Pros: off-road capability, improved cabin, refinement
Cons: sloppy handling, plug-in hybrid has mediocre electric range
The Jeep Compass is a recently updated riposte to family SUV favourites such as the Hyundai Tucson and SEAT Ateca. With such a long and illustrious history, American 4x4 brand Jeep really ought to be a key player in this sector, but the Compass has long been an underdog in this arena. So Jeep has set to work updating this family-orientated model to bring it up to speed. We tested the off-road-centric Trailhawk model.
Jeep Compass Design
Jeep has barely changed the Compass from the outside, claiming customers didn’t see the need for an update. However, those familiar with the old car might notice the new front bumper and the repositioned daytime running lights. Otherwise, it’s more or less business as usual.
That means all the existing Jeep trademarks remain, including the seven-bar grille, muscular rear end and squared-off wheel arches. The Trailhawk model we evaluated also comes with some off-road-inspired decals and a raised ride height for tackling rough roads.
Jeep Compass Interior
Whereas the Jeep’s exterior is largely unchanged, the American company has worked hard on the interior. The dashboard has changed completely, with a new 10.1-inch touchscreen as its centrepiece. It can feel a bit clunky at times, but the new system is more modern than its predecessor.
Alongside that is a new digital instrument cluster that adds to the modern feel, but the real highlight is the impression of quality. The old Compass interior felt a bit cheap in places, but the new car is much more like it. One or two iffy plastics remain, but otherwise the quality is very impressive, with softer materials and sturdy buttons.
Sadly, the updates haven’t changed the interior space much. The rear seats are still far too cramped, with pitiful legroom and headroom for what is a relatively large car. And the boot isn’t huge either, with 340 litres of space available in the plug-in hybrid ‘4xe’ model we evaluated. That’s less than you’d get in a VW Golf.
Jeep Compass Performance & Drive
Compass customers get a choice of two powertrains, both of which are underpinned by a 1.3-litre petrol engine. The lowlier Nighteagle and Limited versions get 130hp, while the Trailhawk and S models combine a 160hp engine with an 80hp electric motor, creating a 240hp ‘4xe’ plug-in hybrid. That offers 50km of zero-emission motoring and a respectable 0-100km/h time of 7.4 seconds.
The 4xe variants come with all-wheel drive, while the Trailhawk model we tried also had extra ground clearance for scrambling over rough terrain. The result is a very capable off-road vehicle, which will tackle far more than most customers will ever throw at it. It’ll wade through 50cm of water with ease, and steep, muddy inclines are no issue.
On the road, however, the news is less positive. The 1.3-litre petrol engine is quiet, and the hybrid system is quite refined, but the 50km claimed range feels a little optimistic in the real world. Perhaps 40km would be more realistic.
Worse still, the steering is light and lifeless, leaving you wondering whether it’s connected to the front wheels at all. It’s a real shame because the car doesn’t handle too badly. It leans a bit in corners, but the low centre of gravity prevents that becoming too excessive.
The suspension also falls short of the best in class with an unsettled, bobbly feel that contrasts with more stable, surefooted models such as the Tucson and Sportage. That said, the ride is marginally better in the low-spec, petrol-powered models than in the heavier 4xe.
Carzone Verdict: 3/5
The new Compass is much better than its predecessor, offering a vast improvement in terms of refinement and interior quality. It’s also capable off-road, and the plug-in hybrid powertrain is a welcome addition. But a sub-standard on-road driving experience and surprisingly cramped rear seats let the side down. It simply isn’t as complete as a SEAT Ateca or Hyundai Tucson, and it seems doomed to remain a niche player as a result.