What is the Jeep Compass?
Although its name suggests a rugged exploration vehicle for penetrating jungles, deserts and swampland, the Compass is more likely to be found negotiating urban car parks and commuter traffic. It’s a crossover, which means you get 4×4 attributes such as a high seating position with the practicality of a hatchback and, in theory, much lower running costs. In fact, Jeep’s history of making robust, go-anywhere all-wheel-drives has endowed the Compass with more off-road capability than a Honda CR-V or Nissan Qashqai can muster, but the trade-off is an interior and manners that are on the rough side too. Which is why the Compass’s prices are lower than average for a car of this kind. Another reason is that its styling is an odd mixture of hatchback, off-roader, estate car and plain awkward.
You can have your Compass with a petrol or diesel engine and four-wheel drive or two-wheel; unless you really are planning trips to places where the road has run out, the best buy is the front-drive 2.2-litre diesel Sport+. Once stoked with some revs, this engine provides the kind of pulling power you’d expect of a Jeep, making things feel pretty effortless in sixth gear at a cruise. It would be even better if the engine were not so clattery. You feel its vibrations through the clutch pedal; it always sounds gruff and gets angrier still when revved hard. If you want a history lesson in how diesel engines used to be, this is it. You’ll experience similar crudity when it comes to cornering: the Compass leans like a leashed dog that doesn’t want to go where you’re going and serves up inconsistent steering responses. It gets the job done, but there’s little pleasure to be had. The stout engine does make the Compass a good towing car, though.
In its native America the Compass is sold at keen prices, and corners seem to have been cut in its construction. Indications of this exercise in economy are apparent when you enter the Compass’s cabin: much of the interior is furnished with hard-feeling, cheap-looking plastics that do not compare well with those found in other cars in the class. More evidence of cheese-paring is a steering wheel that’s adjustable only for height, making it harder to get comfortable than it ought to be. And then there’s a rear pillar that makes reversing difficult, and a boot that’s surprisingly shallow. However, the high seating position provides a good view out, there’s ample room for four, there are plenty of cubbies for travellers’ clutter and the generous standard equipment includes Bluetooth connectivity and cruise and climate control.
But the Compass is a car that has been left behind — and was never in front in the first place. With the Dacia Duster crossover on sale from January 17 for about half the money, it is hard to justify the Compass unless you’re a Jeep obsessive.
What to look out for
Too few Compasses have been sold here for individual ratings in the big surveys, but Jeep itself has consistently scored poorly in customer satisfaction and reliability surveys in Britain and the US. It was the “least reliable” brand in Warranty Direct’s 2010 table, 31st out of 35 in the 2011 What Car? reliability survey and third from bottom in the 2012 JD Power US Vehicle Dependability study (ahead only of, ahem, Dodge and Chrysler).
Which? doesn’t rate Jeep well, either. All that said, owners are predictably defensive about their choice of a Compass — many report online that they’ve had no problems — and the only UK recall for the Compass/Caliber was for incorrect data on towing capacity. It’s been recalled in the US for problems with its fuel tank, steering column, automatic gearbox control module, anti-lock brakes and accelerator pedal, however.
The one to buy
Jeep Compass 2.2 CRD Sport+
- 2143cc, 4 cylinders
- 134bhp @ 3600rpm
- 236 lb ft @ 1400rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-60mph in 11.1sec
- Top speed:
- 46.3mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 4448mm, W 1812mm, H 1663mm
Jeep Compass used car rivals for similar money