The Jeep Compass is a smaller, affordable and more useable off-roader that rivals the Nissan Qashqai

The Jeep Compass is an attempt by the American company to make a smaller, more useable car that rivals the Nissan Qashqai, with all the off-road ability of more expensive and larger Jeeps without the high running costs. While it’s certainly good off-road, it’s disappointing on it. It doesn’t feel like a quality product and is outclassed by the Qashqai, Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan.

Our pick: 161bhp 2.2-litre diesel

Styling

You’ll either love or hate the way the Jeep Compass looks. It mixes Jeep’s famous grille and headlight arrangement with chunky wheelarches and car-like proportions. Large alloy wheels add some toughness to the shape, but it’s something of a caricature of a regular Jeep, having neither the sense of purpose that a Wrangler does, or the premium SUV feel of the Grand Cherokee. Step inside and you’ll be greeted by a raised driving position that lets you look over other vehicles. However, the steering doesn’t adjust for reach, so it’s hard to get comfortable and while forward visibility is good, the chunky rear pillars mean there are big blind spots to the rear. At least there are a lot of gadgets to play with. Basic Sport models come with air-con, all-round electric windows, cruise control and iPod compatibility. Further up the range, the Sport+ adds a USB port, climate control and Bluetooth telephone connectivity while flagship Limited-trimmed Compasses have heated leather seats and a six CD changer.

Driving and Performance

The Compass really falls flat on the road. There’s lots of body roll, the steering is vague and the ride is very uncomfortable, crashing over bumps and pot holes. Engine choices include a two-wheel-drive 154bhp 2.0-litre petrol (which comes with a manual gearbox) or a four-wheel-drive 168bhp 2.4 with a CVT auto. Diesels include a two-wheel-drive 134bhp 2.2-litre and four-wheel-drive 161bhp version. Of these engines, it’s the latter 161bhp diesel that has the most punch – it can also tow 2,000kg too. Off road, the 4×4 Compass models are impressive, proving that Jeep is still at the top of its game in this area. You might like the diesel versions for their added punch over their petrol counterparts, but you won’t like the noise they make. Regardless of whether you work them hard, you’ll be met by a gruff note. What’s more, lots of other noises enter the cabin too – from tyre roar to wind rush. The Compass is not a quiet and relaxing place to be, particularly on the motorway where it can all combine to make a real racket.

MPG and running costs

With prices starting at £16,995, the Jeep Compass does cost quite a lot less compared to rival models such as the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Skoda Yeti. But there is a penalty to pay. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions aren’t very impressive – the petrols return 37mpg while the most efficient diesel does 46mpg – so the Compass will cost you more to run on a day-to-day basis. Also consider the fact that residual values are predicted to be behind those of its rival models too. While you’ll be paying less up front, you might find it’s a false economy at resale time.

Practicality

If you’re expecting Skoda Yeti levels of flexibility inside the Compass, you’ll be disappointed. The seats do little more than fold flat, and while there’s okay space for four adults, the fact that there are cupholders positioned on the hefty transmission tunnel means that a middle seat passenger won’t be very comfortable at all. The boot is below the class average in terms of size although Jeep has at least installed lots of deep door bins and storage pockets in the front.

Safety and reliability

You get six airbags, traction and stability control and active head restraints, as well as a clever system designed to reduce the possibility of a rollover accident (it uses the ESP to brake individual wheels to maintain an even keel). However, build quality is poor with lots of low-grade plastics and what’s worse, Jeep has always performed badly in Driver Power when it comes to reliability and customer satisfaction.

 

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