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First Drive

First Drive: Jeep Compass

The story:
Jeep, historically famous for SUVs, hasn’t had a rival in the crossover sector for a couple of years – the new Compass arrives in 2018 to grab a piece of a booming market.
Category:C-crossover
Key rival:Nissan Qashqai
Jeep Compass 2.0 140 Limited
Price:£31,000 (est)
MPG:49.6mpg (est)
Emissions:148g/km (est)
On sale:January 2018

Jeep has enjoyed some decent sales success of late with the Renegade small SUV, and it hopes that this will translate to the new, larger, Compass.

It’s hard to stand out in a competitive market, but Jeep says the reassurance of the car’s off-road ability will be its USP.

Jeep Compass - front & side 4There will be a choice of three diesels – a 120hp 1.6 and a 2.0-litre with either 140hp or 170hp – or a 140hp petrol. The petrol and the smallest diesel will be front-wheel drive only, while all the rest are 4×4.

Inside, the looks are fairly conventional, with the dash dominated by the 8.4-inch touchscreen on higher trims (cheaper models get 5.0- or 7.0-inch version).

Most systems are operated by the touchscreen alone, which can be fiddly, but at least there are manual air-conditioning controls and a large volume control.

Jeep Compass - centre consoleInterior space is decent up front, with a good variety of storage, but it is more of a mixed bag in the back. Shoulder room is good but the panoramic sunroof severely cuts into headroom, meaning you’ll end up slouching into the generous legroom.

The boot comes with a good amount of room, and a floor that can be set on three levels. Drop it all the way down and you get 438 litres of space, which is better than the 430 litres in the Qashqai. It’s not perfect, though – removing the parcel shelf is a complicated affair and the seats can only be dropped from the side doors.

On the road the Compass is not as composed as rivals, with the diesel engines emitting a coarse soundtrack, while there is more body roll around corners than some of the competition. The six-speed manual is a decent and slick ‘box; the nine-speed auto oddly clunky. The steering is the biggest downside, though: it’s very light, which makes it disconcerting at higher speeds, albeit easy in town.

The light off-roading we subjected it to was handled with predictable ease by even the standard Limited model – the range-topping Trailhawk has a higher ride height and more off-road tools.

It’s impossible to definitively say how competitive the Jeep Compass will be yet, with pricing and economy stats yet to be confirmed for the UK. Early indications are that the 1.6-litre, FWD model will be the fleet choice, but it faces a fight to win corporate buyers in a competitive market.Jeep Compass - driving off road image 1

 

Tom Webster  

 

The verdict

Pricing will be key, but off-road ability might not be enough to justify the Compass over more practical or composed alternatives.