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All points north: stylish Jeep Compass just keeps on getting better

 

By Paul Connolly

The new Jeep Compass is an accomplished all-rounder, comfortable on tarmac yet supreme off-road.

What's new?

Just about everything. The new Jeep Compass is pretty far removed from the previous generation model, as is the case in fact with all new Jeeps these days.

This car is in fact a statement of intent from Jeep that it is a serious alternative to bigger, more established brands like Land Rover and Volvo.

Gone are the rather boxy, less-appealing designs of yesteryear - the new Jeeps can hold their heads high with the best in any sector.

This rings particularly true for the Compass, which had an overhaul just over a year ago that leaves it competing on equal level with compact to mid-sized SUVs everywhere.

The Compass was originally introduced in 2007, with the second-generation model going on sale here in late 2017.

It's a very significant upgrade from the first-generation car, which had effectively ended commercial production for the UK by 2015, and whilst you'll recognise some styling cues - like the distinctive seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches - any resemblance has been completely upgraded by a sophisticated re-imagining.

What does it look like?

It's modern, sleek and stylish, without throwing out Jeep's distinctive design DNA or losing the functionality and practicality essential for the SUV ("sport utility") segment.

It is in essence a family-sized SUV with strong off-road capability, good looks, serious driving dynamics and refined technology.

LED signature headlamp bezels featuring a black outline add personality and attitude to the face of the all-new Jeep Compass.

The look is muscular, in an understated manner, with a sloping windscreen and full windows surround. The rear is finished off with uniquely slim and rectangular LED tail lamps.

My review model, courtesy of Charles Hurst Jeep, was a range-topping Trailhawk version, specially engineered to be particularly able in terrain. Since Jeep's off-road abilities are already legendary, and Trailhawk trim is even more so, including higher ground clearance and enhanced off-road driving mode. But more of that later.

What's under the bonnet?

In the engine department you have a range of efficient MultiAir and MultiJet engines, thanks to the Fiat-Chrysler tie-up.

Six powertrain combinations are offered, including two petrol, three diesel along with two transmission options - a nine-speed automatic and the six-speed manual gearbox.

The petrol engine offering includes a 1.4-litre MultiAir2 Turbo engine with Stop&Start delivering 140hp and 230Nm of torque in combination with the six-speed manual gearbox and 4x2 configuration.

There's also a 1.4-litre MultiAir2 Turbo engine producing 170hp and torque of 250Nm, paired to the nine-speed automatic transmission and 4x4 configuration.

The diesel engine range comprises the efficient 1.6-litre MultiJet II with Stop&Start delivering 120hp and 320Nm of torque, paired to the six-speed manual gearbox and 4x2 configuration.

Or customers can choose the 2.0-litre MultiJet II with Stop&Start delivering 140hp - with the six-speed manual transmission and 350Nm of torque and comes with the 4x4 configuration.

Finally, there's a higher output version of the 2.0-litre MultiJet II with Stop&Start - delivering 170 horsepower in combination with the nine-speed automatic transmission and 4x4 configuration (including the Trailhawk specific low range mode).

What's it like to drive?

The on-road driving experience is greatly improved in the latest-generation Jeeps, helped by the new engines, improved suspension and gearboxes, and cabin improvements.

Whilst rivals like the Volvo XC40 and Mazda CX-5 are great on the road, the sum of Jeep's parts is its on-road and off-road performances.

The Compass drives well on the road; the cabin is quiet, the dynamics are excellent, the suspension firm yet supple. It uses a fully independent suspension, with a "segment-exclusive frequency damping front-and-rear-strut system" to control the ride.

Most of the time, of course, you'll drive you Compass on tarmac, but it's in the rough stuff that the car really comes into its own.

Driving along deeply potholed country lanes in Co. Antrim, the chassis and suspension easily absorbed the worst and kept the drive stable and enjoyable.

Two intelligent full-time 4x4 systems are offered: Jeep Active Drive and eep 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, plus exclusive Rock mode on Trailhawk spec).

Inside the cabin

The interior of the new Compass is greatly improved and is a very nice place to find yourself.

There are soft-touch plastics and high-quality materials everywhere, and any hard plastics are properly relegated to where they are needed, for example the bottom of doors where you are likely to bang your feet getting in and out.

Thanks to extra insulation, the cabin is quiet; rear seat passengers report excellent front to back conversational abilities.

It's surprisingly roomy in there, too, in fact so spacious you'd wonder if there's a need to trade up to any of Jeep's bigger models. There's a ton of headroom, and plenty of legroom for six-footers in the rear, too, should the occasion arise. Boot space isn't immense but is good at 438-litres before the seats are folded: less than some rivals, and more than others.

Jeep's latest Uconnect system sits high on the dashboard screen and is easy to use with little annoying navigation features. The multi-use steering wheel has lots of infotainment short-cuts, so you don't have to remove your hands while driving.

Costs and trim levels

The Jeep Compass comes in four trim levels, beginning with Sport, then stepping up to Longitude, before heading through Limited trim and on to Trailhawk. (There are some special editions as well, including S and Night Eagle).

Safety has become a key concern for Jeep, with the Compass gaining a 5-star badge in the tough Euro NCAP ratings.

All in, the Compass offers more than 70 available active and passive safety and security features including Forward Collision Warning-Plus, LaneSense Departure Warning-Plus, Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, ParkView rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines, electronic stability control (ESC) with electronic roll mitigation and six standard air bags.

Entry-level Sport trim (from £23,760) boasts 16-inch alloys, air con, and a leather steering wheel. Step up to Longitude and add 17-inch alloys, reversing camera, and a bigger infotainment display with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

Limited trim piles on the extras, including 18-inch alloys and park assistance that guides you while parking both parallel and perpendicular.

Trailhawk is the pick of the pack and is kitted out to really take advantage of Jeep's excellent terrain abilities.

It has an increased ride height of almost 2.5cm, skid plates, red rear tow hook, unique front and rear fascias that deliver 30.0-degree approach, 24.4-degree breakover and 33.6-degree departure angles and up to 216mm of ground clearance.

The alloys have been scaled down to 17-inch to allow them to perform better off-road and there's hill-descent control for the really steep bits.

Who would buy one?

Anyone sniffing around the usual suspects for a family-sized SUV should give serious consideration to the Compass.

It might be a bit of a premium over rivals like the Nissan Qashqai, but it costs less than other well-known rivals, and you get a car with lots of extras as standard, proper SUV looks and ability, and bags of personality.

With Trailhawk trim in particular, you get an impressive blend of premium car and 4x4 prowess. Consider Jeep's gauntlet to be firmly thrown down.

The new Jeep Compass is on sale at Charles Hurst Jeep (www.charleshurstgroup.co.uk/jeep) and other Jeep dealers.

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