Jeep Compass (2017) review: A rugged alternative to the standard SUV

If you’re looking for a new crossover SUV right now, there are several decent choices. There’s the Volkswagen Tiguan and Seat Ateca – and the Nissan Qashqai, of course. However, there is another, slightly more novel choice: the Jeep Compass. Featuring an added touch of adventure thanks to its impressive 4×4 capabilities, the Compass sits between Jeep’s popular Renegade and Cherokee models, but there is one major catch – it won’t be available until the beginning of next year in the UK, and pricing will only be confirmed in December.

However, we’ve had the chance to drive the new Jeep and find out just how good it could be. Is it a match for the tried-and-tested Qashqai, or is it more novelty than serious performer? Keep reading to find out.


Jeep Compass (2017) review: Exterior

From the front it doesn’t take long to spot that this is a Jeep, mainly due to its distinctive seven-slot grille. Side-on, there are the trapezoidal arches that give it a beefy angular edge, but round the back it’s less eye-catching and more straightforward. The lights are pretty interesting, though, and the rear LED clusters match the funky look of the headlights at the front. It’s not the best-looking car, but it does have a welcome touch of personality about it – something especially lacking in this sector.

You can get the Compass in 11 different exterior colours, and you can even add a gloss black roof for a touch of contrasting flair. As you’d expect from a Jeep, the Compass is finished off with chunky alloys and high-profile tyres.

Jeep Compass (2017) review: Interior and in-cabin tech

The Jeep is certainly accommodating, with comfy seats you sit on rather than in, and it’s easy to imagine they’d be perfect for a long road trip. The lofty driving position makes for maximum comfort and if you’re particularly picky, you’ll be happy to find plenty of options on the seat-adjustment front.


As for fit and finish, that’s pretty good, with some neat styling cues that draw on Jeep history but add a modern touch. Aside from that, everything else is exactly where you’d expect it to be and in easy reach. The gear-shift selection, Selec-Terrain controls, electronic parking brake and engine stop-start (ESS) controls are adjacent and all fall nicely to hand.

The most important thing about the Jeep’s cabin, however, is its inclusion of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two huge ticks ensuring compatibility with most modern smartphones.

The Jeep’s twin dials are crisp and easy on the eyes. Less impressive is that slightly clunky central touchscreen, which is dominated by the Uconnect infotainment system, which delivers a real treat in the shape of Jeep Skills on the Limited and Trailhawk models. This is a nifty application that’s easy to use and lets a driver of any skill level monitor their performance on muddy terrain via informative graphics that change dynamically as you progress along your chosen route.


We found the built-in satnav a little finicky, and it displayed a persistent error message when we were up in the hills. Still, any one of the screen-size variants gives a good view out the back thanks to a reversing camera. Elsewhere, everything else falls nicely to hand, and there’s more than enough storage space for your stuff and a good few cups and mugs. Rear passengers get a chunky central folding armrest.

Connectivity runs to Bluetooth, USB and 3.5mm AUX ports, so all bases are covered and the sound system is competent, with Beats speakers helping to add a touch of muscle to the six-speaker setup.


Jeep Compass (2017) review: Drive

Around town, the Jeep Compass offers a smooth and straightforward drive with light steering and fairly good visibility. The spongy suspension is forgiving and handles cobbles and curbs with aplomb. Overzealous parking sensors alert you to anything and everything as you manoeuvre your way through tight city streets and from all sides, which might prompt some new owners to look for the off button.


Driving on the motorway the Jeep Compass cruises along nicely, but it isn’t overly powerful. The four-cylinder 1956cc turbocharged diesel and nine-speed auto combination, for example, is adequate but with a top speed of 122mph and a 0-62mph time of 10.1 seconds, the Compass isn’t sprightly. In fact, unless you bury your foot in the carpet it feels slightly hesitant, particularly in the hills. Body roll isn’t all that well controlled, and the car doesn’t feel like the sort of vehicle you’d want to make any drastic manoeuvres in. On the highway, that is.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of features to make you feel reassured. In fact, Jeep boasts that there are more than 70 safety and security features packed into this vehicle, including forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-path detection, automated parallel and perpendicular park assist, adaptive cruise control, electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation and six standard airbags.

Jeep Compass (2017) review: Off-road capabilities

The Jeep Compass is, as you’d expect, much more fun off-road, and a stint around some dusty mountain trails showed oodles of potential. Thanks to the switchable mode options on the centre console, the Compass can be turned into a sophisticated hill climber and, more impressively, can get you back down the other side virtually unaided. All you need to do is pick your way through the potholes and divots and the system does the rest

It’s impressive to see the all-wheel-drive system manage the brakes and power. As mentioned earlier, the Limited and Trailhawk models have the benefit of Jeep Skills, a system that provides off-road-specific data and graphics via the touchscreen, and that also monitors your performance. All you need to do is nurse the throttle a little to keep the momentum going.


The Jeep Compass feels just as at home on more rugged terrain thanks to Jeep Active Drive and the Jeep Active Drive Low, the latter offering a 20:1 crawl ratio. This, says Jeep, sends 100% of available torque to any one wheel when needed, with five modes on offer, including Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud, plus an exclusive Rock mode on the Trailhawk model.

Jeep Compass (2017) review: Verdict

The compact SUV arena is a tough marketplace, but a growing one that’s expected to blossom by almost 20% to 7.5 million in 2020. If Jeep can get the price right, the Compass could do well, but the key here is to go for a model with the best specification and bigger engine if you want enjoy the best this compact SUV has to offer, especially if you plan on venturing out of the suburbs and into the wilds.

And that’s where the Jeep Compass makes the most sense. It will get the job done on the tarmac, but buy one with a view to going off-road and you’ll have great fun. The Trailhawk delivers the most rewarding experience and, with its raft of sophisticated control options, you’ll revel in what this compact SUV can do when the going gets really tough.

What’s more, the Jeep Skills’ onscreen display of how you and the vehicle are performing is not only great fun, it will also help boost your understanding of off-road techniques. So much so that you’ll be itching to use it every time you pass a muddy field.

by Rob Clymo

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