Review: Jeep Compass
There’s a lot to like about the Compass, Jeep’s attempt to move to the mainstream. In a hugely-competitive segment, it offers best-in-class off-road capability, if that’s what you’re after. Just don't expect a car-like drive.
There’s a lot of equity in the Jeep name. Initially going into production in 1941 as a light military 4x4, the brand quickly built a reputation for off-road durability and functionality to become synonymous with the allied effort across Europe and Africa in World War II.
And now, in 2018, we get the Jeep Compass. Sitting between the Renegade and Cherokee, this is a fully capable SUV immediately recognisable as a Jeep thanks to traditional design cues such as the seven-slot grille and the wheel arches, albeit disguised with crossover looks to make it more palatable to as many people as possible.
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On the inside this becomes even more evident. The dash is covered in the kind of hard-wearing material you would expect to see in the likes of a true SUV, whereas the ventilated/heated seats and arm-rest are soft and comfy and the type of thing you’d find in a crossover, while the chunky steering wheel reflects the vehicle itself.
The centre stack houses a 7in touchscreen, while the centre console neatly integrates gear-shift selection, Selec-Terrain controls, electronic parking brake, engine stop-start (ESS) controls, climate and volume control knobs, and easily-accessible media charging and connectivity ports within the cubby bin.
The driver's instrument cluster is thoughtfully designed with the full-colour 7in screen delivering communication, entertainment and navigation features to enhance both the driving experience and passengers' onboard comfort. It’s pretty easy to use on the move and very responsive making it one of the more usable infotainment units out there.
Alas despite these positive points, the cabin is all a bit non-descript and, as bizarre as this may sound, a bit cramped for a relatively big vehicle.
Visibility is good from the driving seat, and for a vehicle this size parking sensors and rear-view camera do come in handy. We hope you like incessant beeping though, as the parking sensors are more sensitive than a snowflake liberal. One trip up a multistory car park had the Compass’s sensors working overtime to the extent I thought I was in an emergency room or the car was trying to communicate via Morse code.
On the road, the Jeep’s small and wide architecture, fully independent suspension, segment-exclusive frequency damping front-and-rear-strut system, and precise electric power steering is decently weighted for a composed ride.
Alas, it may be undercover as a crossover but the quirks of an SUV remain. It’s sluggish from the off and there’s body roll if you attempt to take corners at speed. With that said, road noise is next to nil and the engine pulls strongly while never sounding too aggressive.
Off-road is what Jeep remains famous for though, and best-in-class off-road capability comes courtesy of two advanced, intelligent full-time 4x4 systems: the Jeep Active Drive and the Jeep Active Drive Low, the latter with 20:1 crawl ratio, each of which can send 100 percent of available torque to any one wheel when needed.
Both Jeep Active Drive and Active Drive Low 4x4 systems include the Jeep Selec-Terrain system, providing up to five modes (Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud modes) to ensure that Jeep retains its reputation for the best four-wheel-drive performance on any surface and in any weather condition.
As you’d expect then, the Jeep Compass is a sturdy build with high ground clearance but trades its capability off for so-so economy (54.3 mpg) and emissions (138 CO2 g/km).
As it’s the height of summer, we only had the opportunity for a mild bit of rough roading but the Compass proved to be as capable as ever.
All in all, the Compass is a complex beast. It’s a balancing act that aims to appeal to as many people as possible, but arguably its quirks may put off a lot of mainstream drivers.
Your stereotypical Jeep user may sneer at its wide market appeal, whereas your stereotypical crossover driver may be put off by its perceived lack of refinement. Don’t expect a car-like drive, but as an SUV fan … I loved that.