PHEV is capable off-road, decent kit-to-price ratio, looks good
No diesel option, hybrids are expensive
What is it?
Jeep is going all-in on cars for Europe that actually suit European conditions. The Renegade was the first of them, and then came the Compass in 2017. It’s playing catch-up, but Compass sales will soon overtake the Renegade in Europe, largely thanks to the fact that the former is aimed at the biggest-selling part of the SUV market. It's the size of a Qashqai or Tiguan or Kuga or Sportage or XC40 et cetera and so on…
Or, if you like, the Land Rover Freelander, but oddly Britain's best-known SUV maker has absented itself from Britain's biggest-selling off-road segment.
Looks good, doesn’t it?
Yep, the Compass’ design is certainly a strong point. At the front, Jeep's trademark seven-slot grille is modernised and miniaturised (a surprise, these days), and the flanks carry strong half-hexagon blistered arches and a thick upward-tapering D-post. A chrome strip runs below the roof-line, then neatly flicks down to run under the rear window, and up again the other side. The proportions look tough and capable.
Do I recognise the name?
If you've got a long memory for failed cars, you'll know there was once another Jeep Compass in Britain. It looked like a child had styled it, and was horrible to drive, one of the most uncompetitive cars you could have made the mistake of buying. Luckily so few are out there that it doesn’t besmirch the image of the current generation, unless anyone mentions it. Ooops, just did. Anyway, the car you see here has absolutely nothing in common, thereby proving that Jeep is far healthier in bed with Fiat and Stellantis than it was when in bed with Daimler.
So what powers this current Compass?
The Compass has gone through a number of powertrains from other Jeeps and Fiats since it first launched on our shores in 2017. Petrols were once the 1.4-litre Multiair while diesels came in 1.6- and 2.0-litre forms.
These days the diesels are long gone from the UK, and if you want internal combustion only then you’re stuck with a 1.3-litre turbo four-cylinder that makes 128bhp and 199lb ft of torque. It’s front-wheel drive only (that’s what the people want) and at the time of writing can only be had with a six-speed manual gearbox.
That’s the entry point into the Compass range, with prices starting at £29,895.
There must be more options?
There are. If front-wheel drive is all you need, there’s the new 48V e-Hybrid. That’s the same system as found in the smaller Renegade (the Compass sits on the same platform, just slightly extended), with a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder engine that was developed specifically for hybrid use and makes the same 128bhp as the 1.3. Here though it’s connected to a 48V electric motor that can add an extra 20bhp. That’s connected to a seven-speed DSG auto gearbox and there’s also a second smaller electric motor that acts as a starter generator to smooth the transition between petrol and electric power. Sound complicated? Click through to the driving tab to read our thoughts.
And what if I want four-wheel drive?
Ah yes, it is a Jeep after all. Like with the Renegade, these days (in the UK at least) if you want all four of your wheels providing drive then you’ll need to spec the plug-in hybrid 4xe powertrain.
Jeep has seen itself as a premium brand in the US for a while now, so it’s no surprise to see more road-biased crossovers and SUVs in the showrooms. Plus, if you want a serious off-roader you can still buy a Wrangler.
What's the verdict?
The Compass was once more of an SUV than a crossover, but the prevalence of the front-driven models and the need to spend a small fortune to get a 4WD PHEV reduces its appeal.
It's space-efficient, it's reasonably well-finished, it has plenty of tech and people will buy it for the Jeep name and branding, but the powertrains leave a lot to be desired. The e-Hybrid system is clunky and we’re sure there’d still be a market for an all-wheel drive diesel were Jeep to offer it. The Compass is dangerously close to style over substance these days.