Driven: Jeep Compass shows its mettle

This is the new entry level Jeep, aimed at those more interested in the ‘Urban Jungle’ than the kind involving mud and flying insects. It’s also a great deal improved on the old one which really was a rather ropey example of an SUV. Only since Fiat took control of matters have things improved somewhat, so now the Jeep Compass makes a go of competing with the likes of Kia’s Sportage and the Toyota Rav4.

On the outside

There’s no mistaking this Jeep’s heritage; that trademark grille and front headlight arrangement comes from many generations from this ‘all-American’ brand. Combined with chunkier fenders, modernised headlights and a beefed up bonnet the Compass looks the part of a serious, but up-market off-roader. An obvious contradiction its only a 4×2. That, and the relatively compact proportions, give away the Compass’ real intention of being a mid-sized family SUV.

On the inside

Standard equipment is where the Jeep sets itself apart from a lot of the competition. Things like climate control, heated leather seats, lumbar adjustment and Jeep’s U-Connect infotainment system (CD/DVD radio with MP3/WMA support, internal hard drive, 6.5-inch touch screen display, USB jack, auxiliary input jack and Voice Command) all come at no extra cost.

Otherwise there’s not much to write home about on the side of cabin design, but the quality is now more or less up to par and more thought has been applied to little details; the cupholders are illuminated for example, and there are nice accents about the cabin that break up the black plastics.

You do get a decent amount of passenger space, with plenty of head and leg room for all concerned. Lay the back seats flat and you can fit just about anything in the load bay too.

Behind the wheel

Jeep Compass (Photo: Quickpic)Despite the various upgrades, the Compass errs on the side of old-fashioned off-roader rather than modern crossover, so its on-road manners are a touch loose. The trade-off is comfort over handling and so, of course, straight line motorway cruising is where the Compass is most content.

Powering the front wheels is a 2.0 litre petrol motor mated to a CVT automatic gearbox. The combination is adequate, if not a little sluggish. Once you’re on the go things settle down nicely, but if you’re looking for a dice between the lights you’ll be disappointed.

Verdict

The only real let down here is that there isn’t a proper 4×4 version for those who’d like to climb up a rock face on the weekends. The Jeep’s extensive options list, competitive price tag, inclusive maintenance plan and unique styling give it quite an edge in the crossover/compact-SUV market place. It’s a surprise you don’t see more of them on the road.

If you’re currently in the market for a Kia Sportage, Toyota Rav4, Hyundai ix35, Nissan Qashqai (my the list goes on), it’d be worth your while popping into a Jeep dealer.

Price: R 351,990
Engine: 1998cc litre four cylinder petrol
Power: 115 kW
Torque: 190 Nm
Consumption (l/100km): 8.2 (claimed)
Service: 3yr/100 000km maintenance plan

* Miles is the editor of BizNews motoring