Test Drives

Jeep Compass 2018 review: Guiding Light

The new Jeep Compass is infinitely better than the old one, but is it good enough to help Jeep find its way in the crowded family crossover segment?



Remember the old Jeep Compass? Probably not, but that’s what we’re here for. It was Jeep’s first attempt at a crossover, a sports utility vehicle (SUV) that sacrificed 4×4 ability for car-like comfort and dynamics.

Unfortunately, as was endemic of pre-2008 financial crisis American cars, the Compass (and its Chrysler/Dodge platform-mates) was cheaply built, unreliable and insipid to drive. In short, the sooner forgotten in the wilderness, the better.

With the company now under stronger guidance as part of  the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group, the new Compass is a world apart from its predecessor, showing that Jeep is now headed in the right, ahem, direction.

Based on a stretched version of the Renegade’s platform, the new Compass measures in at about 4.4-metres long, similar to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008 and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Partly due to VES surcharges though, in Singapore the Compass costs $136,888 without COE, bringing its price up to BMW X1 and Audi Q3 levels.

For that, you get a car that’s loaded with features: an 8.4-inch infotainment system with Android Auto/Apple Carplay and navigation, lane keep assist, rear cross-path detection, auto lights and wipers and self-parking assist.

But for its almost-premium price tag, the Compass doesn’t feel premium inside despite the toys. Some of the plastic trim is of the tinny variety, and the indicator and wiper stalks in particular feel extremely loose and clacky in their operation.

The story continues with the drivetrain. Driving the Compass is best described as lethargic – floor it from standstill and there’s a literal 3-4 second delay before the car actually gets going, and at other times the throttle response is like stepping in thick porridge.

The engine, a 1.4-litre turbo shared with the smaller Jeep Renegade but hopped up to 168hp, also sounds gruff and coarse even at a low-ish 3000rpm, but is at least decently powerful and torquey on the move.

Thankfully it’s not all bad news. Like many American cars, the soft suspension makes for comfortable cruising, and the seats are more than spacious enough for our generally smaller Asian frames. The infotainment system is clear and responsive too, yet has plenty of physical switchgear which is less distracting to operate.

And of course, the Compass looks rugged and purposeful, and thanks part-time 4WD and selectable off-roading modes, will go places no other soft-roader will, just as a Jeep should.

Ultimately though it would take a big Jeep or Americana fan to choose the Compass at its current price. It’s competent in most areas but apart from the infotainment and off-road ability, it doesn’t particularly stand out from rivals. The Compass is a step in the right direction but requires some recalibration for Jeep to truly find its way home.

Jeep Compass Limited

Engine 1,368cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 168hp at 5500rpm
Torque 250Nm at 2500-4000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
0-100km/h 9.3 seconds
Top Speed 204km/h
Efficiency 6.9L/100km
VES / CO2 C2 / 160g/km CO2
Agent Chrysler Jeep Automotive of Singapore
Price $136,888 without COE
Availability Now

about the author

Jon Lim
CarBuyer's staff writer was its fourth historical Jonathan. Old-fashioned in all but body, he thinks car design peaked in the '90s and is enthusiastic about vintage cars and old machinery.