Jeep Compass long-term review part 2: defying first impressions
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2019 Jeep Compass Limited
• Distinctive looks
• Off-road capability
• High level of spec
• Engine lacks pep
• 9-speed's occasional hesitation
The saying goes that 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression'.
It's not wrong, of course. But there's so much more to people and things than their first impression. Or at least that's what I'd hoped when, on just day two, a small piece of our Jeep Compass Limited long-termer's interior trim decided to pop out of its enclosure and fall into the driver's foot-well.
This could've happened in any brand of car, but it had to happen in a Jeep — a brand still pressing for an improvement in buyer perception. Had I leaned on this 'first impression' malarkey the Compass would've been written off then and there, thrown into the 'so close but not quite' basket of underachievers.
But thankfully, extended road tests like these scoff at the very idea of first impressions.
Since its slight day-two mishap, Driven's $44,990 Compass long-termer has had almost 1000km added to the odometer. Thanks to some truly heinous weather, trips to the beach have been limited. But the American crossover has been on a few trips; including a weekend away from the big smoke to Whakatane.
And, defying those early hiccups, the Compass has made for a competent sidekick. Overall fuel economy currently hovers at a commendable 8.5L/100km, and there have been no further troubles to report between updates.
What makes that economy figure particularly commendable is the fact that the Compass is fitted with such a large engine relative to everything else in the segment. While plenty of similarly sized SUVs opt for a turbocharged 2-litre (or smaller), the Jeep comes with a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine.
Those who read Driven's opening appraisal of the Compass will know that the engine's first impression was a mixed one. It sounded good, but didn't feel particularly quick.
It's not that I'm pivoting completely since posting our original thoughts, but … there is something slightly redeeming about this engine that doesn't necessarily become clear in the first few drives. While the lack of a turbocharger is felt during aggressive passing-lane theatrics, it's also felt in the presence of smoothness.
Small, tightly wound turbo engines can feel peaky and drone-some on long motorway trips. But no such worries with the larger unit powering the Jeep. It's comparatively cool and calm, chewing up and spitting out the kilometres on longer drives with more ease and less noise.
Part of this change of heart could perhaps be attributed to the Jeep's kilometre count outright. When I picked it up it had only a handful of kilometres on the clock. A car that's engine hasn't been run in properly can sometimes feel a bit wheezy out of the gate, and this could easily have been one such car.
It would be nice if the nine-speed ZF automatic was quicker on upshifts than its current glacial pace (exacerbated during strained driving). But otherwise its smooth demeanour complements the powertrain nicely. In town they're a surprisingly potent duo.
But, back to that build quality stuff.
Wind back the clock a decade or so, and the biggest stigma for American cars was their often low-rent interior spaces. Cheap, hard plastics, poor tolerances, and awkward or bland design were what they were best known for.
But this has changed somewhat over the years. The RAM 1500 I sampled last year had one of the best cabins of any pick-up out there. The Ford Mustang's interior is doused in leather and metal. And the Compass' interior continues the upward trend.
All the standard touch points in the Limited — like the steering wheel, arm rests, and gear-knob — are lined with leather. The dashboard is soft-touch, and accented by piano black plastic highlights (which thankfully are mounted vertically, so you don't need to worry about them being such a dust magnet).
It's the little touches that drive home an interior space, and those touches are abound in the Jeep if you spend enough time with it. Things like the rear wiper automatically giving the back window a sweep when you engage reverse in the rain, or positioning the button for the electric boot-lid in the boot instead of on the boot-lid itself so that shorter people don't have to strain themselves to reach it.
Things like this do wonders to complement the impressive Uconnect infotainment system and impressive cargo space that we commended last time.
There are still a few niggles to note. The panel behind the air-con control panel flexes and creaks, the indicator stalks feel flimsy and fragile, and the front seats are surprisingly hard and flat (especially on longer drives).
Flies in the ointment aside, the Compass has been a great partner in crime. Smooth in town, ample room inside, and — best of all — distinctive enough visually to never get mixed up with any of the samey, vanilla SUVs in the shopping centre parking lot.
It might be time to take it off-road ...
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