With prices from £22,995, the 2017 Jeep Compass undercuts a number of its rivals. But can it do more than just go off-road? Ben Griffin headed to Brighton to find out.
Remember the original Jeep Compass? Probably not, partly because it was launched back in 2011 but mainly because it was as memorable as coughing.
Fortunately, the new model is a more enticing proposition that hopes to stand out among the billion other SUV crossovers you can now buy, many of which drive in quite similar fashion.
Underpinning the 2017 Jeep Compass is the same platform as the surprisingly likable Renegade (and the Fiat 500X) and it comes with similar levels of interior gadgetry to accompany a smarter, more rugged look. It looks every bit like a Jeep, which will no doubt please fans of the badge.
More than just looks will, of course, be needed to tempt buyers, which is why it also offers what should be genuinely useful off-roading capability. But can it do everything else needed to dissuade you from choosing a VW Tiguan, Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot 3008?
Having had to miss the European launch, Jeep kindly invited us on the UK launch, complete with a leisurely drive around Brighton and the surrounding countryside.
2017 Jeep Compass: What is it?
The second-generation Jeep Compass is a medium-sized SUV that sits between the Renegade and Cherokee for size. Around 80 per cent of parts are new compared to the former, making it a major overhaul.
It does, however, share the same electric steering, engines and brakes as its smaller sibling. And, being a Jeep, it offers more than just the ability to drive up a particularly big kerb, especially if you opt for four-wheel drive.
From the outside, it seems as if the Renegade’s bold design has been ignored in favour of the more sedate Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. It looks imposing, as you would expect from a tall vehicle that is 4,394mm long, but there is little visual excitement beyond the trademark seven-part opening.
The little ‘Easter eggs’ found in the Renegade seem to have been forgotten, beyond a little snake drawing at the base of the rear window. Plus the colours available are much more subdued, so prepare to be disappointed if you wanted bright orange.
For off-roading, the Compass has two 4×4 systems. Jeep Active Drive lets you jump between traction modes, including one best for snow and, in the case of the special Trailhawk version, rocks. Coupled with a generous ride height and a short overhang and you can really go off the beaten track.
Then there is Active Drive Low, which offers a 20:1 crawl ratio and can send 100 per cent of torque to any wheel, allowing you to maximise traction on steep, slippery surfaces.
Sport is the entry-level trim, followed by Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk. Trailhawk actually sits nearly 2.5cm higher than its counterparts, for up to 216mm of clearance, and has a unique front and rear fascia designed to let it go over bigger things, as well as 17-inch off-road tyres.
As for engines, you can choose one of two petrols or one of three diesels in the UK, including the 120hp 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel and the 140hp 1.4-litre MultiAir2 Turbo petrol. Atop the range is a 2.0-litre MultiJet II that outputs 170hp.
There is only the option of a nine-speed automatic on the aforementioned 2.0-litre diesel if you want the 170hp output, but other engines provide access to a six-speed manual should you wish for a more hands-on experience. All models are backed up with a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
The 2017 Jeep Compass will be available to buy from February, 2018, priced from £22,995, except for the Trailhawk, which arrives in the second half of the year. It has been priced at £35,295, although we have been told this may change closer to launch.
2017 Jeep Compass: What is it like to drive?
We drove two variants of the Jeep Compass, two different outputs of the 2.0-litre diesel, and neither proved to be a chore. There is a level of reluctance from both engines and the somewhat stubborn accelerator is mainly to blame, but delivery is smooth and it helps keep your fuel bills down.
Full throttle presents a harsh grumble, mind you, but both engines die down to almost inaudible levels at low revs ─ even at 70mph. Wind noise is similarly non-existent, making the Compass a decent motorway cruiser.
The six-speed manual is really slick and while some may dislike the lack of any mechanical feel, changing gear is always hassle-free. In some ways, the manual lets you really keep the diesel quiet and rely on the 258lb/ft (350Nm) of torque at 1,750rpm, which is a bonus.
If you did want the nine-speed automatic, produced with help from ZF, that would be a non-issue as it provides smooth shifts on the up and down, with only the odd late change as you come to a halt that can be felt through the cabin.
Speaking of which, the inside of the new Compass is nicer than your traditional Jeep of yesteryear, as is the case for the Renegade. Though plasticy in places, the quality seems decent and the infotainment display is large and bright enough to be usable, especially as the menu layout is more logical than some of its competitors.
Another plus is the fact you get both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support if you want it, letting you connect your phone without hassle. Or you can simply connect to Uconnect using Bluetooth or a USB.
When moving, there is a bit of a contrast between the thick-rimmed steering wheel, which feels rugged and tough, and the electric steering, which is rather light. The issue never grates, and neither does a lack of steering feel, it just feels jarring at first.
You could also pick fault in the ride quality, which is predominantly smooth but can end up feeling jittery over small clumps of undulations. And that you can feel engine vibration through the pedals from time to time.
As for comfort, the seats in our version were electrically adjustable and the steering wheel travels far enough to make it easy to get comfortable, especially as the front seats themselves cope nicely with long stints of use.
Overall, the Compass offers a surprisingly smooth ride between A and B that is certainly no more or less exciting than its rivals. It just has more frequent moments of sounding and feeling less composed than we would like.
We admit there is a need to sample more engines to see which is our pick of the bunch, but we would definitely consider the petrol now that the UK government wants to start taxing diesels more heavily, even though you take a hit on fuel economy.
Of the two diesels, the 140hp version is only a bit less punchy but manages to sound less thrashy and remains quieter more of the time, plus it costs less, making it our preferred choice.
2017 Jeep Compass: UK price, specs and running costs?
Longitude is likely to be the most popular spec level because it adds the 8.4-inch infotainment display and system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as 17-inch alloys, reversing camera, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry and go.
Our model was Limited, which means you get 18-inchers, a heated steering wheel, rain sensitive wipers, blind spot and cross path detection, parallel and perpendicular park assist, halogen projector headlamps, privacy glass and leather power and heated seats.
Limited certainly adds an element of luxury to the Compass, but the price then starts heading north of £35,000 and the overall quality, desirability and refinement never match that amount of money.
We would hazard a guess a cheaper engined (most likely petrol), two-wheel drive Longitude will make the most sense, so as to undercut its competitors nicely.
2017 Jeep Compass: How practical are we talking?
Not the best in its class, but by no means the worst. Boot space is 438 litres, which is useful enough (better than a Qashqai but worse than a Tiguan) although it is a shame the rear arches will get in the way for particularly wide items.
At least you get a lot of interior space, with the rear seats more than catered for in terms of head space and leg room. Plus the middle seat isn’t the worst place to be. And overall visibility is decent, making it easy to navigate even the slimmest or businest of UK roads.
2017 Jeep Compass: Should I buy one, then?
It is a shame the 2017 Jeep Compass loses some of the outward appeal of the Renegade, but it still looks like a rugged, off-roader and is a vast improvement on its predecessor. The problem is that there are so many other options to choose from ─ and most are at least as capable in all but off roading.
Still, consumers who spend a lot of time in the country and dislike the idea of a Land Rover Discovery Sport will find themselves at the helm of a moderately likable, no-nonsense SUV that, if specced reservedly, offers reasonable value for money.