Jeep Compass road test: Grand crossover SUV charm
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The current popularity of SUVs should be great news for a brand whose sole focus revolves around building them, but for Jeep, cashing in on the medium-SUV boom has been hard to achieve in New Zealand. The American carmaker had two attempts at winning over Kiwi buyers in the 2000’s with the ... Errm ... uniquely styled Compass and Patriot, but both failed to find their niche.
However, the Compass has now been radically updated in its second generation, replacing both models and presenting an opportunity for the brand to capitalise on Kiwis’ growing obsession with high-ride vehicles.
The new Jeep Compass has arrived in three trim levels with two different powertrain combinations; entry-level Longitude, upmarket Limited and off-road focused Trailhawk for adventure seekers.
Longitude models only deliver drive to the front-wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission, while Limited and Trailhawk versions gain three extra gears and active 4x4 systems. The three models are powered by the same 2.4-litre petrol engine producing 129kW and 229Nm of torque.
But the biggest (and potentially most import) change is styling. Whereas the previous Compass broke tradition and went down a new design path of its own, the new-generation model is a return to form for Jeep, unmistakably modelled after the larger Grand Cherokee.
A wide stance, seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches gives the new a Compass strong presence on the road, while in the rear the Compass has its own rectangular tail-light design unique in the Jeep line-up.
The interior is a great improvement over its predecessor, too. The centre stack houses a 8.4-inch touchscreen display with Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment system that controls communication, entertainment and navigation. Limited and Trailhawk models also come standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and voice texting.
The Compass interior is designed to appeal to a younger market with a youthful look, nine-speaker BeatsAudio system and heated leather-trim seats. Jeep’s tradition of hiding “Easter Eggs” graphics continues with the Compass, too, but I’ll leave the location of those goodies for you to find yourself.
In the rear row, the Compass has been designed to accommodate all passengers, sacrificing a small amount of boot space to ensure all three passengers have ample leg and head room.
On the road the chassis provides surprisingly compliant dynamics and comfort. Built on FCA’s “small-wide architecture” with independent suspension, the Compass features a segment-exclusive frequency selective damping front and rear that Jeep says filters “high-frequency suspension inputs” when travelling on uneven surfaces.
The 2.4-litre engine has enough low-down torque around town and the nine-speed automatic gearbox in our Limited test car is well calibrated for New Zealand roads at all speeds.
Yet even in leather-wrapped Limited trim, the Compass still boasts best-in-class off-road capability thanks to two active full-time 4x4 systems — Jeep Active Drive and Jeep Active Drive Low — which cater to all off-road conditions from crawler gears to customised settings for Snow, Sand and Mud.
The Compass Limited has 170mm of front-wheel articulation, 208mm in the rear wheel and 216mm of ground clearance.
And when you’re back on the road, the Compass features a disconnecting rear axle to improve fuel economy around town. All the while a safety package, including more than 70 of the latest systems like Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, LaneSence departure and rear cross path detection, keep an eye on your surroundings.
The full safety suite is standard on all models and with an advanced construction and safety cell, the new Compass achieves a five-star Euro Ncap safety rating.
Jeep have prepared a compact SUV package that now offers authentic Jeep styling, an extensive features list and equally impressive safety equipment, while still upholding the brands reputation of building capable off-road vehicles.
Jeep now has a model ready to go head-to-head against the best from Asia and Europe, in the most competitive segment.
Price: (LONGITUDE $39,990, LIMITED $46,990, TRAILHAWK $49,990)
Pro: New look inside and out, safety tech package, ride quality and off-road capability
Con: Competition. Toyota, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai dominate this segment with equally impressive SUVs.