Compass points in a new direction

Observer writer

Friday, December 14, 2018

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Remember the old Jeep Compass? Probably not. Jeep hopes you don't, as it wipes away any memory of the first-generation model with a comprehensive overhaul that is the 2019 Jeep Compass.

It does contain several elements that may ruffle the feathers of the brand faithful, but it's still a good choice in the crowded compact Sport Utilty Vehicle segment.

Now in its second generation, the Jeep Compass sheds off the older skin for one that mimics the larger full-sized Jeep Grand Cherokee. This gives it a handsome, purposeful design, especially given its chunky dimensions. The protective bumper and fender lining adds an even more rugged off-road appearance. To top it all off, is the signature Jeep grille. The Compass embraces its heritage fully as throughout the vehicle there are small hidden Jeep icons and graphics.

Its stance is perfect for entry with and, once inside one is greeted plenty of space. The seats are comfortable, and easy on the body for long distances. They can't be lowered to racing car levels, but they can handle a wide range of body sizes. Given the relative abundance of space, the driver's seat provides an access to all the key controls which are laid out across an uncluttered dashboard. It's a simple, clean design that doesn't overwhelm the occupants, more so when the option to turn off the infotainment screen in engaged. This leaves the driver to concentrate on the road and the soft materials located at key touchpoints, like the sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Cup holders and storage are aplenty. For example, the front passenger seat contains a less-than-obvious space to stash valuables. In the back, space and comfort continue. There is dual-zone climate control, but it works front to rear; not passenger and occupant as standard, giving those in the rear their own air conditioning vents. They also get their own USB port to power their various devices. The trunk can swallow plenty of gear for a weekend getaway.

Where the Jeep faithful may throw their arms up in rebellion is the drivetrain. Sitting in the nose of the Compass is a 1.4-litre, turbocharged engine which uses a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission to drive the front wheels only. In this segment, a small displacement front-wheel drive layout is the norm and the Compass is in no way hampered by such, but those expecting a pounding V8 and four-wheel-drive, off-road performance synonymous with the brand still shouldn't write off this urban sport compact utility vehicle.

The Compass manages to deliver a very different experience to its class rivals, primarily driven by its Americanness. Instead of trying to be sporty, relaxation is its forte, putting down an easy, infectious pace. Cabin refinement is very good, bolstering passengers' ability to flow along effortlessly in traffic and across the country's crumbling road network while enjoying the tunes pumping from the responsive touchscreen-operated infotainment system.

For those who want a bit more pep in their step, the Jeep requires just one to push the accelerator pedal with vigour. Don't mistake the first quarter of pedal travel for turbo lag. With 163bhp and 184lb/ft of torque on tap, once lit up, the Compass can be put on haste. The very same compliant suspension and ride height work at speed as well, continuing to isolate the chassis from upsetting bumps. For even more interaction, one can switch the transmission to manual mode.

Even with all that performance on tap, the Jeep Compass thrives on its ability to settle back down to cossetting cruising. It does have some off-road chops, but that's in-line with other front-wheel-drive compact SUVs. Its true focus is making urban motoring as stress-free as possible and it does that in droves.

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