Wednesday 18 October 2017

Why the Compass price will be a crucial steer for potential buyers of yet another rival for Qashqai

First Drive in Lisbon: Jeep Compass

The all-new Jeep Compass
The all-new Jeep Compass
The interior is dominated by a new Uconnect infotainment system

Cathal Doyle

IN spite of decent offerings in the form of the Cherokee/Grand Cherokee and particularly its compact crossover offering, the Renegade, Jeep remains a relatively rare sight on Irish roads

Part of the reason has been the lack of a contender in the all-important mid-sized crossover category in the last few years. The last-generation Compass was quietly withdrawn from sale in Europe in 2014.

An all-new Compass, built on a slightly longer version of the same platform used by the Renegade, is going on sale in Europe now.

However, the vagaries of production mean we're going to have to wait until the start of next year to get our hands on right-hand drive versions, which are being built at a dedicated factory in India.

The interior is dominated by a new Uconnect infotainment system
The interior is dominated by a new Uconnect infotainment system

Hence we're not being offered any information on prices yet, though Jeep tells us that they see it as a rival to everything from the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage to high-end Volkswagen Tiguan models and the BMW X1. Full prices and specs will be revealed in the autumn.

Perhaps looking at the competition in this segment, Jeep has played it fairly safe with the styling.

The Compass is a conventional enough looking crossover, though signature Jeep styling cues, such as the seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches, help give it a unique identity.

The interior is dominated by a new Uconnect infotainment system that boasts an 8.4in touchscreen in higher trim models.

It's pretty intuitive to use, though the physical buttons for volume and heating controls positioned below it are too low for easy eye contact when driving.

Rear legroom is generous, though headroom may be tight for larger individuals. At 438-litre, boot space fits somewhere mid-table when compared with rivals.

Irish trim levels are likely to be similar to that seen in other Jeep products so expect to see Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk versions.

Limited models, which are top of the range with regards to specification and on-road refinements, are anticipated to be most popular. Trailhawk versions showcase off-road capabilities with revised bumpers, low ratio gearbox, off-road modes including hill descent control and increased ride height and ground clearance.

Certainly the example we tried handled the relatively tame off-road course in Portugal with ease.

On the engine front, there are 120hp 1.6 litre and 140hp and 170hp 2-litre diesel offerings, while petrols are available with 140hp and 170hp in a 1.4-litre. There's also a 184hp 2.4 litre.

The lower-powered diesel and petrol units come in front-wheel-drive only and with a 6spc manual gearbox.

Other versions boast all-wheel drive and, depending on model, a choice of manual or 9spd auto gearbox.

Jeep Ireland expects the 1.6 diesel to be the best seller, though we found it a little underwhelming, mainly due to a lack of low-down torque requiring frequent gear changes.

The mid-range 2-litre diesel with auto gearbox was a much more refined all-rounder.

On-road manners are reasonably well refined, though there's a bit too much body roll to appeal to the keen driver, and the suspension - which features a new multi-link Chapman rear set-up - can be upset by harsh surfaces.

If you're looking for a crossover SUV that combines genuine off-road capabilities with decent on-road manners and refinement, the Compass will make a lot of sense.

Its appeal is less obvious for those wanting it for on-road use only. Pricing, when it's revealed, will be critical.

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