First drive: Jeep Compass

It might not look it, but the launch of the face-lifted Compass in the UK is significant, as it's the first car to be launched under Fiat ownership and also signifies the American brand's resurgence in this country. If you can't remember the Compass the first time round, you wouldn't be the only one, as imports stopped back in 2007, with just 566 sold over the two years it was available.

So if British buyers weren't keen last time, why should they have another look now? Well, for a start it has a more attractive new face and alongside a new version of the classic seven slot grille, there's also a new front bumper, headlights and projector spotlights.

The result looks much more upmarket and echoes the design cues of the bigger Grand Cherokee that will also make its UK debut later this year.

Inside, Jeep claim the interior is more luxurious than before. To back this up, there's now soft touch padded trim for the upper surface of the front doors and centre armrest, chrome rings surrounding the air vents, a new four-spoke leather steering wheel and LED backlit gauges.

There's no doubt the interior is a big improvement on Jeeps of old, but I feel that the finish is still some way off class rivals such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

The face-lifted Compass will be available with a new, Mercedes-Benz co-developed 2.2-litre CRD diesel engine. Expected to make up 65 per cent of sales, the new engine is available in 134 and 161bhp versions.

Petrol choices include a 154bhp 2.0-litre and a 168bhp 2.4-litre, the 2.0-litre being a two-wheel drive version available for the first time outside the US. The 2.4-litre is also mated to a smooth-shifting CVT transmission.

So what's it like to drive? Prices start at £16,995 for the two-wheel drive 2.0-litre Sport, but I drove the £23,595 range-topping 2.2 CRD Limited. The new engine boasts 161bhp, but even though it was co-developed by Mercedes, it's hardly the most refined unit I've ever tried, with an obvious diesel rumble from startup.

Things get better out on the road and although the Compass doesn't feel very nimble, the ride is well-judged, body roll is kept in check and the steering though lacking in feel, is nicely weighted.

To sum up, these face-lift changes for the Compass are worthwhile and with the low entry price there's no reason it shouldn't make an impact on the budget end of the crossover market.

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