroof (£1,200). The demo car also benefitted from adaptive cruise control – so much better than plain cruise control – which with a power-lift tailgate is £1,000 on the bill. Note, though, that the tailgate needs closing manually. The car’s “magnesio” grey paint was a further £700.

Verdict: Another tough nut from Jeep.