2018 Jeep Compass Limited 2.0 MultiJet2 4x4 review: Calibrating

The new Compass may be a lot better than its predecessor, but that's not enough to claim class honors

Overall Score
77 / 100

The compact SUV segment is where all the action is right now, and all automakers are rushing in with new models to bank on the market's thirst for this class of sport utility vehicles.

It's also the market segment where Jeep is suffering the most, despite offering two models since 2006, the Compass and the Patriot — or maybe because of that. We all know how poorly reviewed those vehicles have been, so we've taken their replacement for a drive to see how relevant it is in a segment that includes competent models like the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, VW Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Kuga, Nissan X-Trail, and many, many more.

The second-generation Jeep Compass brings fresh looks, new technologies, and a platform derived from the Renegade — with a slightly longer wheelbase, that is. Styling-wise, the Compass is likely the most attractive Jeep model right now: I like its slender, well-proportioned body, the face that reminds of the Grand Cherokee (even though the squared seven slots in the grille look a bit strange), and the original D-pillar design that makes it look fresh without being outlandish.

The interior looks inviting too, and the two available four-wheel-drive systems mean the 2018 Compass is much more capable off-road than the previous-generation model or the Patriot.

But the game has moved on since the days of the original Compass, and the compact crossover segment is the most competitive vehicle segment. So can this new model help Jeep find its compass and finally crack the compact SUV market? Let's find out.

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IN BRIEF
  • Recommended for:
    families
    seniors
    young and single
  • Created for:
    highways
    off road
    all terrain
  • Hats off for:
    passenger space
    luggage space
    safety
    sound system
  • Bang for the buck:
    meh


Drive
Powertrain
7 / 10
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Our test vehicle featured the range-topping diesel engine you can have in Europe, a 2.0-liter MultiJet2 four-cylinder unit that makes 170 horsepower at 3,750 rpm and 380 Nm (280 lb-ft) of torque from as low as 1,750 rpm. It's hooked to a nine-speed automatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels via the Jeep Active Drive automatic all-wheel-drive system.

The engine does a reasonable job of moving the Compass around, but the SUV doesn't quite feel like it has a 170-hp engine: 0 to 100 km/h takes 9.5 seconds, and top speed is 196 km/h. That may be because the nine-speed auto lacks a "Sport" setting, offering only a manual mode which you shouldn't bother with because the gear changes are on the slower side.

The transmission works smoothly and comfortably as long as you don't push it too hard. Stab the throttle harder, and the gearbox starts to lag behind: it hesitates for about one second before finding the right gear. That said, I reckon Jeep's compact SUV is agile enough for the typical user.


Handling
7 / 10
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While the Jeep Compass is not a fun-to-drive SUV, it gets the job done without excessive body roll, and it grips nicely courtesy of the four-wheel-drive system. You won't get any thrills by going fast through turns, but the somewhat stiff suspension setup and 18-inch wheels shod with 225/55 tires make it quite stable in corners.

It feels heavy, however, and that's because a fully-loaded Compass Limited model tips the scales at around 1.8 tonnes. Maybe that's why the brakes didn't feel too reassuring either. The squeaking noise they made after a more intense drive on twisty roads discouraged me to push the Compass any harder. The steering feels neutral through turns and a bit over-assisted — as do most electric power steering systems nowadays. There's not much feedback and progressiveness, but I like the fact that it noticeably firms up when you pick up speed.

Any Jeep must have off-roading in its DNA, and the Compass makes no exception. Our tester featured the Jeep Active Drive AWD system, Selec-Terrain with four modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud), as well as a 4WD Lock function. We took it to a mud and ruts section, and the Compass seemed to enjoy it.

However, the low 16.8-degree approach angle due to a vertical front bumper lip severely limits the Limited model's off-road range. In comparison, the off-road-oriented Compass Trailhawk has a 30-degree approach angle, while breakover and departure angles, as well as ground clearance, are quite similar to the Limited. So if you're into serious off-roading, Jeep forces you to get the Trailhawk version — you're also going get a 4x4 Low mode, Hill Descent Control, and a Rock mode on the Selec-Terrain dial control.


Safety
10 / 10
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Euro NCAP assessed the new Jeep Compass in 2017 and gave it a five-star maximum rating. The SUV was deemed to offer 90-percent adult occupant protection, 83-percent child occupant protection, 64-percent pedestrian protection, and scored 59 percent for safety assist systems (autonomous emergency braking and Lane Keeping Assist are standard features).

Compared to the previous Compass' two stars awarded in 2012, the second-generation model marks a major leap forward. The passenger compartment remained stable in all tests, and dummy readings indicated good protection. However, in the more severe side pole impact, protection of the driver's chest was rated as poor, albeit without posing any risk of fatal injuries.

In the U.S., the IIHS also tested the Compass and gave it a Top Safety Pick for 2017. The compact SUV gained the maximum "Good" rating in all crash test scenarios, as well as the highest "Superior" rating for Crash Avoidance & Mitigation. However, the standard headlights were deemed as "Marginal," while a "Poor" rating was given for the ease of use of child seat anchors.

Interior
Comfort
7 / 10
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And so we come to probably the most frustrating thing about the Compass: ride quality. On smooth roads, Jeep's compact SUV feels composed and comfortable, but as soon as bumps and potholes appear, the suspension becomes crashy and unsettled. The Compass doesn't seem to adjust to road conditions in a way that doesn't bother passengers.

Don't get me wrong, the ride quality is not unbearable, but I would have liked it to be more compliant — after all, this is an SUV that targets families, and family cars should deliver a smooth ride in most road conditions. Plus, SUVs are very popular in countries that lack well-surfaced roads. On the other hand, let's not forget this is a competent off-roader, and that may explain some of the suspension stiffness. The optional 18-inch alloys may also carry a part of the blame — the Compass Limited features 17-inch rims with 225/60 tires as standard.

Fortunately, the seats are comfortable and supportive (especially at the front), and finding the right driving position is easy. The cabin stays quiet most of the time, but wind noise is present at high speeds, as is tire noise. And when the road gets rough, you also start to hear some noises from the suspension. The engine sounds quite agricultural under acceleration, but some people may find its clatter a good match for the Compass' rugged character.


Quality
8 / 10
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The cabin looks good (especially the dashboard), but is a mixed bag when it comes to quality. On the one hand you have soft, rubbery plastics covering the upper part of the dash and front door panels, but on the other hand, you have hard, scratchy plastics in the lower half of the cabin and on the rear door panels.

And even though our tester was a high-spec Limited model, the plastic surrounding the climate control area looks cheap, and the fit and finish could certainly be better. When driving over bumps, you start to hear some faint rattles in the interior, which is not very encouraging. Still, the soft leather wrapping the steering wheel saves the day, as does the mix of leather and fabric on the seats.


Practicality
8 / 10
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There's plenty of space in the Compass, even on the back seat. Six-foot (1.83-meter) tall passengers enjoy enough headroom, knee room, and legroom, including on the rear bench. Three adult passengers can sit on the second row, although the one in the middle will not be as comfortable as the other two — for obvious reasons such as the transmission tunnel and the fact that he or she would rub shoulders with the other two passengers.

The storage spaces situation is satisfactory, with two cupholders in the front and another pair in the back located on the folding center armrest. There's a decent-sized glove box as well, but the door bins can only accommodate smaller bottles, and the space under the front center armrest is rather tiny.

Annoyingly, there's no dedicated space for your mobile phone: you can only place it in the front cupholders if you want to have it in sight. Unlike other compact SUVs, the Compass doesn't have a sliding and reclining rear seat, which means the boot has a fixed capacity of 438 liters with all seats in place.

That's below average for the segment — for example, the VW Tiguan offers 620 liters, and the smaller Nissan Qashqai has a 430-liter boot. However, the Compass' 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat helps you find the right mix between cargo and passengers.


Infotainment
8 / 10
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Our test vehicle featured the optional 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system, paired with a 7-inch digital screen located between the dials. Operating the interface is almost exclusively a touchscreen-only affair (including the virtual buttons laid out at the bottom of the screen) unless you want to issue voice commands that will inevitably get lost in translation.

You'll be much better off using Siri or Google Assistant. Of course, you can also control radio, media, and temperature via dedicated buttons on the steering wheel and center console, a redundancy that is nice to have.

Fortunately, UConnect is responsive, generally intuitive, and has attractive graphics. It comes with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which are straightforward to connect via USB. Hooking up your smartphone via Bluetooth is easy as well, and the built-in navigation system is reliable, if quite basic. Still, it lacks the traffic updates Google Maps or Waze offer. As for downsides, I would say the UConnect's home screen (or lack thereof) is a bit confusing, and a clearer menu structure would help users accommodate with the interface more quickly.

Budget
Efficiency
6 / 10
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For a compact SUV with a diesel engine, fuel economy is somewhat disappointing. While Jeep claims the Compass 2.0 MultiJet2 AT9 4x4 averages 5.7 l/100 km on the combined cycle, we've only managed 8.2 l/100 km — covered exclusively outside the city.

Factor in city driving and you're looking at an average fuel consumption of around 10 l/100 km, give or take (almost double the official figure). That's too much, especially since FCA brags about the Compass using a disconnecting rear axle aimed at increasing fuel efficiency.


Equipment
9 / 10
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Since our tester was a range-topping Limited model, it goes without saying it featured a healthy amount of equipment. Besides stuff that I've already mentioned, standard features comprise parking sensors, automatic dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, power-adjustable side mirrors with defrost function, cruise control and speed limiter, start-stop, power windows, electric parking brake, Hill Holder, and more.

The test car also packed optional features such as the excellent nine-speaker Beats audio system, bi-xenon automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, power tailgate, rearview camera, heated windshield, and metallic paint, among other things.


Acquisition
7 / 10
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A base front-wheel-drive Jeep Compass Sport with the 140-hp 1.4-liter MultiAir gasoline engine and manual transmission starts at €24,900 in Germany. Going for the range-topping Compass Limited with the 170-hp 2.0 MultiJet2 diesel unit and automatic gearbox requires a significant financial leap to €37,400.

The Romanian-spec model we drove packed optional extras worth €7,400, with a total price of just under €42,000. That's a lot of money to spend on a Compass, even though the dealer offered a special discount of €2,100 that drove the price down to just under forty grand. Chances are you can get even greater discounts if you have enough haggling skills.

While there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the new Compass, I find it a middle-of-the-road offering that's not the most exciting to drive, not the most spacious, not the most comfortable, and certainly not the cheapest. It might be the best compact SUVs off-road, though, but for that, you must get it in Trailhawk trim which is even more expensive than the Compass Limited.

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