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Jeep Compass 1.6 120hp Limited manual review

Date: 26 June 2017   |   Author: Guy Bird

Jeep is not a complicated brand to explain - it invented the 4x4 and became the generic term for the breed, like 'Hoover' for vacuum cleaners.

Trouble is, just like Hoover, there are now arguably better vacuum cleaners and sharper - or certainly more popular - compact SUVs.  

Perhaps part of the reason is that the type of vehicles that have expanded the segment are cars that combine off-road looks with a high driving position, but mostly offer two-wheel drive and smaller engines - elements Jeep has not traditionally thought appropriate to its brand.

Either way, Jeep's new Compass now sits squarely in the heart of the market in terms of design ('softer crossover' rather than 'chunkier off-road') and also engine line-up (three right-size diesel outputs and a single petrol). Accordingly, Jeep UK's manager Andrew Tracey told BusinessCar the brand is targeting fleets more strongly by launching a fleet trim - a first for Jeep: "It will be based on the mid-range Longitude trim plus adds a mixture of yet to be confirmed safety and tech extras that will build residual values."

Tracey hopes this trim will help make the Compass Jeep's best seller in 2018 - with 10,000 sales in a full year (the smaller Renegade enjoyed 11,000 sales in 2016 but is expected to fall below the Compass now). As the UK right-hand drive launch isn't until January 2018, mpg and CO2 figures are estimates, but the smaller 120hp 1.6 diesel manual FWD (64.2mpg and 117g/km CO2) should be the top fleet seller and square-up directly with the Nissan Qashqai. The bigger 140hp 2.0 diesel manual (54.3mpg and 138g/km) and 140hp and 170hp 2.0 AWD autos (both 49.6mpg and 148g/km) will be in VW Tiguan territory.

With uncertainty over diesel's future popularity in light of recent scandals and negative press, Tracey also sees the 140hp 1.4 FWD manual petrol (45.6mpg & 143g/km) becoming more important and redressing the currently predicted 80/20 diesel/petrol ratio. Indeed, if demand dictates, Tracey has not ruled out adding a 170hp 1.4 AWD petrol (40.9mpg and 160g/km) before launch too.

Engine availability was scarce on this early drive but BusinessCar drove both key diesels, preferring the smaller 120hp 1.6 FWD six-speed manual for its lightness of feel, from steering to cornering agility, its still punchy power in most situations, plus its economy and emission tax benefits. The 140hp 2.0 AWD felt more solid all round (including thoroughly capable off-road), but its nine-speed auto seemed to create a significant lag between the driver's accelerator pedal press and the car's reaction. Space inside is very good - thank a longer wheelbase for making the rear seats particularly pleasant - and luggage capacity is both large (438/1,251 litres min/max) and usable, offering a 1x1m2 load area.

Final UK specs are still to be decided, but autonomous emergency braking will be standard across the range and 5.7- and 8.4-inch infotainment screens offered. The 8.4-inch touchscreen tested was pretty decent and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be standard on the Limited and Trailhawk upper trims. Prices should start at £20,000 and rise to £35,000. To conclude, the Mk2 Compass is Jeep's most convincing compact SUV yet, whose conservative design fits right into the burgeoning crossover mainstream.

But with so many established rivals from the Qashqai and Sportage to the Kuga and Tiguan plus credible newcomers like the Seat Ateca, Jeep will have to make sure its spec, pricing and fleet strategy is keen to reach its sales targets.

P11D £27,000*
On sale January 2018
Fuel consumption 64.2mpg*
CO2 (BIK band) 117g/km (25%)*
BIK 20/40% per month £113/£225*
Boot space 438 litres
Engine size/power 1,598cc/120hp