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First Drive: Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.

First Drive: Jeep Compass
Jeep revitalises the Compass to get at the Qashqai; it's still pointing the wrong way.

   



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| First Drive | Balocco, Italy | Jeep Compass |

Overall rating: 2 2 2 2 2

Jeep has tried to point the Compass towards crossover mainstays like the Nissan Qashqai, but it's simply not good enough. All Jeep can really cling to is the hope that those who romanticise the brand do so enough to overlook the car's poor quality interior, sub-par dynamics and questionable ergonomics.

Key Facts

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door SUV crossover
Rivals: Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Volkswagen Tiguan
CO2 emissions: 175g/km
Combined economy: 37.2mpg
Top speed: 115mph
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
Power: 154bhp at 6,300rpm
Torque: 140lb.ft at 5,100rpm

In the Metal: 3 3 3 3 3

By way of introducing the new Compass, Jeep Brand President and CEO Mike Manley (quite a fitting surname, for Jeep) admitted that the car has caused confusion in its showrooms, lacking the sense of belonging to the iconic, butch brand.

To rectify that, the Jeep Compass has undergone a more comprehensive facelift than is usual, getting a completely new front end, improved quality interior and the introduction of a two-wheel drive variant. The outer stuff works, giving the Compass a more imposing look befitting of the brand. But the interior, conversely, is awash with hard, hollow plastics and has a distinctly last-generation feel, miles behind the rivals mentioned above.

Driving it: 2 2 2 2 2

The first thing you'll notice is that the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach, then that the gear lever - set into the dashboard like a Honda Civic's - is topped by an almost laughably bulbous globe. And the shift action isn't at all like the Honda's, but more akin to blindly stirring a tennis ball around a packet of crisps.

Cornering in the Compass is similarly uninspiring. Do it quickly and you'll be literally rubbing shoulders with the front seat passenger. Equally, braking and acceleration get the body bobbing fore and aft, as do even the most minor of road imperfections.

Add to that a notable amount of tyre and wind noise and you've got a car whose refinement, while perhaps not as bad as our hyperbole suggests, isn't anywhere near class best. And that's before engine noise comes into the mix. We drove the 154bhp 2.0-litre petrol unit, whose lack of pulling power demands it be revved, but whose general din has you reaching for an up-shift at the earliest opportunity.

What you get for your Money: 3 3 3 3 3

On one hand the 16,995 starting price will prove a tempting entry point to the brand for some, although its 23,995 end point puts it well into Volkswagen territory.

That entry price buys a front-wheel drive Jeep Compass in Sport trim, which gets manual air conditioning and alloy wheels, while higher end 'Limited' and 70th Anniversary models add stuff like electrically adjustable seats and climate control. Touch screen satnav and Bluetooth connectivity are optional.

Worth Noting

The Jeep Compass goes on sale this Friday (15 April). Around two-thirds of sales are expected to be of 2.2-litre diesel versions - an engine developed with Mercedes-Benz - available with either 134- or 161bhp. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard with both, though buyers can opt for a CVT automatic.

Summary

In many ways the Jeep Compass is undone not because it's an awful car - it's not quite that bad - but because it competes in a field that's so strong, and which we're probably spoiled by. If you really like the idea of a cheap Jeep, you're likely to buy it anyway. After all, it looks ok from the outside and it has necessities like a steering wheel, seats and a boot.


Mark Nichol - 14 Apr 2011



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2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.

2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.



2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.
 






 

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