In-depth reviews

Jeep Compass SUV review

"Offering more space than the Renegade and better driving manners than the rugged Wrangler, the Jeep Compass is a capable SUV with its own individual style… and flaws”

Carbuyer Rating

3.1 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Generous interior space
  • Off-road ability
  • Individual looks

Cons

  • Unimpressive handling
  • Underpowered engines
  • Questionable reliability

Despite relatively small sales, the Jeep brand is well-known in the UK and has earnt a certain level of respect thanks to the ability of its cars off road. The mid-sized Jeep Compass is based on the same foundations as the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X, but is stretched in length by about seven centimetres. It was designed to tempt buyers away from more popular rivals, including the Peugeot 3008, Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and SEAT Ateca.

The Compass name has been used by Jeep before on its entry-level model. That position in the range is now taken by the Jeep Renegade, so the Compass slots in between that model and the Jeep Wrangler, now that the Jeep Cherokee has been discontinued. The Compass bears a strong family resemblance to the Cherokee, both outside and in.

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A facelifted model has been introduced for 2022. It features new LED headlights and a bigger grille. Inside, revisions are more noticeable, with a new 10.1-inch touchscreen joined by a digital instrument cluster. Material quality is slightly improved too but SUVs like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson still feel more upmarket inside.

The latest Compass isn’t the budget car it was previously, but still looks reasonable value when you take account of the big leap forward in build quality. The Compass’ interior is well assembled, and seems more grown-up than that of the Renegade, but it does feel a bit cheap and switchgear borrowed from smaller Fiat models doesn’t help in that regard.

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Spend any time in a Renegade and you’ll immediately appreciate the increased interior space in the Compass – there’s far more legroom and a much bigger boot.

The 2022 facelift also introduced a plug-in hybrid Jeep Compass 4xe, providing buyers with an electrified option for the first time. A 178bhp petrol engine is joined by an electric motor and an 11.4kWh battery, allowing an electric range of up to 30 miles and a low CO2 figure that’ll make it more appealing to business users. It may not be so popular with private buyers, however, given that the 4xe is £10,000 more expensive than the entry-level petrol model.

A key feature of the Compass – and any other Jeep – is off-road ability, and we were impressed when we put it through its paces. The entry-level Compass comes with front-wheel drive, with the plug-in hybrid’s electric motor stepping in to give four-wheel-drive. It won’t tackle the toughest ascents like the Wrangler but the Compass will go further off-road than many family SUVs. The optional Trailhawk package adds an extra-low gear ratio to help you make slow but determined progress across really challenging terrain, making it an alternative to the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Even the regular Compass should be more than capable of dealing with the situations most families will encounter and the worst our weather can offer.

The Jeep Compass has more body lean in fast corners than the excellent Peugeot 3008 and SEAT Ateca, and a lack of feedback through the steering wheel ultimately makes it less fun to drive. The ride also feels less settled, which is a shame given that Jeep is targeting upmarket models like the Volkswagen Tiguan and BMW X1.

A previously wide engine range has been slimmed down for 2022. The 138bhp petrol and three diesel options have all been discontinued; now there’s just a 128bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine or the 4xe (pronounced four-by-ee) plug-in hybrid with 237bhp. The PHEV gets a six-speed automatic gearbox but this hampers the car’s performance thanks to lethargic gear changes.

Crash safety body Euro NCAP tested the Compass in 2017 and awarded it the full five stars. If you’re in the market for a practical family SUV that won’t get lost in the crowd, the Jeep Compass may be flawed, but it certainly has a sense of adventure and the Trailhawk version offers real off-road prowess if you need it.

MPG, running costs & CO2

The Compass borrows engines from the Renegade, but they have to work harder here

The most economical version of the Compass is the plug-in hybrid. It’s officially capable of 156.9mpg, 44g/km of CO2 and an electric range of approximately 30 miles but all these figures depend on how often you charge the battery and the types of journey you do. The 4xe’s small CO2 output result in an appealingly low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band for company-car drivers.

The other option is a 128bhp 1.3-litre petrol, which is capable of 42.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 152g/km. That’s less than the 44.8mpg you can achieve in the Nissan Qashqai but reasonable for a mid-size petrol SUV. It’s the same as the old four-wheel-drive diesel model could achieve.

After the first year's CO2-based road tax (generally included in the on-the-road price), the Jeep Compass will cost the standard annual rate in VED (road tax), with the hybrid costing £10 a year less. Spec it to over £40,000, however, and the car will be subject to a surcharge in the first six years, taking your annual tax bill to nearly £500.

Like all new Jeeps, the Compass comes with a three-year warranty. The ‘5-3-5’ deal, comprising five year’s warranty and roadside assistance plus three years’ servicing cover is no longer offered. As such, Jeep’s warranty broadly matches what you get from Volkswagen, SEAT, Peugeot and Nissan. Hyundai offers a five-year warranty (with no mileage cap), while Kia, MG and SsangYong provide seven years of cover and Toyota offers up to 10 years’ warranty.

Engines, drive & performance

The Compass is impressive off the road, but a bit of a mixed bag on it

The Jeep Compass is impressive off-road, capable of tackling terrain including rocks, gravel, and whatever else is thrown at it.

It’s likely, however, that Compass owners in the UK will rarely make use of the car’s all-terrain prowess, preferring to stay on tarmac – and here the Compass lags behind many of its rivals. Its steering is very light and lacks feel, and the car leans and understeers more than the Ford Kuga or Mazda CX-5. This is exacerbated by the all-season tyres fitted to the Trailhawk model, which only come into their own once you hit the dirt or the weather gets bad.

Off-road, the tables are turned and the Compass Trailhawk's only rival is the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Jeep's Active Drive Low system gives the Compass a 'crawling ratio' to tackle steep inclines and its clever four-wheel drive can send all the engine's power to just one wheel if necessary. Selec-Terrain provides Snow, Sand, Mud, Rock and Auto driving modes, with the Rock setting exclusive to the Trailhawk. Taller suspension, underbody shielding, new bumpers and a red tow hook hint at its off-road ability.

The entry-level models use a 128bhp 1.3-litre engine or you can move up to the 4xe plug-in hybrid. A 178bhp version of the 1.3-litre engine is joined by an electric motor for a total output of 237bhp, and the plug-in Jeep Compass can get from 0-62mph in a nippy 7.5 seconds.

Not that it feels that fast in the real world because the gear changes made by the six-speed automatic are too sluggish. It’s slow to kick down when you want to accelerate and the electric motor doesn’t fill the gap. We found the 4xe to be quite noisy if you want to get up to speed quickly; it’s clear a more relaxed driving style is intended.

Previous engines have included a 1.6-litre diesel with 115bhp, plus a 2.0-litre diesel with either 138bhp or 168bhp. The latter, reserved for top-spec cars, got a nine-speed automatic gearbox and was smooth to drive but this gearbox had a tendency to hang on to gears for too long. A 1.4-litre petrol engine was available in the same outputs as the bigger diesel.

There isn’t a Compass model that’s particularly quick or fun to drive, which reflects the car’s focus on solid off-road ability and comfort. If you want an SUV in this class that’s rewarding to drive, the CX-5, Kuga and BMW X1 are more fun.

Interior & comfort

The interior can feel a little cheap and rivals offer a more settled ride

While the enthusiastic driver might not be in their element behind the wheel of a Compass, their passengers should be happy. Compared to the smaller Renegade, the Compass is a far quieter and more comfortable car, as well as a usefully more spacious one. Interior quality is better, too, while music and navigation are on hand thanks to Jeep’s UConnect 5 infotainment system, a new system introduced for 2022. Our top-spec test car had a big 10.1-inch touchscreen, which is noticeably faster than the screen it replaced, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The dashboard design has a marked resemblance to that of the larger, more expensive Jeep Cherokee, although that model has a more upmarket feel than the Compass. The Compass dashboard features more physical buttons than a lot of new cars these days, which some buyers will prefer compared with doing everything on a touchscreen, but frustratingly the controls aren’t that easy to use when on the move.

Jeep’s designers have been quite conservative with the interior, too, and some of the switchgear feels a little cheap, particularly where it seems to have been borrowed from less expensive Fiat models. There are some soft-touch materials but a few bits of shiny trim fail to give the mostly dark interior enough of a lift.

Trim levels include Nightingale, Limited, Trailhawk and S – although it’s worth noting the first two are petrol-only and the latter two get the plug-in hybrid powertrain. Standard kit includes alloy wheels, LED rear lights, air-conditioning and cruise control.

Hill-descent control, rugged suspension, tow hooks and a 'Rock' low-ratio mode for the automatic gearbox all make the Trailhawk more capable over rough terrain, but this trim makes the Compass rather pricey, starting from almost £40,000.

The top-spec S gets a good spread of equipment, including digital dials, 19-inch alloy wheels, sat nav, a powered bootlid, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and heated seats. There’s also a powered driver’s seat and keyless entry and start, plus extra safety features like traffic sign recognition and pedestrian detection.

The Jeep Compass uses ‘amplitude reactive’ suspension dampers, which are designed to absorb road bumps and surface imperfections – but the Compass still tends to fidget over British roads and isn’t as smooth as the Nissan Qashqai or Volkswagen Tiguan. Refinement is also behind the class leaders, with some vibration through the controls and pronounced wind and road noise when cruising at speed.

Practicality & boot space

Loads of interior and boot space makes the Compass a practical family SUV

The Compass is 150mm longer than the Jeep Renegade and slightly larger than a Nissan Qashqai. Much of this extra size translates to increased legroom for those in the back. Headroom isn’t too bad either, even though passengers sit relatively upright, not slouching as they might in a saloon. Avoid the panoramic sunroof if you're likely to carry adults in the back often, because it cuts into the ceiling height. Those in the front should have no trouble getting comfortable and the large glass area allows plenty of light in as well as giving a good view out.

The 438-litre boot is quite a bit bigger than the Renegade’s 351 litres of space, but can’t quite match the 520-litre Peugeot 3008 or the SEAT Ateca which only trails the 3008 by 10 litres. The Compass wins back points with a practical and versatile flat loading floor though.

Reliability & safety

The Jeep Compass’ safety is excellent, but reliability remains a question mark

In 2016, Jeep posted a very encouraging result in our annual Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, climbing 15 positions to an 11th-place finish out of 32 brands assessed, but too few Jeep owners scored the brand for it to be included in our more recent results. Euro NCAP tested the Jeep Compass in the summer of 2017, awarding it the full five stars. The car scored an impressive 90% in the adult occupant category and a very reasonable 83% for child occupant protection.

No less than 70 safety features either come as standard or can be fitted optionally, highlighting just how important safety is in a class where most customers are families. A forward collision warning system is fitted as standard, while lane departure warnings and cross traffic alerts sound an alarm if you head towards traffic on the motorway or while backing out of a parking space.

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