We check out Jeep’s latest little 4x4, but can it cut when it comes to getting down and dirty? Geoff Ashcroft finds out.
Be under no illusion that behind the mask, Jeep’s latest Compass is no heavyweight hitter when it comes to being a 4x4. This is more family cart than off-road chariot, as owner the Fiat Chrysler Automotive Group looks to position its latest offering in the small SUV class. And it is no surprise given that the Compass shares much with the Fiat 500X.
At first glance, this latest version is much less boxy than its predecessor and has the look of a scaled-down Grand Cherokee. It has all the hallmarks too; selectable 4wd system with locking function, a raised ride height and Jeep’s trade-mark seven slot grille.
Available in four trim levels; Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk, and in two- and four-wheel drive, it offers plenty of choice for buyers. Fiat-sourced engines comprise three diesels; a 1.6-litre with 120hp, and a two-litre with 140hp or 170hp, and two petrols. The petrol is a 1.4-litre MultiAir with 140hp or 170hp. The latter was fitted to our test model, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
With so many choices, you could be forgiven for thinking the Compass does not know which way to point. FG tested a 4wd Limited 1.4 MultiAir Turbo, and was impressed with the zingy nature of the little petrol engine. Yes, it needs working, but with a nine-speed auto, there is plenty of opportunity to keep the engine between peak torque and maximum power.
One downside we noticed is that the multiple-choice gearbox cannot hide the 1.4-litre engine’s lack of torque. And a lot of gear shifting naturally takes place. It seldom slots into ninth, unless prolonged motorway speeds are maintained.
The interior offers an upmarket feel with more leather-clad and soft-touch materials than hard scratchy plastics. There are a lot of buttons and switches though, which can make the interior look overly complex. The steering wheel is as cluttered as the dashboard, and you will also find buttons on the back of the steering wheel.
For its size, the compass offers a reasonable level of comfort – legroom is more generous than shoulder space – but the over-riding factor is this model does not sit securely on the road. The lightness of the Compass makes it feel aloof and twitchy, rather than planted and stable, and you will find yourself compensating on the steering wheel a little too much.
There is no shortage of technology, which includes an 8.4in touchscreen and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android units, plus DAB radio and a nine-speaker audio system.
Limited trim level brings heated seats, heated steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, and an optional £650 tow pack was fitted, though its 1,000kg towing capacity could be a little under-whelming for many.