2012 JEEP COMPASS REVIEW
What’s Hot: Fresh styling, reasonable ride.
What’s Not: Sub-par interior, gutless engine, side airbags are cost options.
X-Factor: After a compact SUV for minimal coin? The Compass has you covered.
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Price: $30,500 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 8.6 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 10.6 l/100km
Jeep’s latest iteration of the Compass compact SUV now sports new styling that gives it some of the visual appeal of its bigger brother, the Grand Cherokee. However it has to make do with carry-over mechanicals that do little to help its cause.
The interior, which is almost entirely shared with the Patriot, is not particularly impressive either.
The 2011 Compass does have one significant ace up its sleeve however - a retail price that easily undercuts its rivals.
Quality: The Compass gets the same interior as the recently updated Patriot, and, to be honest, it’s not quite up to par.
Mismatched panel textures, inconsistent fitment and a centre console that simply flops around, leaves an impression that this is not an interior that will stand the test of time.
Material quality is also behind others in segment, thanks to hard, easily-scratched dash plastics.
The leather-trimmed steering wheel feels good to hold and is probably the most well-finished item in the entire interior, but that’s no surprise - it’s been pinched from the excellent Grand Cherokee’s parts bin.
Comfort: The floor-mounted rear cupholders make it difficult for anyone to get comfortable in the centre rear seat, but there’s adequate room for four adults in the Compass’ cabin.
The manually-adjusted front seats have good cushioning, but a tilt-only steering column and the lack of adjustable lumbar support aren’t conducive to driver comfort.
Headroom and legroom is good at both front and rear, however the rear seat squab could do with more under-thigh support.
The back seat adjusts for recline to give passengers some extra comfort, although it results in a slight loss of cargo capacity.
Equipment: The Jeep’s equipment list is pretty sparse, with manual air-conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, foglamps, power windows and power-adjustable/heated wing mirrors.
A four-speaker stereo with single-disc CD/DVD/MP3 player is the only sound system available, and Bluetooth phone integration and USB audio input are cost options.
Storage: Back seats up and with the cargo cover in place, the Compass’ boot measures 328 litres - just big enough for a modern pram (but not much else)
Fold the back seats down and a long, flat floor is created, with a maximum cargo capacity of 1269 litres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With only 125kW and 220Nm coming from its 2.5 litre petrol inline four, the Compass is underpowered and lacks pep.
The optional CVT (a five-speed manual is standard) does its best to keep the engine on the boil, but unless there’s more than 4000rpm on the tachometer, progress is leisurely.
Performance is significantly impacted up hills, where the engine is overtasked with accelerating the Compass’ 1600kg-odd body.
We drove the 4WD-equipped model (front-drive Compasses get a substantially weaker 2.0 litre engine) which is ok if taken only a little way off the beaten track, but you’ll need to be wary of the minimal (for an AWD wagon) ground clearance.
Refinement: The engine drones at highway speed (something that’s not helped by the CVT), there’s a little wind noise and, in our test car, some trim rattles too.
We also noticed a persistent whistle coming from the windscreen wiper area, which was irritating during highway cruising.
Suspension: The Compass has a good around-town ride on its standard 17-inch alloys, absorbing most bumps with ease.
It’s ok on the highway too, with surface undulations also soaked up by the all-independent suspension (MacPherson Struts at front, multi-link at rear).
There’s plenty of body roll in corners - as you’d expect of a vehicle this height - and some rack-rattle during tight cornering. Otherwise, the Compass handles reasonably well and quite comfortably.
An 11.8 metre turning circle gives the Compass almost car-like manoeuvrability in carparks as well.
Braking: Braking performance is also decent; and the pedal feel is neither too soft nor sluggish.
Stopping from high speeds however gives the sensation that there’s a lot of weight for the 294mm front and 262mm rear discs to rein in, as though needing more assistance from the brake booster.
ANCAP rating: Not rated
Safety features: Standard safety features include stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist. Front airbags and full-length curtain airbags are standard across the range, but curiously side airbags for the front seats are a cost option.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Servicing intervals are set for every 12,000km. For servicing costs, consult your local Jeep dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Nissan X-Trail ST AWD automatic ($34,490) - The X-Trail has similar power to the Compass and only slightly more torque, but it feels less sluggish around town and is a genuinely nice car to drive.
The Nissan also has a better-built interior, not to mention a larger and more practical boot space. It’s more expensive than the Compass, yes, but is also a vastly better product. (see X-Trail reviews)
Subaru Forester X automatic ($32,990) - Subaru’s entry-level Forester received a completely new 126kW/235Nm powertrain last year, but is still saddled with a four-speed automatic.
Its interior might be ageing, but, like the X-Trail, the Forester’s cabin quality exceeds that of the Compass. (see Forester reviews)
Kia Sportage SLi petrol ($32,790) - With a 130kW 2.4 litre petrol engine, the Sportage is the most powerful in this line-up. It has the classiest interior too, with a build quality equaling its Japanese competitors.
The Sportage is certainly one of the best buys in the Compact SUV segment, and well worth the extra outlay over the Compass. (see Sportage reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While the current-gen Grand Cherokee ushered in a new level of comfort, refinement and quality for Jeep’s largest 4WD (and propelled it into the luxury SUV segment in the process), the 2012 Compass has failed to do the same for Jeep’s compact SUV range.
It’s attractively priced, and quite nicely styled, but when so many of its competitors offer so much more refinement and general driveability for not a lot more cash, it’s hard to recommend the Compass.
Have a look if shopping to a tight budget, but otherwise there are better buys out there.