Jeep Compass SUV
"Sitting midway between the Renegade and Cherokee, the Jeep Compass is a capable off-roader with its own individual style, but you'll have to be in love with it to look past the competition"
- Generous interior space
- Off-road ability
- Individual looks
- 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 Cherokee. The Compass bears a strong family resemblance to the Cherokee, both outside and in.
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.
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.
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, but a significant proportion of sales are expected to be of four-wheel-drive versions. 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.
There’s a wide choice of engines in the range, spanning from a 1.4-litre petrol with 138bhp, to 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels. The top 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel is too noisy under acceleration and its nine-speed automatic gearbox can hold on to low gears for too long; it also sometimes changes gears with a thud. Instead, we recommend a lower-powered version of this engine with a manual gearbox, or one of the smaller engines.
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 most economical version of the Compass is fitted with a 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine that claims 47.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 134g/km, placing it in a reasonable Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band for company-car drivers.
Move up to the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel and economy drops to 42.8mpg with CO2 emissions of 154g/km. The range-topping diesel has 168bhp, four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. It’s capable of 38.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 166g/km.
If you go for petrol, the 138bhp 1.4-litre model returns 37.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 155g/km. There’s also the option of a 168bhp version of the same engine but the extra power, and the fact that it comes with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox like the range-topping diesel, means economy is 32.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 190g/km.
After the first year's CO2-based road tax (generally included in the on-the-road price), the Jeep Compass will cost £150 a year to tax, regardless of which engine you choose.
Like all Jeeps, the Compass comes with a five-year/75,000-mile warranty. It’s part of a campaign called ‘5-3-5’, so named because customers get a five-year warranty, a three-year servicing programme and five years of roadside assistance. This gives the Jeep’s warranty an edge over the three years offered for rivals from Volkswagen, SEAT, Peugeot and Nissan. Hyundai matches Jeep’s five-year warranty (but with no mileage cap) and Kia provides an industry-leading seven years of cover.
Engines, drive & performance
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 diesel model uses a 118bhp 1.6-litre engine that gets the Compass from 0-62mph in 11 seconds. Moving up to the mid-range 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel brings this time down to 10.1 seconds, while the top-of-the-range 168bhp version of the 2.0-litre diesel makes the Compass capable of 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds. With a nine-speed automatic gearbox, it feels reasonably quick and smooth to drive, but with a tendency to hang on to gears for too long.
Petrol buyers can choose between 138 and 168bhp versions of a 1.4-litre petrol engine. The former is capable of 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds, while the latter takes 9.5 seconds.
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
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 infotainment system. The standard display looks surprisingly small because of the wide dashboard, but the 8.4-inch touchscreen fitted in the Limited trim is better than you’ll find in a Qashqai and 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 Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk – although it’s worth noting the entry-level Sport is only offered with one engine. Standard kit includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED rear lights, air-conditioning and cruise control.
Upgrade to Longitude and you get 17-inch alloys, front foglights, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry. The improved 8.4-inch touchscreen is welcome, too, with a reversing camera, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Limited adds luxury touches like a heated steering wheel, leather seats, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors and 18-inch alloys. There’s more safety kit, too, thanks to blind-spot and cross-path warnings, plus the Compass gains the ability to park itself.
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 around £38,000.
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
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
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.