PHEV is capable off-road, decent kit-to-price ratio, looks good
No diesel option, hybrids are expensive, rivals are just better all round
What is it?
The Compass is second youngest child in Jeep’s four-car line-up, which consists of the smallish Renegade, the medium Compass, the iconic Wrangler and larger Grand Cherokee. The latter two are of a distinctly US sort of flavour, but the Renegade and Compass were designed to suit European tastes, and fit on our roads.
This second-generation model was launched in 2017, with more sophisticated looks that made it look like a shrunken Grand Cherokee, then facelifted in 2021. It’s not as big as it looks in pictures – it’s based on the same platform as the likes of the Fiat 500L and new Alfa Romeo Tonale and rivals the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Tiguan or Kia Sportage in a sprawling segment.
Looks pretty 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-pillar. A chrome strip runs below the roofline, then neatly flicks down to run under the rear window, and up again the other side. The proportions look tough and capable.
Is it better than it used to be?
If you've got a long memory for failed cars, you'll remember the first generation of Compass in Britain, based on a platform developed between Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler. It looked like a child had styled it, was horrible to drive and 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. Oops, just did. Anyway, the car you see here has absolutely nothing in common, thereby proving that Jeep is far healthier in bed with Stellantis than it was with Daimler.
So what powertrains are available in the Compass?
The diesels have long been dispensed with in the Compass range – if you want internal combustion only there’s a 1.3-litre 4cyl turbo petrol that makes 128bhp and 199lb ft of torque. It’s front-wheel drive only (that’s what the people want) and can only be had with a six-speed manual gearbox. That Night Eagle-spec car is the entry point into the Compass range, with prices starting at £31,505.
What else is there?
The next rung up the Compass ladder features a 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo petrol with a 48V mild hybrid set-up (called e-Hybrid in the company’s marketing speak) that involves some extremely light electric running, or e-creeping as Jeep calls it. It produces the same 128bhp as the entry 1.3 engine, but the electric motor chucks in an extra 20bhp every now and then. The prices there run from £34k to £38k and you get a seven-speed DSG auto transmission.
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. It works well as a PHEV set-up, and will entice company car drivers in particular with the lower CO2 figures.
Jeep has seen itself as a premium brand in the US for a while now, still a sort of pound shop Land Rover by European standards, but 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.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Compass launches itself smack into the middle of one of the most closely fought bits of territory in the entire car industry – if you're going to make a success of it here then you either need to be a great all-rounder or a brilliant specialist. Sure, the PHEV version of the car offers decent off-roading capability, but is that something that many buyers will be looking for? If it's just a bit of reassurance you're after, then rivals offer 4x4 for less.
That said, the Compass is stylish, space efficient, reasonably well finished, has plenty of tech and offers a solid image behind that Jeep badge and branding. The powertrains leave a lot to be desired, though – 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 comes dangerously close to style over substance, and why settle for one when you can get both elsewhere?