BY BRIAN BYRNE
IT has been a good while since I was in a Jeep, and though the second generation of the Jeep Compass has been around since early 2018, changes for last year have made it a car that surprises.
Slight modifications to the lights and bumper and a somewhat wider grille might not seem much, but visually they have tanked up the look of the brand’s competitor to the likes of Nissan’s current Qashqai or Toyota’s Corolla Cross. Inside has been more substantially modernised, with the dashboard no longer a throwaway retrospective of post-millennium Americana.
Pending the arrival of a new set of Jeeps to Europe, which will be spearheaded by the all-electric Avenger, the Compass is now the flag-carrier for the brand in the compact SUV segment, with the demise of the Cherokee. The Compass is built on a stretched version of the funky Renegade, but presents as an altogether smoother big brother. Think ballroom svelte instead of the morning after an Ibiza disco. Though the ballroom is a long way from where Jeep became iconic.
Anyhow, the cabin and its fittings in this Compass were quite top drawer, elegant and comfortable and styled with decent designer smarts. It felt a good place to be, and the feel of what seems to me to be a slightly slimmer steering wheel, along with its more modern switchgear, pleased.
The infotainment is a bright standup screen, with the virtual buttons tidily set on the bottom of the screen, and lots of real buttons and knobs for important functions. It took me a few moments to suss out again the radio volume action, on a rocker switch at the back of the steering wheel. Sounds tricky but works perfectly. While I’m at it, a single real button disconnects the dreaded lane assist. The autobox gear selector is still a hefty shifter of the old kind, the car not being new enough to have been given the Stellantis finger flick-switch as in its other brands.
My big interest was the powertrain, a plug-in hybrid petrol unit based on a modern 1.3 4-cylinder direct injection turbo and an electric motor that both provides a rated 50km of electric only propulsion and AWD on demand, with a total output of 240hp. The automatic transmission is a dual-clutch 6-speed produced by a Fiat subsidiary in Italy. It all worked in an eminently smooth manner through my time with the car, to the point that I took several opportunities just to go for a drive. And after some poor experiences recently with non-European cars, the semi-autonomous driving assist system in the Compass worked without causing me any aggravation.
There are two other powertrain options, a 130hp 1.3 petrol turbo and a 1.5 mild hybrid with similar output.
For various marketing and distribution reasons, Jeep has hardly figured in the Irish sales league for several years. But it is now now one of the brands which the newly high-powered Gowan Auto have taken under their wing. While it may remain a relatively niche part of their overall portfolio, with the new models on the way Jeep can only grow.
In the meantime, the revised second generation Compass is good enough to be building the base for that future.