Jeep Compass: In the right direction
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It’s easy for Jeep New Zealand boss David Smitherman to feel confident about the all-new Compass that’s just gone on sale here; the vehicle is sitting in the prime buyer segment.
Jeep distributor Ateco is bringing in three models of the Compass; entry-level Longitude, the Limited and the trail-rated tough off-roader Trailhawk.
It is classed as a compact SUV, the most popular segment for Kiwi buyers, sitting alongside such vehicles as the Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan and Subaru’s XV.
But Jeep USA says the Compass is more of a “smedium” (small-medium) SUV than a compact SUV, as it sits at 4400mm long, the biggest in the category.
The Limited and Trailhawk are also true four-wheel-drives with low range systems.
Already, the first 50 models of the Compass have been sold and Smitherman is waiting for the next shipment — and that’s before the Longitude arrives in dealerships at the end of the month.
The Compass has a limited offer retail price of $36,990 for the Longitude front-wheel-drive (usual retail is $39,990), $46,990 for the Limited (usually $3000 more) and $49,990 for the Trailhawk ($5000 reduction).
Smitherman predicts that the Longitude and Limited will each make up 40 per cent of the sales with the Trailhawk the remaining 20 per cent.
He’s also confident the Compass will knock the Jeep Grand Cherokee off the long-held position of the top-selling product for the brand in New Zealand.
Last year 534 Grand Cherokees were sold in New Zealand with the top-selling model the SRT.
“We are the go-away, do-anything brand,” said Smitherman.
“We’re up 60 per cent [for sales] year on year without the Compass and I expect it to be the number one vehicle for Jeep.”
All three Compasses have the 2.4-litre petrol Tigershark engine producing 129kW of power and 229Nm of torque. The Longitude is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission while the Limited and Trailhawk get the nine-speed transmission.
The Limited and Trailhawk have segment leading off-road ability plus an impressive 70 advance safety features that are standard, including lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear parking assist, advanced cruise control and an all-new Compass ‘safety cage’ construction.
The Compass is being built in four factories globally; India, Brazil, Mexico and China with New Zealand getting vehicles from the right-hand-drive Pune City, India factory.
But there is a strong New Zealand connection to the Compass. Fiat Chrysler Group’s engineer Audrey Moore spent two New Zealand winters testing the Compass at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground near Cromwell.
Moore was in Melbourne in December last year for the Australasian reveal of the Compass and the Detroit-based engineer told Driven exclusively that there is one component that is all Kiwi.
“The purpose of the testing, while we were there, was to do all of our confirmation of our stability control and all of our winter testing in dynamics,” said Moore.
“From that perspective, both of the winters, New Zealand played a significant role in the development of the electronic stability performance of the vehicle.”
Moore studied the Tiguan, Sportage and Hyundai Tucson as competitors to the Compass, and one thing stood out when she compared them.
“From the Tucson and the Sportage perspective, as they came out, they did do one thing that we didn’t expect, they got bigger.
"It’s not really something you can change easily on a car that you’re working on. There are some times that you do get those surprises. From a content perspective, a lot of the safety features they had, we have.”
Moore tested the Compass on six six continents facing a variety of challenges.
“In China we found interesting things with the altitude. That changes performance, especially with temperature,” she told Driven.
“In Brazil, we had speed bumps. So in the middle of these roads, they have a speed bump... it makes a loud noise when you go over that. But we were finding that we had to make sure that we changed a little bit of the suspension tuning.”
For the local launch this week, we tested the Limited and Trailhawk in the Woodhill forest on closed roads that were mainly sand. The result was impressive.
The articulation plus ease of entry and exit was formidable in the Trailhawk (see page 6), with the Limited also easily taking on the rutted forestry roads.
On motorways, the top end power was impressive and handled country roads.