2018 Jeep Compass Review
Paul Horrell’s 2018 Jeep Compass Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL Compact crossover that’s more SUV-capable than most price rivals. Well equipped too but short on refinement
2018 Jeep Compass
Price From $28,850+ORC Warranty 5 years/100,000km Engine (tested) 2.0l turbo 4cyl diesel Power 125kW at 3750rpm Torque 350Nm at 1750rpm Transmission 9-speed auto Drive four-wheel drive Body 4394mm (l); 1819mm (w exc mirrors); 1629mm (h) Turning circle 11.1m Towing weight 1500kg (braked) Kerb weight 1615kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 60 litres Spare 17-inch steel Thirst 5.7L/100km combined cycle Fuel Diesel
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CROSSOVERS WERE Jeep’s idea. But it fell behind as rivals offered them in more and more sizes. Now Jeep has four, from Renegade through Compass to Cherokee and at the top Grand Cherokee. Plus the hardcore Wrangler. The Compass is pitched against the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and VW Tiguan.
It might be fairly small but it’s serious, being available in three capability levels: front-drive, AWD, and Trailhawk with low-range. Even the regular AWD will go further off-road than almost all others in the cute-ute category. For example, Jeep put the Compass on strut-type rear suspension instead of rivals’ torsion-beam or multi-link types. Struts allow great wheel articulation (up to 20cm) for to keep the tyres earthbound on lumpy surfaces.
Overseas you can get a petrol 1.4L turbo with advanced Multiair valve timing and lift control, but locally we get a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto) or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-pot (mated to a nine-speed automatic) – the Trailhawk is exclusively available with this engine.
What’s the interior like?
Cabin room is at least class-competitive, and if you want more there’s always the Cherokee. The quality of the trim and materials is well up to the Asian rivals, though not quite the Tiguan.
Don’t be misled into expecting squishy flat American-style sofas. The front seats are well-contoured and supportive. The driving position is OK except for a slightly cramped driver’s footwell in our right-hand-drive versions.
In the back adults can be comfy, although they won’t be able to stretch. They get air vents, reading lights and 12V and USB sockets. Drop the armrest and it opens a hole into the boot, which is convenient (Jeep says its a ‘pass through’ feature) or untidy depending on how you look at it.
The boot is big in area but relatively shallow against some rivals. There’s a good reason. A full size spare tyre resides under the floor. True adventurers will rejoice at that. But you’ve got to empty the boot – it’s not hung under the vehicle. The back seats fold via levers in the boot. The hatch door is electrically propelled, though the button is inside the boot itself. That helps short people reach it but it might be tricky to get to if the boot is stacked full.
The dash looks busy. Many of the functions on the infotainment screen are duplicated on real hardware switches, including the climate controls. The 4WD mode controls are also on the console.
The infotainment system is a decently generous 8.4-inch screen on most models. It’s responsive and has logical clear menus. It’s the first outing for the fourth generation of what Fiat-Chrysler calls UConnect, and it’s a significant step from the last generation.
I suspect it helps that the menus were written by Americans, whose language and organisational culture is similar to ours. Not like when you’re using a system that began life in German or Japanese or Korean. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration is particularly slick, too. It’s just a shame that CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t standard fitment but can be cost-optioned on entry models.
What’s it like on the road?
Both petrol and diesel engines make the same power with the diesel producing more torque, and their performance isn’t much different one from the other. The diesel is pretty noisy too. Even the petrol, an engine we know well from other cars including Alfa Romeos, sounds and acts unenthusiastic here. You have to give the accelerator a good poke.
The suspension seems to be set up for carrying five passengers and a cargo. This is a polite way of saying the ride is disturbed and busy when there’s just one or two of you aboard, especially at low speed. As you put some more km/h under the tyres, it’s actually a well-controlled and acceptable ride at highway speed.
Still, the payoff is taut cornering behaviour. There’s lots of traction too, useful on wet roads or tight bends. But that seems to miss the point for a family SUV, which should be less about pasting through a series of bends, and more about comfort. Especially as there’s little steering feedback to your hands, so cornering, while potentially brisk, isn’t much fun.
On highways, the transmission selects eighth or ninth, and the revs drop away so both diesel and petrol engines give you peace at last. Tyre and suspension noise is mercifully low too.
As for off-roading, you can switch between modes via the Selec-Terrain button. That swaps between different traction control and torque distribution programmes. The star performer should be the Trailhawk, but that’s not ready for right-hand-drive testing yet – we’ll be driving the new Compass in Australia in January. Still, look at the features, compared with the already capable regular 4×4 version. It gets higher ground clearance, underbody protection, crawler gears (switched in by hitting the ‘rock crawl’ mode in the Selec-Terrain system, hill-descent control, and more aggressive off-road tyres.
All 4WD Compass versions have a clutch system that, when in FWD, automatically disconnects the whole rear drive system rather than just letting the propshaft spin. This reduces driveline drag and can save about four percent of fuel on highways, says Jeep. Point is, you don’t notice is cutting back in when you need extra traction – it’s seamlessly quick-witted.
What about safety features?
Scoring a five-star rating in European tests obviously gets the Compass off to a good start. Only the very severe side-impact pole test gave any cause for concern, though the driver’s injuries weren’t critical.
Standard equipment includes autonomous emergency braking, and NCAP tested it at both city and highway speed. In both cases the results were impressive. But it doesn’t have pedestrian detection.
The lane keeping assist system is pretty capable, as it works even when the road lines aren’t all that lear, and steers the car back if you drift off. As with any such system though, never think for a minute that lets you take your eyes off the road.
The blind-spot monitoring system is an option, and frankly a bit annoying as it doesn’t distinguish between a vehicle that’s coming into your blind spot and one that’s leaving it because you’ve overtaken it. You need warning about the first, but to be beeped about by the second is just an annoyance. For reversing, cross-path assist and camera systems are available.
So, what do we think?
The Compass answers modern families’ crossover desires. It’s good-looking, reasonably roomy, and has a snappy bundle of screen-based connectivity and entertainment. More uncommonly, you can spec it as a respectable off-roader too. But you’ve got to put up with grumpy engines.