The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
The Jeep may not be the best car of this type, but it's a solid all-rounder, and has an all-American vibe that will appeal to plenty of people. You can have your Compass in a variety of flavours and it’s well kitted out with features and safety credentials. However, we’d recommend checking out the numerous capable rivals as well, before you sign on the dotted line.
Reasons to buy
- Plenty of space
- Decent to drive
- Plenty of choice in the range
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The Compass takes on the spirit of Jeep’s more adventurous models, with its familiar seven-slat grille and chunky styling, but it's sufficiently different in looks from the larger Grand Cherokee and smaller Renegade that you should be able to tell them apart.
There are five trim levels to choose from. The entry-level Sport has 16-inch alloy wheels, while the Longitude model has 17-inch wheels and adds front fog lamps and roof rails.
The Night Eagle has black 18-inch wheels and plenty of black exterior features, including the window surrounds, grille and badges. Alternatively, the Limited has silver 18-inch wheels and doesn’t have the various black bits of the Night Eagle.
The top-of the-range Trailhawk has a more rugged look, with a black decal on the bonnet and 17-inch off-road alloys, as well as bumpers optimised for off-roading, a rear tow hook and raised suspension for extra ground clearance.
What's the interior like?
Build quality is ok, although some of the plastics are disappointingly hard and lack the premium feel of rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan. But there are still some softer-touch materials used to make it feel less utilitarian.
The headrest doesn’t adjust very high so if you’re taller, you might find the top of your back rubs against the bottom of the headrest, which we found very annoying. But there’s lots of seat and steering wheel adjustment, so you should find it easy to get your preferred driving position.
There are quite a lot of buttons on the centre console, but that does make using the various systems very straightforward, with no messing about with touch-sensitive panels. Models from Longitude upwards get an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
How practical is it?
The Compass is more than spacious enough for four adults, with good head and legroom in the back. While the side seats are nice and wide, that means the middle rear seat is considerably smaller, but a fifth adult should be fine for shorter journeys.
The boot is a good size, if not gargantuan, with a large aperture and a relatively small lip, which should make loading larger items straightforward. The rear seats fold down nice and flat, although you’ll have to unlatch them from each side of the car, rather than being able to do so all in one go from the boot.
There are two cupholders in the centre console and a cubbyhole in front of the gearstick, and two more cupholders in the back. The front and rear doors have good-sized bins that will easily hold a couple of bottles, and there’s a spacious glovebox too.
What's it like to drive?
The ride of the Compass is decent, taking the sting out of the worst British B-roads can throw at the suspension, although there’s a slight up and down, bouncing movement on undulating roads. But it handles pretty well, staying nice and flat through corners.
The steering is on the hefty side, which might be worth considering if you do lots of low-speed manoeuvring, but it gives a feeling of solidity to the driving experience. However, it’s not appreciably better than its rivals.
Being a Jeep, off-road ability should be more than reasonable in cars equipped with four-wheel drive, and especially the off-road-focused Trailhawk model, but we’ve yet to stray away from the tarmac to test this.
How powerful is it?
The Compass comes with a choice of diesel or petrol engines. We’ve tried the entry-level diesel, a 1.6-litre unit with 120 horsepower and front-wheel drive. While 120 horsepower might not sound like much for an SUV, it’s strong with plenty of low-down grunt, and pulls well. It is noisy though, and particularly chuggy at low speeds, which combined with a fair bit of road and wind noise at motorway speeds means the Compass doesn’t offer a particularly tranquil driving experience. The six-speed manual gearshift is quite heavy, which some people might quite like, as it gives a meaty feel and adds to the overall chunky character of the car.
If you want more power, there’s a 2.0-litre diesel with either 140 or 170 horsepower, and a 1.4-litre petrol engine, also with 140 or 170 horsepower. You can also specify your Compass in four-wheel drive, or with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, although these aren’t available on all versions.
How much will it cost me?
The Compass is on the pricey side compared to rivals like the Skoda Karoq, although similar cars with a more premium feel, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and Volvo XC40, cost more. Resale value and fuel consumption costs for the Jeep are likely to be reasonable, if not spectacular, but comparing the Compass’ 140-horsepower diesel engine to Volvo’s D3 diesel, which has 10 horsepower more, shows the Volvo will deliver considerably more miles per gallon. Skoda’s Karoq has a particularly impressive resale value, better fuel economy than the Compass and will be cheaper to service, maintain and repair. Overall, the Compass looks quite pricey.
How reliable is it?
Jeeps sell in relatively small numbers in the UK, and as such doesn’t feature on some of the larger reliability studies, such as JD Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study. As such, it’s hard to get a definitive steer on how reliable a Compass is likely to be. Jeep is owned by the same company as Fiat, and the Compass shares many components with Fiat’s 500X and the 500L. So it might not be good news that Fiat placed last-but-one in the 2019 JD Power study. Jeep also sits towards the lower end of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index.
If anything goes wrong with your Compass, Jeep does at least offer an impressive five-year, 75,000-mile warranty, as well as three years of servicing and five years of roadside assistance.
How safe is it?
The Compass scored the maximum five stars when crash-tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP in 2017. All models feature automatic emergency braking and a lane departure warning system, while the Limited model has a blind spot warning system and Rear Cross Path Detection, which warns of approaching vehicles when backing out of parking spaces. There are two Isofix child seat mounting points in the outer rear seats and front, side and chest airbags.
How much equipment do I get?
None of the Compass models are particularly spartan when it comes to kit, although the infotainment offerings are minimal in the entry-level Sport model, with a 5.0-inch touchscreen and a DAB radio, but no satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. But it still gets air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and automatic wipers.
Upgrade to the Longitude and you’ll get a rear parking camera, keyless entry and engine start, and dual-zone climate control. The Night Eagle model is primarily about the exterior black bits, but you do also get leather-covered and slightly posher front seats, while the Limited model gives you electric seats, a heated steering wheel and an upgraded stereo courtesy of Beats. The Trailhawk has most of that, plus some off-road goodies like hill descent control, rock mode and a full-sized spare wheel.
If you want to buy into the Jeep image but plan on doing more on-road cruising than rock-bashing, the Compass is well worth a look. There’s plenty of choice when it comes to engine and trim level combinations, a good level of equipment across the range and some very solid safety credentials.