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Compass gives a steer on what Jeep plug-in could do

Many of the brand’s compact SUV rivals are ahead both on looks and dynamics

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The Jeep Compass PHEV is an understated family crossover that has many plus points but was a bit off the pace in critical areas

The Jeep Compass PHEV is an understated family crossover that has many plus points but was a bit off the pace in critical areas

The Jeep Compass PHEV is an understated family crossover that has many plus points but was a bit off the pace in critical areas

It is amazing what we hold on to – for none other than a whimsical reason.

A recent clearing of a few boxes of stuff from under the old stairs yielded little by way of quality but highlighted one’s tendency to hoard for hoarding sake, not even sentimental value.

It is so often a simple case of holding on to an old book because you never got around to reading it.

Or a cutlery set missing a couple of knives, or chipped china cups because of an indiscernible echo from the past that it was some sort of heirloom. Well my poor grip condemned one of those to its eternal resting places by letting it drop and break into smithereens.

I ended up wondering why I bothered, but once committed the rattling box-loads had to be lugged away for closer inspection and in the hope that something in the inner depths might yield something worthwhile.

This week’s test car holds onto something too.

There remains a mystique about Jeep. The only thing is it tends to be in America, as anyone who has been there will attest.

That is not so much the case in Europe except for a core of Jeepophiles whose enthusiasm has given credence to the automaker that there is a bigger market to be won if only it could hit the magic formula.

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I don’t think I am exaggerating, or being negative about the brand, when I say that day is still to come.

Meanwhile the current occupants of more substantial European market share continue to pull away, fine tuning their wares and giving customers more of what they want. Or, as can be the case, creating a new niche that people find even more to their liking.

It is against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and many, many more so-called medium crossovers that this week’s test car, the Compass, is pitched.

Based on the same platform as the Fiat 500L, it now resides in the large automotive conglomerate that also houses Peugeot and Citroen.

It is a strong, sturdy looking car with the famous Jeep grille out front. However, the grille is smaller than I think it needs to be if it is to set itself apart on the road or in the parking lot.

Bigger is better in our market where much ado is made of how strong the front needs to be. The Compass looks too timid.

And that means the car itself gives off a vibe of being conservatively tame, even with 19in wheels and flared wheel arches.

Looks, as I’ve reported to you before, are major factors for potential purchasers who, time and again, say a dynamic-looking vehicle with a high driving position are two of the determinants of buying.

The Compass certainly has a high driving position. I found it to be excellent. And the inside manages to keep bright and breezy despite the presence of leather upholstery – that’s thanks in some measure to a substantial sunroof.

There is ample room for two adults at the back, two and a smaller frame would probably be OK.

We used the folded-flat back seats primarily to transport our boxes of rattley sentimentalisms. Their clatterings were not dimmed by a suspension that was a bit on the sharp side – and felt it – even over good roads. I didn’t need the AWD.

The drive generally was fair, no more than that. It lacked real dynamism and feedback though I concede that would not be the primary concern of anyone buying it for a family car.

The plug-in hybrid system – petrol engine, large-battery powered electric motor – wasn’t nearly as frugal as Jeep’s 1.9litre/100km claimed it could be (“could” being the operative word) but that is because I wasn’t operating it under ideal conditions.

Plug-ins are, as you probably know, all about being able to be charged every 50km or so on a daily basis (at work for example).

I’d venture to suggest, by my rough calculations, that the real return is somewhere closer to 4.5litres/100km.

That’s not too bad at all and was based on drives around suburbia and a gentle enough spin to the midlands – yes to explore the under-stair depths – and a detour for a dip (not me, oh no!) in the shallows of Lough Ennell.

What a lovely place that was on a fine August evening. Being there added to the sentimental feel of the entire outing.

Would I buy it? I think I’d have to pass. It was fine really but there are so many competitors that do things that bit different and better.

And the price of my test car would have me asking, despite copious equipment levels, if I wouldn’t invest in something a bit more salubrious.

There is no doubt the Compass ticks a lot of boxes (no pun intended) but it is just that bit off the pace in a few critical areas.

Jeep Compass S Factfile

Jeep Compass S, 1.3 GSE, plug-in hybrid, eAWD, 240hp, 1.9litre/100km.

Range from €43,995; car tested from €54,995. Spec for the
S version includes several safety, driver assist systems, 19in wheels, black roof, auto high beam, air con, leather seats, 8-way electric driver seat, 4-way lumbar adjustment, 40/20/40 folding rear seats, Uconnect 5 R1 Radio, 10.1in display with navigation, hands-free electric boot lift, dual-pane sunroof, body-coloured painted lower sills and wheel arches.


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