First Drive: Jeep Compass
What is it?
The new Compass is designed to slot in between the Renegade and Cherokee, and as such has plenty of kit to ensure it stays in keeping with its stablemates. It's also the first time that Jeep has entered the compact SUV segment, which is now the largest SUV segment in Europe.
The Compass gets all-new looks and is based on a stretched version of the Renegade's underpinnings. It also receives a range of advanced safety systems, as well as an 8.4-inch colour touchscreen on top-spec models. There's also a more extreme, off-road focussed Trailhawk version for those who want even more capability than the standard car can offer.
What's under the bonnet?
With Jeep gunning to make a big impression with the Compass, the manufacturer's opted for a trio of engines that it hopes will meet the needs of all UK buyers.
Consisting of one petrol and two diesel units, the line-up kicks off with the 1.4-litre MultiAir 2 petrol engine that produces 138bhp at 5,000 rpm and torque of 230Nm at 1,750 rpm. There's also a 168bhp version, but the Compass is no lightweight and for easier driving it's best to plump for one of the diesels. The argument's even more clear cut when you consider the petrol unit feels a little harsh as you pile on the revs.
Of the two diesels, it's the 118bhp 1.6-litre Multijet 2 that's likely to be the most popular choice, producing a very usable 320Nm of torque at a lowly 1,750rpm. For diesel fans that want even more lowdown urge, there's a choice of 2.0-litre versions, producing 138bhp or 168bhp.
What's the spec like?
There's no mistaking the Compass for anything else but a Jeep. It's got the brand's traditional grille, but the car's designers have given it a smoother look than other models in the range. The look is meant to be more approachable, and therefore better suited to those looking to buy a compact SUV. There's a contrast-colour roof to give a more dynamic look, as well as larger alloy wheels.
Inside, Jeep has tried to lift the Compass' interior through the use of more premium plastics. There's still a few harder materials used, but for the most part it's a smart and comfortable place to be.
Despite being a 'compact' SUV, there's plenty of room inside the Compass. Both front and rear passengers are given a good amount of leg- and headroom, as well as decent levels of luggage space. You also get a multi-level rear cargo floor and an optional powered tailgate.
The Compass also delivers in terms of safety features. There's the usual array of airbags and Electronic Stability Control systems, but you also get Forward Collision Warning and LaneSense Departure Warning systems as standard.
In this crowded compact SUV segment, there's a lot of other cars to go up against. The ever-popular Volkswagen Tiguan is a key favourite here, offering plenty of practicality as well as rock-solid build quality and an involving drive. There's also the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga, both of which represent good quality but stylish overall packages.
What's it like to drive?
It's certainly no sports car, but the Compass' driving dynamics are pretty much in line with its competition. The steering lacks any real connection, but it's not tricky to place the car where you want it. However, the fully independent suspension does a great job of ironing out imperfections in the road giving it a very refined feel.
Of course, the Compass is just as impressive off-road. Even the front-wheel drive version is relatively accomplished on the rough stuff, but those cars fitted with one of two four-wheel drive setups – Active Drive and Active Drive Low – enable it to get to pretty much any place you could want.
It's far from perfect, but the Compass fights its corner well. In a segment that's growing massively it takes something out of the ordinary to stand out and the Compass gives it a fair go with its distinctive style and 'true' SUV go-anywhere capability.
Importantly, it's also got the infotainment and safety that today's SUV buyers demand and even though it's not the most dynamic drive, we reckon that if the pricing's right and Jeep can get enough people to consider the Compass over established rivals, it's going to be one of their biggest sellers.
Model: Jeep Compass
Price as tested: TBC
Engine tested: 1.6-litre diesel
Max speed: N/A