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First Drive: Jeep Compass

By / 2 months ago / Large, Medium, Road Tests, Small / No Comments

The Compass could be the car to establish Jeep in fleet, explains Alex Grant.

SECTOR: Crossover PRICE: £27-£36,000 (est) FUEL: 49.6-64.2mpg CO2: 117-150g/km

Remember the old Jeep Compass? For most fleets, you’d be forgiven for not paying it too much attention – this might be one of the world’s most familiar brands, but until recently it’s been a bit of an unknown in the corporate sphere. The quirky Renegade has gone some way towards getting it there, but, with its sights on the lucrative Qashqai segment, the new Compass is the car Jeep hopes will really get its feet under the table.

The opportunity is huge; almost 80% of Jeep’s UK sales last year were Renegades, and this newcomer is expected to be even bigger – set to nearly double its volumes overall. And, with a more fleet-weighted sales mix than the Renegade, backed up by specialist dealers and a central team working across all the FCA brands, it will have a big role to play when the first right-hand drive versions arrive next January.

With Jeep and Alfa Romeo sharing dealerships, the Compass will be a semi-premium offering – think of this as an Italian-American rival to the Jaguar Land Rover line-up – and pricing will reflect that. There’s no UK data yet, but expect it to straddle mainstream and premium-brand products, similar to the Volkswagen Tiguan. And while it’s on an extended Renegade platform, the deliberately more conservative shrunken Grand Cherokee styling is aimed at finding it broader appeal.

Where the old Compass had a limited line-up, its replacement feels well-tuned to class norms. Demand is expected to be weighted towards four-wheel drive, which is available with either a 138bhp or 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, though it’s only the former that’s offered with a manual gearbox as well as the nine-speed auto. Neither are particularly fuel-efficient, at 55.4mpg for the manual, or 49.6mpg for the automatic.

They’re almost unnecessary. Unless you need four-wheel drive, the pick of the line-up is the 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine – it’s smoother and quieter, especially under load, and almost as punchy to drive as the 2.0-litre engines, while fuel consumption and CO2 are competitive with all except the Renault-Nissan crossovers. Ride quality is good, body roll is limited and it handles much like a big hatchback. The exception, predictably, is the Trailhawk with its off-road tyres and raised ride height. It’s excellent off-road, but compromised on it.

Awareness aside, Jeep’s biggest potential problem is perceived cabin quality next to the impeccable Tiguan – it’s a step up compared to the Renegade, but still a mismatch of plastics, chrome and silver bits inside. That said, it’s well laid out, and the new-generation infotainment system is feature-packed, near lag-free and reasonably intuitive to use, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There’s plenty of headroom in the back, and boot space is competitive if not class-leading.

Arguably, this is a segment that an off-road focused brand like Jeep should have been able to get right years ago. By capitalising on FCA’s growing fleet presence, affection for the brand and the continuing demand for crossovers, the Compass could be about to find its place.

What We Think

A competent, if not  class-leading newcomer, with an opportunity among drivers who want a change. But Jeep has awareness-building to do.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.