It seems that everyone is playing the SUV game at some level. Some though, have been doing this for years. JEEP is one of those brands. A heritage that traces its lineage back to the Willys JEEP from World War 2. Coming to the UK at the end of this year is the new Compass. It is the latest offering from JEEP and it sits right in the crucial Small SUV segment. We had the chance to drive the new JEEP Compass in gorgeous Portugal and find out if it deserves to wear the the prestigious badge.

2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk - First Drive

The car we had was in Trailhawk trim. It is the top spec and designed to be the most rough and ready version. This isn’t meant to be another faux-SUV. It is supposed to be able to really get stuck into the rough stuff and come out the other end without breaking a sweat. We spent our time with the Compass putting it through its paces. Seeing if it really can blend the line between road car and capable off-road car.

What is it?

The JEEP Compass is a compact SUV. Not the smallest class of SUV but far from the biggest. It has been designed to take on cars like the Seat Ateca, Nissan Qashqai and Volkswagen Tiguan. The Compass is not a new name here in the UK. It used to be their entry level model and frankly it wasn’t much to write home about. This new Compass has been thoroughly designed to appeal to the European market and take on the key rivals.

The Compass’ styling looks very much like a mini Cherokee. It retains the iconic JEEP grille and many of the styling details inside and out hark back to JEEPs of old. It’s a handsome car with good proportions. Unlike many of it’s rivals, it has a rugged look to it. Not so much that it would look out of place in your local Waitrose car park but it certainly looks more capable than the establishment. Especially in Trailhawk trim which adds different bumpers fore and aft for better off road performance as well as chunky red tow hooks and matte black bonnet graphics.

How does the JEEP Compass Trailhawk drive?

We drove the Compass from urban Lisbon all the way out into some of Portugal’s stunning forests. We sampled as many types of road and terrain as we could to see how the Compass shapes up. In the city it is effortless to drive. The electric steering makes for easy progress in traffic. The auto ‘box is as simple to use as you might expect and smooth too. Out on the larger roads and motorways the Compass is comfortable, smooth and refined. The diesel engine isn’t the most refined unit out there but is has plenty of poke and once you’re moving you’ll barely notice it. Twisty roads aren’t the natural habitat of the SUV but the Compass impresses with good grip and surprising agility. Only let down by vague steering feel, a common byproduct of electric power steering. A trait I’m sure most buyers would care little about.


What’s it like inside?

Our test car was in Trailhawk trim so the red accents on the outside of the car are carried inside. You can have a more upmarket feel by selecting the ‘Limited’ trim level but we feel the Trailhawk trim suits the character of the car much more. The dash is dominated by a large, easy to use, touch screen. In top spec you get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, parking sensors & cameras, a BEATS by Dre audio system and much more. Our car also had the full length sunroof option which is a must if you ask me. It opens the cabin up and is far better than a normal sunroof although at cruising speeds the buffeting was worse than expected.

The front seats are comfortable, heated and cooled. We spent quite a while in the car and at no point did we feel fatigued or uncomfortable. I for one struggle with back pain on long journeys and had no such issue in the Compass. The rear seats are ample and more than enough for your 2.5 children. The boot is large and easily accessed. There isn’t a lip so loading large items should be easy and it’ll be deep enough for trips to IKEA as well taking the dog to the beach.

Is it any good off road?

This type of vehicle isn’t traditionally known for its off road prowess but the Compass really can mix it with the bigger boys. JEEP ended our time with the Compass Trailhawk by introducing us to a varied off road route. We had to contend with steep rocky up-hill sections, even steeper down hill sections with multiple dips and ruts as well as faster rally-style sections.

The JEEP Compass has a simple to use terrain selector. You tell it what you can see and the Compass will do the hard work for you. At no point did it feel like it was out of it’s depth. It’s never going to be as capable as some of its bigger JEEP brethren but for its size I cannot think of a competitor as capable on the rough stuff. It will even cock a wheel when the going gets really rough.

Should I get one and when can I get one?

The JEEP Compass Trailhawk is a solid, well rounded SUV that can actually back up its chunky looks with genuine off-road performance. It’s isn’t fastest, most luxurious car in its segment but it offers a unique alternative to the city-dwelling SUVs from VW, SEAT and the like.

First cars should start to arrive in UK dealers towards the end of the year with customer cars arriving early in 2018. If you want more information about the Compass, visit your local JEEP dealer or click here.



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