The Jeep Compass Trailhawk is rated to impress off-road.
The Jeep Compass Trailhawk is rated to impress off-road.

Jeep Compass SUV a step in the right direction

If the Jeep Compass is pointing the brand in a new direction, the future is positive. That's at least the case for the top-two variants in the Limited and Trailhawk, which combine off-road agility with new-found don-road manners and looks you won't be ashamed getting into.

Prices starts at $28,850 before on-roads for the front-wheel drive six=speed manual Sport (a six-speed auto adds $2000) that sports so few features private buyers would have to look to the nest tier.

For the record the Sport brings a 5.0-inch touchscreen, digital radio and a reversing camera. That brings the front-wheel drive auto-equipped Longitude at $33,750 into the equation.

This version adds auto headlamps and wipers, roof rails, privacy glass and passenger seat in-cushion storage.

The all-wheel-drive Limited starts at $41,250 with the 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine found in the front wheel drive variants.

It uses far too much fuel for the outputs: the 9.7-lines/100km will quickly translate into 12s. That's despite the inclusion of a nine-sped auto, which is not a good match for this engine and constantly hunts for a ratio when asked to accelerate.

The Compass Limited has smart infotainment software with Android/Apple mirroring.
The Compass Limited has smart infotainment software with Android/Apple mirroring.

Spend an extra $2500 on the turbo diesel and the nine-speed auto has been calibrated with better precision, letting the engine work in its optimal range with only the rare intrusion to remind you the Europeans do it better.

The diesel-only Trailhawk costs $44,750 and adds skid plates, recovery hooks and a low-ratio crawler mode from the rotary drive-mode selector that matches the pace to precision-required conditions.

It's well recorded that the base model Compass can't be had with the $2450 optional active safety features that bundle autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

All versions from May will have it as an option and News Corp expects Jeep to make it a standard feature sooner rather than later to counter the nest wave of compact SUV rivals who will need the features to earn a five-star ANCAP rating.

Active safety aids are $2450 option on the Compass.
Active safety aids are $2450 option on the Compass.

ON THE ROAD

If you want an SUV to tackle the path less beaten, let the Compass guide you. The Limited cedes height and front/rear bumper angles to the Trailhawk but will still happily navigate trails that will leave some rivals struggling _ and most families turning around before they tackle it.

The Trailhawk takes it to the next level and is the SUV to own for mountain bike riders looking for the ultimate descent. The 225mm of ground clearance means it will tackle better than rugged trails and the bash plates cope with abuse.

Back on the bitumen, the diesel-powered Trailhawk remains the pick over the petrol-powered Limited.

The petrol lacks the mid-range urge of a turbo engine and driving it in the upper end of the tachometer where its peak outputs are sees fuel use of around 12.4 litres/100km against official use of 9.7L/100km.

The turbo diesel comes much closer to matching its posted 5.7L/100km fuel use. Expect 7.-something in typical use.

The ride borders on firm and the steering could do with more feel but the Compass rides so much better than the old car you'd think it was new. Beyond the drivetrains, it is.

The infotainment has Android/Apple connectivity, there's no shortage of storage and the quality of the fit and finish means it isn't worth mentioning.

Gravel roads aren’t a challenge for the all-wheel-drive versions of the Jeep Compass.
Gravel roads aren’t a challenge for the all-wheel-drive versions of the Jeep Compass.

Understeer in the all-wheel-drive versions tested at the local launch is all but eliminated and it takes a concerted act of panic/stupidity to invoke life-off oversteer.

There's some tyre noise on coarse-chip surfaces but the cabin ambience is pretty good and the stereo attached to the top-¬end versions' 8.4-inch infotainment screen is impressive.

The seats are set for hefty US posteriors and are consequently harder than a Mensa test _ at least in the early days. They may break in but they're not going to be great until they do.

Smart additions like a proper 230W power outlet in the second row reinforce the unique proposition the Compass represents. This is a stylish SUV engineered to go off-road and it has the gear to suit that lifestyle.

VERDICT

The Trailhawk impresses off-road and the nine-speed auto/turbo diesel drivetrain is the pick in the range.
The Trailhawk impresses off-road and the nine-speed auto/turbo diesel drivetrain is the pick in the range.

Jeep is aiming at the top end of the town and the Compass is an impressive first effort. It needs the active safety aids to be taken seriously but the rest of the package carries the Jeep DNA with a bit more flair.

WHAT'S NEW

PRICE

he price is up by less than $1000 on the base Sport but rises substantially for the Trailhawk. Features are up on all models and the UConnect infotainment _ even on the less-than-average 5.0-inch system on the front-wheel-drive versions _ remains one of the better packages.

TECHNOLOGY

Jeep missed an opportunity to position the new Compass as "access premium" by not fitting active driving aids as standard across the range.

PERFORMANCE

The 2.4-litre petrol engine is thirsty in the real world and not a great match for the nine-speed transmission. Go for the turbo diesel if you travel long distances and can justify the extra cost. It does work well with the nine-speed.

DRIVING

The last Compass lunged all around the dial, depending on the inputs. Bhis one is vastly better drive, particularly given ability to perform off-road.

DESIGN

Dingo ugly - Australian for bland - is no longer a term that springs to mind with the Compass. Inside and out it is a more resolved package, if lacking the luxury features some rivals boast at the Trailhawk's price.

VITALS

The Compass Trailhawk mixes style with 225mm of ride height.
The Compass Trailhawk mixes style with 225mm of ride height.

Jeep Compass Limited/Trailhawk

PRICE $28,850-$44,750

WARRANTY 5 years/100,000km

SERVICE INTERVALS

SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags

TRANSMISSION 9-speed auto, AWD

ENGINES 2.4-litre 4-cyl petrol, 129kW/229Nm; 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 125kW/350Nm

THIRST 5.7L/100km (diesel); 9.7L/100km (petrol)

CARGO 438 litres

SPARE: Temporary (Limited); Full-size (Trailhawk)

TOWING: 1000kg (petrol); 1500kg (diesel)



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