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Jeep Compass 2019 review: Limited diesel

The re-booted Compass looks the part but does it bring the goods, too?
EXPERT RATING
7.4
With small SUVs being all the rage, now is Jeep's (second) time in history. Can it carve out the right niche?

Now is Jeep’s time in history.

Or rather, its second time in history… Sure, there was that rather significant period of history which built the Jeep name in 1941, but no time since has embraced the SUV so wholeheartedly until 2019.

Naturally, the SUV-only Jeep is now on a roll, largely credited with propping up its parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with ever-improving global sales figures reaping the benefits of an SUV-hungry world. 

The brand now seeks to plug the gaps with the relatively recently arrived small SUV, the Renegade, and now, its bigger brother – and the car you’re looking at here - the re-booted Compass.

So, does Jeep actually offer anything that other SUV brands can’t? I spent some time in the Limited 4x4 diesel to find out.

Jeep Compass 2019: Limited (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$43,750

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

What you’ll notice immediately about the new Compass is how much it carries that distinct Jeep style. 

Everything is there from the seven-slot grille, to the soft-but-definitely-square angles, to the 'Murica-style 18-inch alloy wheels. The whole package genuinely channels the best parts of the Grand Cherokee, just… shrunken down a full size and a half. It even has matching miniaturized light fixtures in the front.

The Compass oozes Jeep design from any angle. (image credit: Tom White) The Compass oozes Jeep design from any angle. (image credit: Tom White)

Our car’s two-tone colour scheme of 'Vocal White' with a black roof looks the business and suits this car to a tee, although at $595 for the premium paint plus $495 for the contrast roof, it adds a sizable bit of hurt to the final bill.

The rear three quarter is not this SUV’s most flattering angle, but I would still argue it looks more resolved than the Cherokee which sits above it and less zany than the Renegade below.

The all-round style is as though someone simply shrunk the Grand Cherokee. (image credit: Tom White) The all-round style is as though someone simply shrunk the Grand Cherokee. (image credit: Tom White)

Inside, things are good, too. There are soft-touch materials pretty much everywhere and the dash has a classy sculpted look.

The American-style of the Compass rears its head here with the chunky, leatherbound steering wheel and big bolded fonts strewn about the switchgear. Gloss plastics are mostly tastefully applied throughout, and the matt silver highlights are far better than chrome finish.

The interior's design is slick, refined, and miles better than Jeeps of days past. (image credit: Tom White) The interior's design is slick, refined, and miles better than Jeeps of days past. (image credit: Tom White)

My mind wanders to the previous Compass and indeed, generations of Jeep models before which had cabins comprised of unappealing right angles, sub-par leather trim, and truly awful grey plastics.

I’d argue the rebooted Compass – being one of the most recent additions to Jeep’s line-up – has the best cabin the brand offers. It’s more modern and elegantly executed than the Cherokee, while deploying fewer nasty finishes than the smaller Renegade. 

There are some not-so-good parts. The transmission tunnel could do with a little extra padding for the driver’s left leg, the seats are far less comfortable than they appear, and the thick C-pillars combined with the small rear window for a noticeable blind-spot.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The Compass Limited 4x4 diesel is second only to the top-spec Trailhawk and is priced at $43,750. As it is not really a small SUV, and closer to a size up, its main competitors also fall in this small-to-medium bracket.

They include the $37,990 Nissan Qashqai Ti and the $38,500 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD.

The Compass is larger than most 'small SUVs' but too small to be a mid-size. It's an appealing middle-ground. (image credit: Tom White) The Compass is larger than most 'small SUVs' but too small to be a mid-size. It's an appealing middle-ground. (image credit: Tom White)

With its exterior looks it is hard not to draw comparison to the equally stylish and off-road focused Land Rover Discovery Sport, although the Land Rover is a bit larger and the cheapest way to get into one is almost $13k more expensive (TD4 SE - $56,595).

You’ll notice then, the Compass Limited is a fair bit more expensive than contemporary Japanese rivals, yet significantly cheaper than truly upmarket alternatives. Price-wise you can easily go a size up into something like the Kia Sportage (GT-Line diesel - $47,690) but doing so puts you into a larger vehicle, potentially less appealing for some.

The multimedia screen is excellent, and effortlessly synced with my iPhone. (image credit: Tom White) The multimedia screen is excellent, and effortlessly synced with my iPhone. (image credit: Tom White)

The Compass partially justifies its hefty price-point with some good equipment. Included on the Limited are 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.4-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio and built-in nav, leather-appointed interior trim, power front driver and passenger seats, bi-xenon (better than halogen, worse than LED) headlights, a nine-speaker Beats-branded audio system, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera, keyless start, heated wing-mirrors and an auto-dimming rear vision mirror.

Not bad. The 8.4-inch multimedia touchscreen is particularly impressive in its layout and functionality and say what you will about the Beats brand – the nine-speaker audio system proved to be the business.

The 18-inch alloys look all 'Murica style with their flat finish. (image credit: Tom White) The 18-inch alloys look all 'Murica style with their flat finish. (image credit: Tom White)

Sadly, the full suite of active safety items is available, but form part of the $2450 'Advanced Technology Group pack' which also includes a power tailgate and auto-high beam. Our car was not fitted with it. More on those features (or lack thereof) in the safety part of this review.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Being a not-quite-small SUV the Compass provides decent space for front and rear seat passengers alike. Headroom is a tad tight, making me wonder how much worse it could get with the panoramic sunroof option ($1950) but front passenger space is otherwise great. 

The seats are leather bound, but perhaps through lack of padding, side bolstering or some other design flaw, they simply weren’t as comfortable as the average-looking ones from my previous test car, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

Room for front passengers was decent, but the seats aren't as comfortable as they look. (image credit: Tom White) Room for front passengers was decent, but the seats aren't as comfortable as they look. (image credit: Tom White)

One thing of particular note in the Compass is its plethora of storage areas. There are big cupholders in the doors and centre console, an armrest storage box, a decent sized glove box, netting on the inside of the transmission tunnel on the passenger’s side and, my favourite feature, a hidden compartment under the passenger’s seat. It is small, but perfect for securing small objects that you don’t want loose around the cabin.

In typical Jeep fashion, there's lots of sneaky storage areas, like this secret compartment under the passenger seat. (image credit: Tom White) In typical Jeep fashion, there's lots of sneaky storage areas, like this secret compartment under the passenger seat. (image credit: Tom White)

Rear passengers are treated to the same good-looking but average comfort seats, two air vents in the back of the centre console (big win) and impressively a fully-sized 240-volt power outlet alongside a USB port.

Legroom back there is decent, I had plenty of room behind my (182cm) driving position, while headroom is still questionable for taller specimens.

The back seat is about as roomy and comfortable as the front. Dual rear vents are a welcome addition. (image credit: Tom White) The back seat is about as roomy and comfortable as the front. Dual rear vents are a welcome addition. (image credit: Tom White)

The boot comes in at a rather generous 438 litres, It’s one of the largest in the class, slightly bigger than the Nissan Qashqai and Eclipse Cross. Although, the Eclipse Cross can best it with its variable second-row seating boosting its available space to 448L.

Due to the boot’s design, the solid cargo cover is a nightmare. Even with IKEA-style instructions stickered to it, it took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to pry it out of its position.

With the seats up, the Compass has one of the largest boots in the segment. (image credit: Tom White) With the seats up, the Compass has one of the largest boots in the segment. (image credit: Tom White)

Max capacity with the seats down isn’t stated but shouldn’t present an issue. Space is hampered slightly by the audio system’s base taking up a corner portion behind the right-hand wheelarch.

Jeep does not provide an official measure for the boot with the seats down, but suffice to say it was quite roomy. (image credit: Tom White) Jeep does not provide an official measure for the boot with the seats down, but suffice to say it was quite roomy. (image credit: Tom White)

The Compass Limited has a space-saver spare under the boot floor. Unfortunate for a vehicle with off-road capabilities.

Diesel all-wheel drive Compass variants are capable of towing 1500kg with a braked trailer or 450kg unbraked.

Back seat passengers score a super-practical standard 240v outlet and a USB port. (image credit: Tom White) Back seat passengers score a super-practical standard 240v outlet and a USB port. (image credit: Tom White)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

There is a choice of two engines in the Compass range, a 2.4-litre 'Tigershark' turbo-petrol, or the 2.0-litre 'MultiJet II' turbo-diesel engine.

Our car was fitted with the latter. It produces 125kW/350Nm which stands up pretty well against its thin list of rivals. 

The diesel is the better of the two engine choices in the Compass range. (image credit: Tom White) The diesel is the better of the two engine choices in the Compass range. (image credit: Tom White)

Limited and Trailhawk variants have their engines mated to a nine-speed torque converter automatic and are '4x4' via Jeep’s 'Active Drive' all-wheel drive system.

The system disconnects the rear axle when it is not in use for fuel economy but is capable of sending 100 per cent of drive to any wheel if need be. It has four off-road modes plus the ability to permanently engage the 4x4 system. A significant addition.

Unlike most rivals in this size category, the Compass provides some decent off-road versatility. (image credit: Tom White) Unlike most rivals in this size category, the Compass provides some decent off-road versatility. (image credit: Tom White)

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Over almost two weeks of testing including a 300km round trip to Wollombi from Sydney I landed on a fuel figure of 8.0L/100km against the official combined figure of 5.7L/100km.

 A miss for sure, but about an average real-world figure for most SUVs in this segment.

The Compass has a smart cap-free filling system and does not take AdBlue. (image credit: Tom White) The Compass has a smart cap-free filling system and does not take AdBlue. (image credit: Tom White)

You can fill the Compass with 60-litres of diesel. There's also a stop-start system which was not too intrusive, but unlike most other systems on the market you don't have to turn it off every time you switch the car on.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Compass makes for a reasonably comfortable, but surprisingly quiet and refined drive.

The diesel engine is so quiet and distant, it is actually difficult to tell it apart from its petrol equivalent behind the wheel. Road noise, too, is well filtered out giving the excellent audio system exclusive domain over passenger’s eardrums.

Although the seat could have been more comfortable, the suspension is excellent. 

The Compass has struts all around and Jeep has paid special attention to the shock absorbers, with the car featuring a 'frequency selective damping system'.

It truly works. The Compass feels good in the corners and absorbs bumps without shudders making their way into the cabin. I wouldn’t describe the feel as ‘stiff’, it’s more of a comfort tune.

While the engine has suitable amounts of power, it requires a solid prod of the accelerator to extract it. There’s something about the throttle response which feels reluctant.

After some driving, I put this down to the transmission. It feels as though it lingers for too long in the first three or so gears. While this is great down hills (and, I imagine, off-road) it’s frustrating in traffic where the Compass will suddenly start engine braking the moment you let your foot of the accelerator. It makes for an unnecessarily jerky drive experience in low-speed situations.

Out on the open road though, the Compass behaves well and is a pleasure to helm. The steering is linear and responsive, and the cruise control system does a fantastic job of sticking to its prescribed speed. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Compass comes fitted with the standard suite of stability controls, structural bracing and airbags which granted it a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in December 2017.

Sadly, though, active safety items, including auto emergency braking (AEB - necessary for a max score ANCAP test since 2018) are relegated to the options list. 

The optional Advanced Technology Group pack comes in at $2450 and adds auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), blind-spot monitoring (BSM), rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with 'stop & go' and auto high beams.

It’s a shame not even AEB is standard, as the Eclipse Cross and Nissan Qashqai get this all-important feature at a much lower price.

Our test car was not fitted with the pack. The Compass also features ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the two outside rear seats.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Jeep covers the Compass with a five-year/100,000km warranty. That’s about the same length as major competitors, although most offer unlimited kilometres on top.

Jeep's warranty length is on par, but is still limited to 100,000km. (image credit: Tom White) Jeep's warranty length is on par, but is still limited to 100,000km. (image credit: Tom White)

Servicing is required once a year or 20,000km, whichever comes first. It costs $425 and $850 every second year, averaging out to an expensive $595 yearly average over the life of the five-year warranty.

Verdict

The rebooted Compass Limited is the best proof so far of how far Jeep as come in terms of design and value, but the asking price is still harsh when you consider active safety items remain on the options list and what is offered by competitors.

Regardless, thanks to its overtly 'Jeep' style, posh cabin and off-road capability, it remains a unique choice in a crowded SUV marketplace.

What makes or breaks the Jeep Compass for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$36,800
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$28,850
Highest Price
$44,750

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Limited (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $41,250 2019 Jeep Compass 2019 Limited (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LONGITUDE (FWD) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $33,750 2019 Jeep Compass 2019 LONGITUDE (FWD) Pricing and Specs
SPORT (FWD) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $30,750 2019 Jeep Compass 2019 SPORT (FWD) Pricing and Specs
TRAILHAWK (4x4 LOW) 2.0L, Diesel, 9 SP AUTO $44,750 2019 Jeep Compass 2019 TRAILHAWK (4x4 LOW) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.4
Design8
Price and features7
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety7
Ownership7
Tom White
Journalist

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