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Car reviews - Jeep - Compass - Limited

Our Opinion

We like
Nice exterior styling, premium-like cabin, above-average steering and suspension tunes, smooth automatic transmission, long factory warranty
Room for improvement
Driver-assist features should be standard, underpowered petrol engine, lacklustre fuel efficiency, uncomfortable front seats, build quality issues

Jeep doesn’t hold back with brand-building Compass Limited small-cum-mid-size SUV

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Jeep logo6 Jul 2018

Overview

JEEP is facing an uphill battle at the moment with a noticeable drop in sales over the past few years. So, when the company releases a new-generation model, it’s important to pay attention, because this might be the one to reverse its fortunes.

The Indian-built Compass is an intriguing proposition. It attempts to stay true to the American brand’s ‘Don’t Hold Back’ mantra, which means it finds itself as somewhat of an outlier in the small-SUV class.

The Compass’ position becomes even more interesting when you consider that Jeep pitches it against mid-size SUVs, such as the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson, despite it playing in the segment below.

So, is the Compass able to pull off its double-act? Or is it more a case of an experiment gone wrong? We test the Compass in Limited petrol form to find out.

 

Price and equipment

 

The Compass Limited petrol is priced from $41,250 before on-road costs. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/55 tyres, dusk-sensing bi-Xenon headlights, LED tail-lights, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing windshield wipers, front foglights, roof rails, rear privacy glass, power-folding side mirrors and a space-saver spare wheel.

 

Inside, leather upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, a four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, digital radio, a nine-speaker BeatsAudio sound system and a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster feature.

 

Our test car was fitted with several options, including a dual-pane panoramic sunroof ($1950), a black-painted roof ($495), the Advanced Technology Group package ($2450) and Vocal White exterior paint ($595). As such, the price as tested was $46,740.

 

Interior

 

Jeep has done a surprisingly good job with the Compass Limited’s cabin, managing to incorporate just enough soft-touch materials to make it feel a little more special than your run-of-the-mill offering. However, these plastics are a touch on the shinier side, meaning they can look cheap in direct sunlight.

 

The Compass’ steering wheel is a meaty little thing, thick-rimmed in every sense of the word. This might not be to everyone’s taste, though, but we enjoy chunky ones.

However, what we don’t enjoy is uncomfortable seats, and the Limited has those, too. They are flat and hard, two characteristics that will always prove problematic and are carried across to the headrests. Nevertheless, the under-seat storage in the passenger’s pew is pretty nifty.

 

Measuring in at 4393mm long, 1819mm wide and 1644 tall with a 2636mm wheelbase, the segment-straddling Compass offers reasonable rear headroom and legroom sitting behind our 184cm driving position, although we’d suggest avoiding seating three abreast in the second row – it can get squishy and its uprightness can prove uncomfortable on longer journeys.

Puzzlingly, taller occupants might not enjoy the front passenger seat due to its limited height adjustment, which leads to reduced headroom. A bit of a headache, really.

 

While the Limited does have heated front seats, Jeep made the strange decision to bury their controls in its infotainment system rather than having physical buttons alongside the other climate controls.

To make matters more perplexing, these software controls briefly appear on the touchscreen during start-up. It took us a while to work that one out … While we’re at it, the off-centre stack and console did not sit well with us, either. Otherwise, you can’t knock Jeep for trying.

 

Engine and transmission

 

The Compass Limited petrol is motivated by a 2.4-litre Tigershark naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit that produces 129kW of power at 6400rpm and 229Nm of torque at 3900rpm.

As these outputs and engine speeds suggest, progression is less than rapid. Officially, the 1503kg Limited petrol sprints from standstill to 100km/h in 10.1 seconds, but it feels slower than that in the real world.

 

Specifically, this Compass’ issue is its lack of low-end power. It needs to be thrashed to get things moving along, but even then, it is still slow with a capital ‘s’.

If we were Jeep, we’d be eyeing off the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol found in the soon-to-be-launched Cherokee mid-size SUV and Wrangler off-roader as a better option, especially with its meaty 400Nm of twist. In the meantime, the alternative 125kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is an absolute must.

 

Furthermore, an inexplicit roaring sound intermittently came from of the engine bay, which became something we couldn’t quite put our finger on. We’ve experienced a similar issue in diesel-powered Compass variants before but are none the wiser as to what it is.

 

The Limited’s nine-speed automatic transmission with torque convertor handles gear changes with aplomb. It is smooth in operation and teams better with the Compass’ petrol engine than the six-speed unit employed by lower-specification variants. However, it can be hesitant to kick down a gear or two when called upon.

 

The Limited petrol’s claimed fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres, while its carbon dioxide emissions have been tested at 230 grams per kilometre.

We averaged 11.6L/100km during our week-long test drive, which was skewed towards more city driving than longer highway stints. Either way you spin it, the petrol Compass is rather thirsty for what it is, which puts it way off the pace of competitors’ fuel-use figures.

Ride and handling

 

The Compass’ suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and Chapman struts at the rear, with each axle featuring coil-over shock absorbers. Ride comfort is surprisingly good, despite the Limited’s genuine off-road credentials. As such, it is able to confidently soak up most bumps and imperfections on Australia’s lacklustre roads.

 

However, it is prone to body roll through tighter corners but remains relatively flat otherwise, which is impressive for any SUV. Part of this is to do with Jeep’s Active Drive 4x4 part-time all-wheel-drive system that is responsible for putting power down to the ground. It grips and goes with no fuss, but we did manage to trip up the front wheels once in dry conditions.

 

While we didn’t get the chance to test Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction management system on this occasion, previous experience has shown us it handles off-road terrain with confidence. This level of capability positions the Compass as a unique offering in whatever SUV class it’s trying to play in. Simply put, there isn’t another model with its level of off-road chops.

 

The Limited uses an electrically assisted power steering system that performs fairly well in most situations. It feels heavier than most, which we appreciate, but can get caught feeling a little vague at times. Nevertheless, feedback is pretty good for the most part.

 

The Compass’ front-wheel-drive roots haven’t been forgotten, though, as the Limited is often subject to understeer. This can dent confidence during dynamic or emergency driving but is an occupational hazard given Active Drive’s part-time set-up.

 

Safety and servicing

 

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the entire Compass range a five-star safety rating in December 2017. Its overall score was 35.93 out of 37 – or 97.1 per cent – including perfect results in the side impact at 50km/h (16 out of 16) and oblique pole at 32km/h (two out of two) crash tests. Whiplash and pedestrian protection was rated as ‘good’.

 

Standard advanced driver-assist safety technologies extend to park assist, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, a speed limiter and tyre pressure monitoring. If you’re thinking that’s a short list at this price point, you’d be right. The Limited is way off the mark here.

 

However, the example we tested was also fitted with the optional Advanced Technology Group package ($2450), which features forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist and adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, as well as side-mirror puddle lights and a power tailgate. Most, if not all, of these should be standard at this price-point. Plain and simple.

 

Other standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain plus driver knee), anti-skid brakes, and the usual traction and stability control systems.

 

As with all Jeep models, the Compass comes with a five-year/100,000km factory warranty and lifetime roadside assist, with the latter depending on scheduled servicing being completed at an authorised Jeep dealership. Service intervals are every 12 months or 12,000km, whichever comes first. Five years of capped-price servicing is bundled in with the purchase price.

 

Verdict

 

Truth be told, the Compass Limited petrol is a pretty decent offering. It is definitely one of those models that takes some time to grow on you. Safe to say, a short 15-minute test drive won’t do it justice. Its premium-like cabin, above-average steering and suspension tunes, and smooth automatic transmission need time to shine.

 

That being said, is it a class leader? Given Jeep is pitching it against the CX-5 and Tucson, we’d say not. Unfortunately, it’s held back by its underpowered petrol engine, lacklustre fuel efficiency and uncomfortable front seats, while its driver-assist features should be standard at this price-point, although the long five-year factory warranty is appreciated.

 

Furthermore, this is the first generation of the Australian-market Compass to be manufactured in India, and it’s clear that build quality issues are yet to be ironed out. For example, the ‘black-painted’ roof on our test car was wrapped, not painted, and was even peeling at the edges. There is no doubt that fit and finish will improve over time, but it’s just not there yet.

 

Therefore, if off-road-capable SUVs are your thing, the Compass Limited stands tall, but just make sure you go pay the premium for the diesel powertrain. However, if your SUV is unlikely to venture off the beaten path, there are better options out there.

 

Rivals

 

Toyota RAV4 GXL petrol ($38,490 before on-road costs)

The RAV4 impresses with its roominess and practicality – including a large boot – but is let down by its messy dashboard design, thirsty petrol engine and noisy interior when cruising on highways.

 

Mazda CX-5 Touring petrol ($38,590 before on-road costs)

Better value than before, the recently-updated CX-5 leads with its style and well-tuned suspension and steering, but its petrol engine continues to feel underpowered, despite being upgraded.

 

Hyundai Tucson Elite petrol ($39,250 before on-road costs)

The Tucson steers and handles with the best of them, making it a dependable winner in its class. However, its ride can feel firm at times, while tyre noise can be quite vocal on some surfaces.

Model release date: 1 February 2018

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