Winning a war can often happen in fits and starts – advancing for days and capturing strategic posts before the enemy halts your progress with tenacious fighting. Certainly, that was a case in the Second World War when the legendary jeep, used to mobilise the Allied forces, first came into its own.
Those vehicles may have been spartan and cramped but they were highly functional, their all-round ability and dogged attitude personifying the Allies’ determination and ingenuity in stopping the opposing Axis forces.
It is fitting then that as the company negotiates new challenges that it looks to a determined all-rounder to help lead the way.
The new Jeep Compass range bears only a passing resemblance to the model it replaces in looks, ability and heart. But that is a good thing.
There is a choice of four grades – the front-wheel-drive Sport and Longitude and four-wheel-drive Limited and Trailhawk – starting from $28,850.
We took a Jeep Compass Limited home with us for the week.
Given the surfeit of swoops and angles that seem to be instrumental in the exterior design of SUVs, it is refreshing to come across one that prefers to stick closer to the utility part of the SUV moniker.
With its wide stance, hefty wheel arches and squarish shape, the Jeep Compass certainly stands out from the rest of the class with the seven-slot grille showing its family allegiance.
The interior shows less individuality but a higher level of quality and finish than seen in the outgoing model. Materials are well chosen, switchgear appears more robust and the overall design is appealing.
The cabin feels airy and light too which is often difficult to accomplish in a SUV of this size. There is adequate headroom even with the optional sunroof, and space in the back to accommodate a couple of taller than average adults. There are air vents and USB ports in the rear too to enhance comfort and a couple of ISOFIX anchors if you are carrying little children.
Apart from the regular-issue cup and bottle holders, there is a lack of in-cabin storage provisions to carry your essentials. Although the novelty of the storage box under the front passenger seat accessed by tumbling the base forward almost makes up for it. The seats themselves are flatter than we are accustomed to and feel rather firm.
This Compass Limited boasts its fair share of other comforts though with Jeep offering standard inclusions like 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, auto headlights and wipers, push button start, bi-Xenon headlights, heated leather seats, digital radio with nine-speaker Beats stereo system and a roof rack.
The boot (438-litres) is one of the biggest in the class and easily swallows up the weekly shop or a couple of suitcases. A powered tailgate can be optioned in the Advanced Technology pack.
The Compass Limited features a 8.4-inch (up from 5.0-inch in the entry models) colour touchscreen with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system itself is easy to navigate with good map graphics and decent response times. Bluetooth connectivity is a cinch while two USB ports allow you to recharge or access other devices.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
There are two engines available across the range – a 2.0-litre diesel that offers up 125kW of power and 350Nm of torque and the 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol (129kW/229Nm) under the hood of our test car.
While the petrol engine is more than adequate around town, it needs a fair bit of telegraphing should you want to overtake at highway speeds as quick sharp bursts are not its forte.
In the top-range Limited and Trailhawk models, both the diesel and petrol are paired with a nine-speed auto transmission. It is proficient rather than seamless but a breathtaking improvement from the CVT that did duty in the old model.
With seven airbags, including a knee-bag, stability and traction control, front and rear parking sensors, reverse camera and park assist, the Compass Limited has a fair safety package.
No Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard though which is a shame. It can be optioned in the Advanced Technology pack ($2450) along with other features that one could argue should really be standard including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and auto high beam.
While Jeep is not alone here, the quality of the reverse camera is not the best around. The picture is grainy even in daylight which is not a deal breaker but slightly annoying.
If it is true that the Compass has been charged with lifting Jeep’s recent fortunes, then let’s say that its performance both on and off the bitumen has set its mission on course to a successful end.
Because this, on the larger side of small SUV, is an accomplished drive, taking direction easily, settling quickly over bumps and highly manoeuvrable despite a wide turning circle.
It is even well balanced in the corners. Yes, really.
The petrol unit’s need for more than a slight nudge when a burst of speed is required is perhaps a chink in the armour as is the steady road and tyre soundtrack but that is easy enough to adapt to.
The all-wheel-drive system gives the Limited sureness under foot with traction transferred to the wheels that need it most. It is this trait that makes the SUV such a capable off-road maverick, much better suited to the road less travelled than competitors in this class.
Off course the Trailhawk with its higher approach and departure angles and low range transfer case is the best of the range for demanding trails.
The Compass Limited is a thirsty little blighter and we found consumption during our week was closer to 11.3 L/100km than the official 9.7 L/100km.
Those buyers still wary of Jeep’s recent troubles may find security in a five year / 100,000km warranty, five-year capped price servicing programme and lifetime roadside assist.
Jeep Compass Limited is a small SUV with big promise. More than just a far cry from the vehicle it is replacing, its all-round performance and much improved interior makes for a classy act.
AT A GLANCE
Jeep Compass Limited pricing and specifications:
Price: from $41,250 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Output: 129kW and 229Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed auto, 4WD
Fuel: 9.7L/100km (ADR Combined)
Warranty: Five years 100,000 kilometres
Safety Rating: Five Star ANCAP
WHAT WE LIKED:
Ride and handling
WHAT WE DIDN’T:
Petrol engine short on power
AEB not standard