Jeep Compass has been on sale on-and-off in Australia since 2007 when the iconic American company finally realised that 4WD lookalikes, then being called SUVs, were becoming increasing popular and often being bought in place of conventional passenger cars.

Shortly after its launch Compass was joined by a second compact Jeep SUV called Patriot. Its more rugged looks proved more appealing than the softer Compass which quietly slipped from the Australian import list at the end of 2009.

Compass returned in 2012 and now has the compact Jeep SUV field to itself following the withdrawal of Patriot in late 2017 when the current, third-generation version was launched.

The latest update, in January 2020, saw a couple of name changes with the previous entry-level Sport now called Night Eagle and the higher-spec Longitude now S-Limited. The four-model range is completed with the Limited and Trailhawk variants.

Night Eagle, Limited and S-Limited are powered by 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol with outputs of 129 kW and 229 Nm. Trailhawk uses a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with slightly less power (125 kW) but significantly more (350 Nm) of torque.

Night Eagle is front-wheel drive with a six-speed automatic transmission while the other three variants are driven by all four wheels with nine-speed auto. Jeep, in line with its more serious off-road credential, tags the Trailhawk as a 4×4 rather than AWD.

Off-road credentials with Trailhawk include raised ride height and steeper approach, ramp-over and departure angles. Traction is Trailhawk through the Jeep Active Drive Low 4WD system, with Rock mode added to its Selec-Terrain control.

With so many of its competitors going for sweeping lines and angles it is refreshing to see that, in true Jeep fashion, Compass sticks closer to the utility part of the SUV name.

A non-negotiable feature of all Jeep designs is the seven-slot grille which has been at the front of every Jeep since the Normandy Landings. The much smaller version in Compass works really well with the wide stance of this latest version.

In profile Compass styling looks very much like a smaller version of its larger Cherokee and Grand Cherokee siblings.

The Night Eagle which we tested comes standard with an attractive black painted roof and black 18-inch alloy wheels as well as an optional ($1950) dual-pane panoramic sunroof.

There’s a feeling of quality inside the Compass that wasn’t always there. The cabin feels airy and light too which is often difficult to accomplish in a SUV of this size.

Front headroom is good despite the optional sunroof in our test car and there’s space in the back to seat a couple of relatively tall adults.

There are air vents and USB ports in the rear.

Storage space is pretty good. There’s no flat area between the front seats although there is a convenient phone-size alcove at the bottom of the dashboard. There’s also a useful storage box under the front passenger seat which can be accessed by tumbling the base of the seat forward. Perfect for keeping prying outside eyes away from secure items.

The 438-litre is one of the biggest in the class and is well shaped with space for a couple of decent-sized suitcases.

Jeep Compass gets the now-expected five-start ANCAP rating starting with seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees, enhanced ABS brakes and stability program.

Additional features across the range now include autonomous emergency warning and braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic detection, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring, trailer sway control, rear parking sensors, hill hold control and two Isofix child seat mountings.

The Limited and S-Limited variants add all-wheel drive, front and rear parking sensors, parallel and perpendicular park assist, automatic high beam, adaptive cruise control and disconnecting rear axle.

The off-road focussed Trailhawk uses an enhanced 4×4 system, off-road suspension, hill descent control, tow hooks and underbody skid plates. It also gets a full-size spare wheel; the other variants have space savers.

All models use the Jeep Uconnect system displayed on an 8.4-inch touchscreen monitor with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard in all models. Apart from the usual phone and audio features Bluetooth provides integrated voice control commands.

Compass Night Eagle gets a six-speaker audio system, the higher spec models step up to a premium BeatsAudio nine-speaker package that includes a subwoofer.

Getting into and out of Compass isn’t difficult and, unlike some of its small SUV rivals in this small SUV market the front seats are large, comfortable and with low but supportive bolsters. They proved ideal for a couple of relaxing longish trips that we made.

Although there is keyless entry, start-up is through the rare nowadays key-in-ignition method, something that we actually still prefer.

There’s excellent visibility in all directions helped rearwards by a lower headrest in the centre seat.

Although there nothing exciting about the 2.4-litre petrol engine is more than adequate around town and for motorway cruising. Out on the rural terrain it needed plenty of revs to climb steepish hills and any fast overtaking needed a fair but of preparation.

There’s a nice balance between handling and ride comfort and it settled quickly after hitting the occasional pothole.

Steering is predictable and responsive.

Factory-tested fuel consumption is listed at 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres. We averaged 9.4 L/100 km during our test.

Jeep Compass 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.

In an important step forward for those potential buyers concerned about Jeep reliability the company now provides a five-year standard warranty although, disappointingly, the warranty distance remains at 100,000 km warranty.

Compass Night Eagle 2.4-litre petrol FWD: $36,950
Compass Limited 2.4-litre petrol AWD: $42,950
Compass S-Limited 2.4-litre petrol AWD: $45,950
Compass Trailhawk 2.0-litre turbo-diesel 4WD: $49,450
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Jeep dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Jeep Compass Night Eagle 2.4-litre petrol FWD five-door wagon)

Capacity: 2.359 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 129 kW @ 6400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 229 Nm @ 3900 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.9 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 190 g / km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic

Length: 4394 mm
Wheelbase: 2636 mm
Width: 1819 mm
Height: 1629 mm
Turning Circle: 11.1 metres
Kerb Mass: 1446 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 66 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Five years / 100,000 kilometres

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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