For too long the iconic American off-road brand hasn’t competed in the burgeoning small SUV market, but with the Compass, it’s back with a bang
On the road
On the road
Jeep is a brand steeped in off-road heritage, so you would think it’s handily placed to capitalise on this current trend for off-roaders, SUVs and crossovers.
But the previous Compass never really grabbed the attention in the way models either side of it in the line-up have managed. The bigger Cherokee and Grand Cherokee models are long-standing and have their followings, and the Tonka toy-styled Renegade baby SUV is an underrated and useful model.
But the previous Compass was pretty anonymous, and there has been a four-year gap where the 4x4-orientated brand hasn’t even had a product in the compact SUV class.
This new Compass ends that run, and provides the brand with a mid-sized model to bridge the obvious gap between the Renegade and Cherokee.
The new Compass offers both front- and four-wheel drive systems and a range of three diesel and two petrol engines.
The base model, which is just to give a price point and only available with the entry diesel engine, is the £22,995 Sport. It misses out on the likes of satnav, rear parking camera, leather interior, roof rails, 8.4-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry, which all come for the £3000 step-up to the mid-spec Longitude. To be honest, it’s a slightly extravagant move for a fleet driver to go on to the top-spec Limited of our test vehicle, with another £3000 adding larger alloy wheels, TFT instrument cluster, auto wipers, powered and heated seats, front parking sensors, park assist, blind spot assist and many more bits that are all lovely to have but not essential.
Three of the five engines are available in the middle Longitude spec, with all five offered in the top Limited trim. There is also the left-field trim level of Trailhawk coming later this year, an off-road special trim with an extra ‘rock’ driving mode and various other off-road adornments such as new springs and tyres, raised ride height and under-body protection, but that’s sold in very limited numbers and exists mainly to highlight Jeep’s off-road prowess.
The engine line-up has an obvious stand-out candidate for a company car driver, with the entry 120hp 1.6 diesel engine being far and away the most efficient option. Its 117g/km emissions figure is 21g/km better than the 2.0-litre 140hp diesel that’s the next one up, a decent portion of which can be attributed to the fact that the 2.0 engines come with four-wheel drive, whereas the 1.6 entry car is front-driven only. The 170hp 2.0-litre at the top of the range is another £2800, only available on the top Limited spec, and comes only with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, taking emissions up to 148g/km.
The two petrol alternatives – 140hp and 170hp versions of the 1.4 Multiair engine, are at 143g/km and 160g/km respectively, with the more powerful one only available in four-wheel drive nine-speed-auto form, rather than the front-drive manual of the lower-powered model.
So the nub of all that is that the 120hp front-drive diesel is the most sensible fleet choice. Company car BIK payments will be the same for the diesel as for the entry petrol that’s one BIK band higher, thanks to the petrol being £1000 cheaper and not having the new four-band diesel penalty from the Government. However, that means they come out neck-and-neck on monthly tax payments, but the petrol is 18.6mpg worse on the official fuel economy figures, which will soon add up at the pumps.
The Compass is clearly a Jeep, enjoying the big, bold chrome grille with its vertical bars, and the squared wheelarches familiar to those with any knowledge of Jeep styling. It strikes a very good balance of muscular off-roader without looking too butch, and is well-proportioned in terms of the styling working nicely on this size of car.
Jeep’s new model is small for the segment, coming up shorter, lower, narrower and with a smaller boot than any of the Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan, but interior occupants won’t notice the slightly more compact footprint because there’s decent rear room. Up front it’s the same, with a nicely designed cabin. Better still, Jeep hasn’t tried to put too many controls on to the functional and sensible touchscreen system, which seems to work better than sister company Alfa Romeo’s offering.
The seats are a bit flat and not as welcoming and comfortable as those in most SUVs, but otherwise the controls are all sensibly located and there’s a nice stowage space for phones and coins in front of the odd spherical manual gear lever. The lever is made from shiny plastic, which means it’s easy to accidentally slip it through your palm mid-shift, a trait not helped by the fact the shift itself is a touch on the notchy side.
As mentioned, the boot’s 438-litre capacity is significantly shy of its rivals’, and there is too much encroachment from the wheelarches. There’s also the significant issue of the most difficult-to-remove parcel shelf known to man, where you have to drop the rear seat to remove it, thanks to the shaping of the shelf and the boot, which was something we hadn’t encountered before.
To drive, the 120hp diesel needs to be worked quite hard to perform at its best, which isn’t unexpected given its power versus the size of car, but on paper it’s quicker-accelerating than equivalent Ford or Honda rivals. The tricky thing for business users is the big emissions, and to a lesser extent, cost gap from the 120hp engine up to the more powerful units – the 140hp diesel is another £2500 and 21g/km, while going up to the 170hp diesel raises the car’s CO2 output by another 10g/km.
The engine is also not the quietest, especially when under duress, and the ride quality is varied, with it not at its most accomplished over broken or bumpy surfaces. However, the steering is well weighted, and body roll is under control, although this isn’t a car desperate to attack sweeping country roads.
From a cost-per-mile perspective, the Compass impresses more than might have been expected. Emissions are within a couple of grammes per kilometre of logical rivals such as the 120hp diesel Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V, though most other models don’t have diesel engines that compete directly; that’s why we’ve used the more powerful 150hp diesel Volkswagen Tiguan in a mid-trim for comparison with the top-spec 120hp Jeep. This is also true for the likes of BMW’s X1 and Mazda CX-5.
But the Jeep’s residual value is excellent, within less than one percentage point of the Tiguan and well ahead of the others, which compensates for a price that’s a touch higher than the competition, while other running costs are in the right area, even if insurance and SMR costs aren’t challenging the best in class. But it beats the other three cars in its rival basket for overall cost per mile, which is no mean feat.
The Compass is something of a contradiction of a car. It’s not common for a vehicle to have a fair number of niggles, frustrations and mild flaws, yet be quite so likeable at the same time. Running costs are good, residual value is excellent and the P11D price is more than reasonable given the levels of equipment. It also looks great, and gives Jeep the mid-sized SUV it desperately needed to genuinely compete in this area of the marketplace.
Jeep describes the new Compass as “completing its offering in the UK”, with the new model fitting into the range above the Renegade baby off-roader and below the Cherokee full-size SUV.
The new Compass slots neatly into the compact SUV segment, with the Jeep branding leading to a mixed batch of premium and volume rivals from the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 to the Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan.
This is the second Compass model, and this one has more distinctive and butch styling than its square-looking predecessor (pictured).
The first Compass was launched alongside another small Jeep SUV called the Patriot in 2007, with the Compass on-road orientated and the Patriot the more robust and off-roady of the two. The Patriot lasted four years, but the Compass was sold until 2014.
Jeep’s new model was revealed in September 2016 in Brazil, the place where it’s built at FCA’s assembly plant in Goiana, Pernambuco. Sales in North America kicked off this time last year, and the Compass found its way into 100 European, Middle Eastern and African markets from the second half of 2017. UK cars first landed in early 2018.
What they said
What They Said
"Jeep Compass is one of the key models we have available to help us enhance our fleet proposition. Manufacturers need to have strong products, at competitive rates, and offer the right service to support companies who want our products. In Compass, we have worked hard to achieve that, and I believe we have succeeded."
"Compass takes us right into the largest SUV segment going, while bridging the gap between the smaller Renegade and the larger Cherokee. It is an important vehicle and it has come at the right time, creating a bright addition to the range."
Andy Waite, Fleet and Remarketing Director, FCA UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
The two rear seats are nicely sculpted rather than flat benches
The Jeep styling and car proportions work well
It’s nice to see proper climate buttons not incorporated into the screen
...And one we don't
The first parcel shelf we’ve encountered that requires the rear seat dropped to remove it
The 120hp diesel needs some encouragement, although on-paper performance is better than equivalent-powered rivals’.
The 120hp diesel is a couple of g/km off some others, albeit still in the same BIK band and with the same official MPG. Other engines are much higher thanks to 4x4.
Rear space is good, but the boot is smaller than the competitors’. Cabin stowage space is reasonable.
Trim walk-up is sensible, with all levels nicely specced, and options prices aren’t too bad, though £700 for metallic paint is a bit steep.
The Jeep brand’s styling cues work really nicely on this size of car, and the Compass is well-proportioned and stylish.
Comfort and refinement 6/10
Both could be better, with the 120hp diesel not the quietest of powertrains, and the ride quality is mixed at best. The front seats could also be comfier, and feel a bit flat.
The quality is pretty good and everything is fairly logically laid out. It’s not the most exciting or characterful cabin, though.
The touchscreen system is straightforward to use. The shortcut button into CarPlay - standard on all bar the entry trim - is a nice touch.
Whole life costs 7/10
The combination of decent efficiency and decent residuals more than makes up for a list price that’s a tiny bit higher than rivals’.
CCT opinion 8/10
A car not without flaws, but it’s certainly likeable and cost-efficient.
The Compass offers an interesting change to the regular small SUV options. It looks good, is efficient and has a good RV, but refinement could be better.