Jeep's tough challenge
THE name Jeep conjures up images of the great outdoors and rugged terrain. But Jeep itself has gone through a rough patch here, with sales hitting the floor during a change of distributors earlier in the year. Now, though, there is fresh hope for the marque. Fiat Auto has taken over the Chrysler franchise in Europe, and Jeep is heading back on to the forecourts across the country.
The handover took place in June, when Fiat found that there had been only two registrations recorded for 2010. Since the changeover there have been inquiries and Fiat plans to rebuild the brand image with at least 50 sales of the Compass model next year.
The new model launched in April is better looking, with strong exterior lines and the interior sees improved quality materials. The competition -- the Hyundai IX35, Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan -- has, however, set very high standards for SUV models at this level.
But there are a number of things which should breathe new life into Compass sales. The price has dropped from €33,755 in 2010 to €29,995, and it comes with a 2.2 litre turbo diesel engine sourced from Mercedes Benz which gives extra power over the 2-litre VW engine used in the past. These are positive developments, and the 'Sport Plus' version with the option of front-wheel or four-wheel-drive gets 17" alloy wheels, fog lights, steering-mounted audio controls, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connection, privacy glass and Hill Holder technology along with a good safety package, costs just under €30,000. There is also the 'Limited', a more upmarket version for €3,000 extra, which may turn out to be the best-seller. It comes with extras such a heated leather seats and 18" alloy wheels. Climate control is standard.
Jeep offers a 2-litre petrol engine but the 2.2 litre diesel with 162 bhp output will be the big seller. It gives plenty of power through an automatic transmission, but can be a bit noisy when pressed. Better insulation would help. The seats are comfortable, visibility is good, but boot space is disappointing.
The 4x4 option makes the Compass a good choice for driving in ice and snow, and the rough and tumble of rural roads, but the excellent range offered by the established opposition will make the Compass struggle to gain a foothold, even with a name like Jeep on the bonnet.
PS: Fiat has just announced it is putting a Panda 4x4 on sale for winter driving. It will be the most affordable lockable all-wheel-drive vehicle selling for €14,295. It is powered by a 1.2 litre 69 bhp petrol engine which returns 6l/100km and comes in at Band B (€156 road tax). Air conditioning and alloy wheels are standard.