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”
- Generous interior space
- Off-road ability
- Individual looks
- Unimpressive handling
- Underpowered engines
- Questionable reliability
Despite registering 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 between that model and the Jeep Wrangler, and will sit below the Jeep Grand Cherokee when that car comes to the UK. The Compass bears a strong family resemblance to the Cherokee, both outside and in.
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 also slightly improved but SUVs such as 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 the big leap forward in build quality into account. The Compass’s 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.
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.
Shortly after, Jeep introduced a second hybrid engine called e-Hybrid, which is also available on both Compass and Renegade models. This front-wheel-drive model gets a bigger battery than a mild-hybrid but a smaller one than a ‘full’ hybrid, so you get some benefits. You can creep in traffic and park without disturbing the petrol engine, but it’ll kick in after a few hundred yards. It’s reasonably economical, and is cheaper than the plug-in 4xe.
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.
The 138bhp petrol and three diesel options have all been discontinued; now there’s just a 128bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine, the 1.5-litre e-Hybrid with 147bhp, 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, although the test has become stricter since then. 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.