First Drive: Jeep Compass

04th January 2018
Ben Miles

If choosing the right luxury car at the moment is akin to being wafted round Harrods with a personal shopper, then picking your small SUV is more like the opening of the Boxing Day sales at Primark and Oxford Circus tube station at rush hour rolled into one.



The options are starting to seem endless, and the deals thrown into the buying public’s faces are bewildering. So it is slightly comforting to know that even among all that noise we are still creatures of habit. Still over 70 per cent of the sector is powered by a diesel, still most want two-wheel-drive but some would like the option of four. 

It's into this crowded but conforming landscape that Jeep are throwing their new Compass, a car aimed at establishing FCA's most rugged brand strongly into the European smaller car market. The old Compass was a little difficult to deal with, the styling cues were taken from the Wrangler and squeezed onto a more conventional car. The new model sensibly moves away from the rugged Wrangler and its particular niche of buyers, and back toward the now rather stylish and (as Jeep say) status-driven Cherokee.

The Compass is now a miniature Cherokee, the traditional seven-point Jeep grille sits in a purposeful, slightly aggressive face. Strong shoulders blend the front to the rear and the two-tone paint options on the roof wrap around what looks like a surprising amount of glass. The Jeep is not a tall car when you stand near it, but the height is emphasised in the looks by strong, squared wheel arches. This gives the Jeep a taller vision and Jeep will hope this appeals to those who enter this sector looking for a little more safety over the traditional hatch.

Inside the strong aesthetic continues. While the steering wheel is 100 per cent Jeep the rest appears more European in its styling, with swathes of tactile black plastics wrapping round a well thought out touchscreen infotainment system. It's a step up in quality from Jeep that is needed to take on the likes of Renault's excellent Captur and the runaway success of the Nissan Juke.


There are a few engine options, we drove the 170hp petrol first, which is an acceptable choice if you are averse to diesels, but in comparison with the more torque-orientated oil-burner comes across as a little lacklustre. For us it was mated with a slightly underwhelming automatic 'box. The ZF-derived nine-speed transmission is great for longer distance cruising, slotting through the cogs with ease, but easily befuddled when you try and pull away from a junction. Unfortunately you won’t find any wheel-mounted paddles to aid it’s meanderings should it go searching for a gear.

That diesel motor, available in several forms, is much the better option under the hood, the 170hp version we tried pulls happily in several gears while connected to the manual gearbox which plucked the ratios with a reasonably satisfying thud. 

The ride is at times a little on the firm side, possibly because of how much time cars in this segment will spend nipping around town. That makes it responsive when pulling past parked cars and traffic warming measures, but a teeny bit troubling when you can't avoid a pothole. The steering is, as expected these days, slightly uninspiring, but helped by some added resistance on turn-in which is a welcome addition to a new car in 2018. It’s not going to be smearing a grin across your head as you tear through the countryside, but the extra heft adds to the feeling of security and solidarity that the Compass happily brings.


Inside if you, like me, are above six foot you may find a small lack of legroom, and if the full panoramic glass sunroof is installed headroom is reduced to the point of discomfort for some, but the seats are firm and very supportive, good around town, but perhaps adding to the slight harshness of the ride.

It's about time that Jeep had a proper go at one of the most important markets to SUV makers today and the Compass is definitely worth a look for its stylish design, great infotainment, and extensive kit list.  

The Numbers

Price: £34,294 

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel

Power: 170hp

Torque: 380Nm

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

0-62mph: 9.5 seconds

Top Speed: 123mph

CO2: 148g/km

  • Jeep

  • Compass

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