By Nauman Farooq
The first Jeep Compass model showed up in 2007, and it was a weird looking thing based on the platform of the Dodge Caliber. While a lot of people didn’t think highly of its looks, I quite liked the fact the Jeep took a risk, and came up with a vehicle that defied the norm.
In fact, I think the Compass can be credited with vehicles such as the Toyota C-HR and the Nissan Juke making it to the market – other manufacturers surely must have looked at what Jeep achieved and found it appealing.
However, while the styling was interesting, not much else about the Compass was what you’d call appealing! The interior was dull to look at, and was made from the cheapest of plastics, and the driving experience was about as exciting as sitting in on an annual budget meeting.
Last year, Jeep introduced the second-gen model of the Compass, but is it any better?
Styling: The new Compass is an attractive compact SUV, but it hasn’t broken new ground in design. In fact, the new Compass looks like a smaller version of the Grand Cherokee – it is easy to understand why Jeep did that, after all, the Grand Cherokee is very well liked.
What is not easy to understand is why the rear wheels are not in the center of the wheel well – they are far too forward. It would have been easier to understand if the wheels were further back in the well, for when you’d need to take your Compass off-roading, but their positioning makes no sense to me! Personally, I think it must have been a miscalculation in the design, or compromised due to it riding on a platform shared by other products under FCA. In any case, it just doesn’t look right!
To the casual observer, however, the new Compass is an attractive sport ute – and while I like some of its details, I’m personally not a fan of its looks.
Interior: The interior of the new Compass is a vast improvement over that of the old model. Not only does it feel more specious than before, the quality of the fit and finish is leagues ahead now.
The seats are reasonably comfortable to sit on – even though thigh support is on the short side – and thanks to a touchscreen infotainment system, most of the features you’d want, such as navigation and audio controls (including Apple CarPlay), can be found in your Compass; although some of this stuff is optional.
Clever bits include a cargo floor that can be adjusted for height, so you can slot in taller items, so it is a practical vehicle. But, I do wish it had adaptive cruise control available -even as an option- because for what I see as a compact, luxury SUV, adaptive cruise would have helped it become better in the comfort department.
Powertrain: The mechanical bits are perhaps the biggest letdown in regards to the Compass. In Canada, the Compass is available with only one engine (while in other markets, you get more choices), and it isn’t a great one! Under the hood lies a 2.4L inline-four cylinder that develops 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque.
The front-wheel drive models can be had with either a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic gearbox. The all-wheel drive models, like my tester, comes equipped with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Despite the number of gears, this was not a quick vehicle, let’s just say, in the city, it can keep up with regular traffic, but only just.
Driving Dynamics: As you can probably gather from the previous paragraph, the 2018 Compass is not exciting to drive. Neither does it have the speed to excite you in a straight line, and going around corners isn’t a thrill either.
However, I’m sure that this compact ute can handle the off-road stuff better than most – it even has a terrain response system that allows you to set up the vehicle for the conditions at hand, such as rock crawl, sand, etc.
But, if you are never likely to take the Compass off a paved road, its handling will not impress. It rides well though, offering a soft ride, making it quite pleasant on the highway.
Fuel Economy: Given its humble, naturally-aspirated, four-cylinder guts, I expected this vehicle to just sniff fuel, but sadly it doesn’t! I averaged 9.6 L/100 KM in my week long test, which is rather poor – competition such as the Mazda CX-5 and the Subaru Crosstrek are far more economical to run.
Pricing: The very basic 2018 Compass model is yours from $25,250 – which is decent for its segment. My tester, a “Limited” trim model, with some options, had a sticker price of just over $43,000 – ouch!
Verdict: The 2018 Jeep Compass is a big step forward in terms of build quality, but it still is not a vehicle that would win over the hearts of any enthusiasts. As a city ute, it does the job fairly well, but if you’re looking for excitement, you should look elsewhere; unless Jeep comes out with an SRT version of the Compass, now that would get my vote!