If you look at the 2018 Jeep Compass but fail to see a family resemblance with the outgoing model that’s okay. In fact that’s probably a good thing.
Even with a mid-life makeover designed to make the last Compass more palatable it was always a bit of an odd looking thing, and despite trying to move upmarket its interior and mechanical package were a huge letdown next to its competitive set.
The new Compass, meanwhile, has been designed from the ground up to be a good car (it might surprise you to learn that not every car is envisioned from the outset to be ‘good’).
Gone are the budget interior pieces, the overall styling is much more cohesive, and from the right angle the Compass could be mistaken for the much bigger and more expensive Grand Cherokee.
That’s a favorable comparison for any compact SUV.
Not only has Jeep tried to make a better Compass, but it has also tried to offer something for all tastes and budgets from the sub $30k Compass Sport, to the luxurious Compass Limited, and even the off-road compatible Compass Trailhawk.
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $28,850-$44,750 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 129kW/229Nm 2.4-litre 4cyl petrol, 125kW/350Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd manual, 6spd automatic, 9spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.9-9.7 l/100km petrol, 5.7 l/100km diesel
When Jeep calls this Compass new, it isn't using the term lightly. The Compass sits on a new platform compared to its predecessor, Fiat Chrysler’s so-called Small Wide 4x4 chassis, giving it a bloodline that connects it to the smaller Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X.
The styling reaches further upmarket though with a look tied to the recently-restyled Cherokee and Grand Cherokee - part of Jeep’s ‘refined’ range, leaving the Renegade and Wrangler as the ‘rugged’ players owing to their chunky looks.
The range spans four variants, starting with the Sport from $28,850 (plus on-road costs) with a six speed manual, or an extra $1900 for a six-speed auto. The rest of the range is auto only and includes the front-wheel drive Longitude or all-wheel drive Limited and Trailhawk
Under the bonnet there’s a 2.4-litre petrol engine with 129kW and 229Nm for Sport, Longitude and Limited, or a 125kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel optional on Limited and standard on Trailhawk, with all-wheel drive models moving up to a nine-speed automatic.
That means everyone from city-dwellers to off-road adventurers can find the right Compass to suit.
- Sport: Fabric seat trim, manual air conditioning, 3.5-inch instrument cluster display, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear seat ventilation outlets, electric park brake, rear park sensors, reversing camera, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Longitude: fold-forward passenger seat with under-cushion storage, privacy glass, LED ambient interior lighting, automatic headlights and wipers, roof rails, front fog lights
- Limited: Leather seats, 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, front and rear park sensors, leather seat trim, electrically adjustable front seats with heating, dual-zone climate control, bi-Xenon headlights, push-button start, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Trailhawk: (same as Longitude, plus) cloth and leather seat trim, all-weather floor mats, reversible boot mat, bi-Xenon headlights, underbody skid plates, unique bumpers, anti-glare hood decal, red recovery hooks, full-size spare wheel
- Infotainment: 5.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth, Aux and USB input, six-speaker audio (Sport, Longitude) or 8.4-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Aux and USB inputs, (Limited, Trailhawk) plus nine-speaker Beats audio (Limited)
- Cargo Volume: 438 litres to rear seats
Jeep only had its top-shelf Limited and Trailhawk variants on show at the Compass’ Australian launch which took place in Hobart. It’s a great way to get to know the very best of what the new SUV has to offer, but a deeper analysis of the base models will have to wait for another day.
The inside of the Limited is certainly as plush as you could possibly want it to be, brimming with good stuff like electrically-adjustable heated front seats, leather trim, a 7.0-inch multi-function instrument cluster display, keyless entry and start, self-parking assist, Xenon headlights, and an upsized 8.4-inch touchscreen.
The infotainment system is the star. Standard on Trailhawk and Limited and optional on Longitude, the 8.4 inch system adds satellite navigation with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and also offers a beefed up processor that results in almost lag-free loading between menus - something we wish more infotainment systems would get up to scratch on.
The interior design is otherwise fairly sedate. There’s a few anodised red trim highlights for the Trailhawk, while the Limited opts for more refined gloss black highlights. The Limited also features premium Beats audio.
Both Limited and Trailhawk also offer a $2450 Advanced Technology option that adds safety features that should arguably be standard, like forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring, plus convenience features like a powered tailgate, adaptive cruise control, and mirror-mounted puddle lamps.
A Comfort and Convenience option for the Trailhawk also bring Limited-like touches including powered leather seats, front seat heating, plus keyless entry and start for $2850 - add both options, plus a dual pane sunroof (a $1950 option) and suddenly the Trailhawk becomes a $52,000 proposition. Ouch!
Though it may be compact on the outside, the Compass is decently roomy inside. A bigger footprint and more clever use of space means front and rear passengers all get to stretch out.
There’s decent storage space too with 438 litres in the boot, real space in the door bins and centre console, right-sized cup holders, and even an under-seat storage space hidden from view on the fold-flat passenger seat of the Longitude and above.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 129kW/229Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol (Sport, Longitude, Limited) or 125kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (Limited, Trailhawk)
- Transmission: Six-speed manual (Sport only) or six speed auto, front wheel drive (Sport, Longitude), nine-speed automatic, all wheel drive (Limited, Trailhawk) with low range (Trailhawk only)
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: 305mm vented front discs, 278mm solid rear discs
- Steering: electric power steering, 11.07m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1000kg braked, 450kg unbraked, 100kg towball load (petrol AWD) 1500kg braked, 450kg unbraked, 150kg towball download (diesel AWD)
At 2.4 litres the four-cylinder petrol engine used across most of the Compass is one of the larger engines in its segment, but even with a capacity advantage outputs of 129kW and 229Nm aren’t class beaters.
With only the all-wheel drive models on test it’s hard to say for sure how the base model variants drive, but time behind the wheel of the Trailhawk diesel and Limited petrol yielded mostly positive impressions.
The diesel engine (standard on Trailhawk and optional on Limited) helps pick up the torque to a more muscular 350Nm, with power rated at 125kW.
The all-wheel drive system is fed through a nine-speed automatic transmission, as used in the larger Cherokee, The new auto takes the place of a rather dull CVT in the last Compass and delivers a massive boost in driveability.
Changes to its software also mean the nine-speed automatic is more decisive in its gear choices than it has been in previous models, though it is still prone to hunting through the range, but not nearly as badly as its bigger brother used to (an updated Cherokee on the way soon will remedy this too).
For a gentle punt about town the Compass is smooth, calm, and quiet, particularly with a petrol engine. The diesel can contribute a bit of clattery noise at idle and low engine speeds, but as the pace rises it soon settles down into smoother, quieter running.
Neither engine is a bolt of lightning when it comes to acceleration, partly do to a hefty weight starting at around 1500kg for the Limited and an extra 120kg onboard for the Trailhawk, but for those that require a little extra confidence for overtaking on hilly roads the diesel is the pick.
Noise on the open road is fairly consistent between the two, with road and wind noise that settle in as constant companions. Again, previous Compass owners will be happy with the improvement, but amongst its competitors the Compass still has room to improve.
Between the slightly more urban Limited and the adventure capable Trailhawk there’s a small difference in handling too. Both come with light and feel-free steering, but the Limited is a better match to patchy roads, taking less time to settle over road surface changes than the taller-riding Trailhawk.
The more terse Trailhawk makes perfect sense off the road though, and over some fairly unfriendly bush tracks the Trailhawk showed what its Trail Rated badging is all about, slowly but surely picking its way up a damp and slippery rocky path that would have sidelined most other soft-roaders in its class.
Along with Jeep Selec-Terrain multi-mode off-road modes the Trailhawk also adds a low-range transfer case for tough-going surfaces, plus comes equipped with higher-riding suspension, unique bumpers for increased approach and departure angles, underbody skid plates to protect the suspension, fuel tank, engine, and transmission, front and rear recovery hooks, and a mean looking anti-glare bonnet decal.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Jeep Compass scored 35.93 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: All Compass models come with seven airbags, stability and traction control with rollover mitigation and trailer sway control, tyre pressure warning, and a reverse camera. Limited and Trailhawk add front park and rear sensors and parallel and perpendicular park assist.
The Limited and Trailhawk also offer forward collision warning, advanced brake assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control packaged as part of a $2450 Advanced Technology option.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/100,000km
Servicing: Service intervals occur every 12 months or 12,000km for petrol models, and 12 months/20,000km for diesels.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 2018 Compass brings Jeep right up to speed in the compact SUV segment. For the truly urban the smaller Renegade may still be a better fit, but for anyone looking for something more upmarket, more spacious, and above all more capable on country weekends away the top-tier Compass models ticks so many boxes.
It might not be as accurate or refined on the road in the way a Hyundai Tucson would be, but the 4x4 Limited and Trailhawk model will leave almost any rival writhing uselessly in the dirt as it charges fearlessly ahead.
Not only that, but buyers of the last Compass will appreciate the big improvements Jeep has made with its all new model. The brand says it’s aiming for an “access premium” part of the market, better than mainstream but not as expensive as prestige brands - and its claim is valid.
While it may not be the perfect on-road machine, the upper end of the Compass range does exactly what an SUV is supposed to do, with a genuine blend of car-like comfort and adventure-capable ability in a package that’s unmistakable Jeep.
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