Here’s why the Compass is on Gareth Butterfield’s radar

IN case you hadn’t noticed, Jeep has been chipping away, quite successfully, at the European market share over the last few years.

It’s a purge that began with its brilliant renegade, which rubber-stamped Jeep’s bold new direction and introduced a car that moved away from the American tough-guy image to a more conventional and universally likeable offering.

But while the Renegade trod a carefully measured line between shamelessly nodding at Jeeps of the past, this newcomer, the Compass, very much looks to the future.

It’s very much an SUV, aimed at the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage, and it could be said that it’s the least Jeep-like Jeep we’ve yet seen.

And while that sounds unfair, we have to remember what has previously been peddled on British soil. Before the Renegade and, in truth, before the brand joined the Fiat family, the cars have always felt distinctly American. By which I mean a bit cheap and flimsy.

Not so with the Compass, however. It feels well made, solid and chunky. It feels, in fact, like a Jeep, but a properly sorted, genuinely competitive thing ready to take on the popular rivals.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s unmistakably proud of its pedigree. The familiar seven-slot grill is still there, but it’s much sleeker. It’s modern lights look fabulous, and give it an aggressive stance. Wide, muscular arches round-off the masculine look and it’s the sort of car that only seems to look right in a dark colour.

It’s all a bit softer inside. The materials used are the best I’ve seen in any Jeep and top models have a dash dominated by a huge, Fiat-sourced infotainment system, with a well-thought out array of buttons and dials below.

It’s comfy too. The seats are soft and supportive, there’s plenty of room and visibility is decent, despite the huge D-pillars.

Jeep has given the Compass a strut-type rear suspension, in favour of the usual multi-link setup you’d normally see in a car of this kind. And that’s because they want it to perform off-road. There’s an automatically-adaptable drive-mode system in the 4×4 models to reinforce this message and plenty of suspension travel.

That’s not to say it handles like a rice pudding on the road, though. The suspension is perfectly capable at speed, but still soaks up the big bumps well around town

Accurate steering and a good range of engines make it feel perfectly at home on the black-top – more so than any other Jeep to date, in fact.

The engine range is very similar to that in the Renegade, beginning with a Fiat-derived petrol 1.4 Multiair, alongside 1.6 and 2.0 diesels.

Front-wheel-drive versions are available, but the pick of the litter is the 2.0 diesel with its wonderful nine-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. It’s available in either 140bhp or 170bhp tune, with the latter being a tad more thirsty, but worth the investment.

Prices start at just over £23,000 and climb above £30,000 for higher-spec models. And for that you’ll get goodies such as heated leather seats, reversing cameras and sensors, park assist, blind spot and cross-traffic warning, and the option of adaptive cruise control.

So the Compass a car which sets out a very important stall for Jeep. While it’s moved away from its American quirkiness, it’s still true to its heritage.

It’s great off road and is unmistakably still a Jeep to look at, but its new siblings at Fiat group have worked wonders on its ride, handling and drivetrain.

The Renegade has been a big success for Jeep, and I’ve a feeling the Compass is going to work wonders with the firm’s current growth plans. It’s a great all-rounder.