Only we can tell you how the Jeep Compass rides in English: driven and evaluated

A couple of days ago, we have brought our readers the most complete information on the Jeep Compass world presentation. And it was quite easy because we were present at the revelation. It does not matter from where you are reading this: the Jeep Compass is a world car. It will be sold in China, India, Australia, South Africa, Europe and America (USA, Canada and Mexico included). It will be built in Mirafiori, Italy, and in Toluca, Mexico, as it is already produced in Goiana, in Brazil, the first site to have it. It will be basically the same in all countries, apart from equipments and engine options. Yesterday and today we got the chance to drive the SUV for the first time and this is the first text in English you will get to read about it. We hope it is also one that will answer all your questions on the model.

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We only had access so far to the Compass equipped with the Multijet engine. And it is sold in 2 trims: Longitude and Trailhawk. The 2.0 Tigershark flex engine will only be available in a couple of weeks. It is worth to remind the technical specifications. The 2.0 TigerShark is flexible in fuel and, with ethanol, it delivers 122 kW at 6,200 rpm and 201 Nm at 4,000 rpm. When it uses petrol, the engine generates 117 kW at 6,200 rpm and 195 Nm at 4,000 rpm. It only comes mated to a 6-speed Aisin automatic transmission. As for the Multijet, it produces 125 kW at 3,750 rpm, 350 Nm at 1,750 rpm and is mated to a 9-speed automatic gearbox from ZF. Diesel versions are exclusively 4×4, while the TigerShark is front-wheel drive.

The Compass is 4.42 m long, 1.82 m wide, 1.65 m tall and it has a wheelbase of 2.64 m.  Its trunk can hold 410 l of luggage in most derivatives and 388 l on the Trailhawk. The front and the rear suspension are of the McPherson kind. “The Chapman suspension arrangement, which is related to the McPherson, was the best solution we could have on the Compass. It allows for more suspension travel and also for the best handling possible on tarmac”, said Claudio Demaria, head of product development in FCA Latin America, who had a major role in the development of the SUV. The guy with the microphone below.

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Just like the Renegade, Jeep has created some Easter Eggs that cause a very good impression of care and good taste. Check them in the video below.

Trailhawk

Our first contact with the driving position of the Compass was at a special track called Camp Jeep, just outside the Goiana plant. It was built specifically to show the off-road capability of the SUV.

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The Trailhawk has a power seat for the driver, but the front passenger only gets manual adjustments (and no height regulation). You can put the driver seat very low and very far, what is great for drivers that are 1.80 m tall or taller than that. The steering wheel can be adjusted both in height and in distance, what allows for a very good driving position. The seat is comfortable, but we’ve missed more thigh support.

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The steering is quite small for an SUV. That gives the model a sport feel. There are 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, what makes it also very agile, but not light in any way, but we will talk more about that a little later.

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The Trailhawk has an approach angle of 29.1º , a departure angle of 33.1º, a break-over angle of 23.7º and a ground clearance of 22.9 cm. Jeep Active Drive Low 4WD is standard, as it is in all diesel derivatives, but this is the most capable one. “The higher ground clearance has been obtained mostly by spring differences, but there is a little of it due to the all-terrain tires”, said Robson Cotta, product development manager at FCA. The bald guy with shades standing on the right.

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This increased height has proven to be very nice in beating obstacles at the Camp Jeep “trail”. It was a sequence of steep climbs, abrupt declines, side slopes and something called “egg carton” in Brazil: a sequence of alternating holes that always keep one of the wheels of the SUV up in the air, sometimes 2 of them at the same time. In most situations, the 350 Nm of torque that the Multijet delivers were more than enough to carry the 1,751 kg of the Compass Trailhawk around. In the steep climbs, the Jeep Active Drive Low system was activated and we have selected the Rock mode.

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In the most radical and long decline, we have selected the Hill Descent Control and the car takes care of reducing speed and easily going down. The Compass confidently overcame obstacles, even a 48 cm high water tank (at 8 kph). Nothing too extreme, but we believe Mopar will soon sell snorkels to make that improve.

In all the trail-like situations, the Compass Trailhawk felt very comfortable to drive and also capable of dealing with most scenarios. But we would have to wait until the day after in order to see how it felt in regular driving conditions.

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The first trim we got to drive was, once again, the Trailhawk. We would get to drive it for 40 km, from Reserva do Paiva, in Cabo do Santo Agostinho, until the Cupe Beach, in Porto de Galinhas. Both in the city and on road.

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The first impression that the Compass Trailhawk has given us on tarmac is smoothness. At least as soon as we turn the engine on. The Multijet is a very good diesel mill, but diesel nonetheless. Vibration and noise are evident on the Fiat Toro, for example. But not on the Compass. It is a pity this engine will probably not make it into the US market. If it could comply with emission regulations there in an honest way, not in a Dieselgate fashion, it would be a delight for customers. What a refined diesel SUV the Compass is!

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The seats are covered with synthetic leather and natural leather (only in the places where there is friction with the body of passengers). The Trailhawk uses a keyless system to open and start the car and there are configurations that allow the car to lock its doors automatically when the vehicle is put in motion. Visibility is great in all directions and there is Blind Spot Monitoring for the cases in which it fails.

The 9-speed automatic transmission is not exactly fast in changing gears in low revolutions (even if all diesel revolutions are low in some manner). What compensates that is the tremendous torque the Multijet offers right from the start. It is funny to see the Compass get to 60 kph or 70 kph at 2,000 rpm or even less. Use the kick-down and the engine will not get too much over 3,000 rpm. The speedometer, on the other hand, will present fast-building levels of speeds. You’ll get used to it very quickly.

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In bumpy streets and potholes, unfortunately very common throughout Brazil, it is easy to sense that the Trailhawk suspension is very stiff. You will not be disturbed by the body motion, but by the noises the suspension produces. They are harsh and short, something that will bother no one in a trail, at low speed, but that may cause some discomfort in daily use. That does not prevent the SUV from being very stable in high speed, with very little body roll.

In our opinion, unless you really intend to put the Compass in difficult paths, the Trailhawk trim may not the most indicated choice for you. It is the choice for a very narrow profile of buyers, and we are not even speaking about its R$ 149,990 (US$ 43,293) price tag. Don’t worry: you’ll pay probably way less than that on the SUV depending on where you live. The new generation Compass should preserve or even lower its sales prices regarding the former model in the markets where it was already sold.

 

Longitude

Jeep Compass Longitude Diesel

The Longitude costs less than the Trailhawk (R$ 132,990, or US$ 41,046). But it is a much better machine to drive if you have no intention to put it in a rocky terrain. It also comes with the Jeep Active Drive Low, but without the Rock setup, exclusive for the Trailhawk derivative.

In the same bumpy roads we have tacked with the Trailhawk, the SUV was an example of good behavior. Potholes produced no harsh noises, only minor body shakes. Of the kind that starts and quickly disappears, as if they had never happened. Uneven asphalt also does not cause the boat movements that often make passengers sick. That was when I decided to take the back seat to see what it is like to be a passenger there.

The Compass offers Isofix hooks (of which we hope buyers with kids will make proper use) and lots of space. With the driver seat adjusted for a tall driver (1.85 m tall), there is leg room for someone of the same size to travel behind it. The only problem there is that the seat is low, what makes tall passengers have little leg support.

Market analysis

In this brief first contact with the Compass, we can say with no fear of missing that FCA has just built its Qashqai. In case you are not aware of what it is, the Nissan Qashqai is the first model to defy the C-segment supremacy in Europe, or the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus elite club in that market. And the Compass has the potential to be a world Qashqai.

In Brazil, it is similarly priced to C-segment sedans, such as Toyota Corolla, the Chevrolet Cruze and the new generation Honda Civic. The Corolla alone sells around 5,000 units every month, what makes Jeep’s estimates of 2,000 units of the Compass a month something extremely conservative. After all, it is similar to the sedans in size and price. And which are the new darlings among car buyers if not crossovers and SUVs? Precisely.

Mark our words: we bet the new Compass will be a sales phenomenon. Not only in Brazil, but anywhere it is put for sale.

Gustavo Henrique Ruffo

I have been an automotive journalist since 1998 and have worked for many important Brazilian newspapers and magazines, such as the local edition of Car and Driver and Quatro Rodas, Brazilian's biggest car magazine. I have also worked for foreign websites, such as World Car Fans and won a few journalism prizes, among them three SAE Journalism Awards and the 2017 IAM RoadSmart Safety Award. I am the author of "The Traffic Cholesterol", a book about bad drivers that you can buy at Hotmart, Google Play, Amazon and Kobo.