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£25,395 when new
I’ll miss the pre-facelift Jeep Compass. That was the sort of vehicle that makes my job easy and even fun (though I wouldn’t have been smiling if I’d have had to drive one every day). It was so easy to write about. The Compass gave the lie to the frequently trotted out notion that ‘there are no bad cars these days’. Oh yes there are, and it was one. It and its platform-mate the Dodge Caliber. In fact, I used to call the Caliber the Calibrate, because it was a useful car on which to set your baseline for all sorts of things: engine refinement, secondary ride, interior quality, detail design. In all these and more, the Calibrate and Compass were pretty much the worst cars in their class, if not the entire new-car market. And frankly I didn’t expect any better from this face-lifted Compass. After all, it was done in a tearing hurry, and it’ll be on sale for just two years before an all-new replacement, based on the Alfa Giulietta platform, supplants it. Just a stop-gap bodge-up, then. And yet here’s the first thing I wrote in my notebook after the drive: ‘Not at all toxic.’ The gawkily shaped front end has given way to something more like the Grand Cherokee’s nose, and within it the badly installed borrowed-from-Volkswagen 2.0 diesel has been replaced by a new 2.2. It’s still a bit rattly but does get you along at a decent enough pace without apparent strain. The six-speed manual is perfectly pleasant too. While competitors like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Ford Kuga aim to be sporty SUVs and end up with a sharp ride, the Compass suspension (sensibly, given the way its likely buyers will drive it) has a more relaxed approach. It wafts you about in capable comfort, at least until an unusually sharp pothole catches it out. And even if the Compass is a bit roly-poly for ambitious cornering, the steering is accurate in the normal run of play. This by the way is a 4x4 - the same engine, plus a petrol, can be had in FWD.
You won’t get decor fashion magazines writing about the cabin design, but the quality is now more or less up to par, and the Limited gets plenty of amenities. Lots of space, too, though the boot’s a bit shallow. What we’ve learned, then, is that it’s possible to be a whole lot better than the old Compass and still be average rather than great. But if you want a crossover and fancy a real Jeep instead of a no-heritage nameplate, then it won’t actively punish you.