Jeep Compass VS Jeep Cherokee
- Good looking
- Limited and Trailhawk are off-road capable
- Spacious cabin
- No AEB as standard
- Reversing camera picture isn't great
- Hard seats
- Standard safety now on point
- True off-road ability
- Much improved visually
- Cramped rear quarters
- Styling still a bit 'Murican
- Thirsty V6
SUVs are so ridiculously popular right now that nearly all carmakers have one, and if they don't they're scrambling to work out how to build one.
The new Jeep Compass is a small SUV along the same price and size lines as the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross or Nissan Qashqai. What Jeep was keen to impress on us at its launch was that the top two specs – the Limited and the Trailhawk – were quite capable off-roaders. That is an ambitious statement, and for something to have any off-road ability in this small SUV class is rarer then teeth on a hen.
We went to the wilds of Tasmania to drive these two. The mission: Are they really any good – off and on the road?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The presence of a strong medium-sized SUV is of vital importance to any mainstream automotive brand at the moment. And if you do have one, to get bums on seats it needs to be absolutely on point across the spectrum.
Jeep is, according to its masters, in the midst of a renewal, with all new vehicles expected across its line by the end of 2020. The next cab off the rank is the Cherokee – codenamed KL – which launched in Australia in 2015 to a less than enthusiastic reception.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The mission was to find out if the Compass – specifically the Limited and Trailhawk – was any good on or off the road. The answer is these two are excellent. Excellent for light-duty off-road terrain, but also good performers on the tarmac. It is disappointing that AEB is not standard even on these top-spec grades and if it was my money the optional safety gear would be the first thing I'd add before anything else.
Practical, spacious, and easy to drive it's great to see an SUV where the U for utility really means something.
The sweet spot in this range would be the Longitude for value, but if you're choosing a Compass give good consideration to the Limited - it has four-wheel drive, plus the bigger screen.
Check out Peter Anderson's video from the Compass's international launch early last year:
Is the Jeep the small SUV you've been waiting for that will finally take you further that the cafe on the corner? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The latest Cherokee hasn’t resonated with buyers of mid-sized SUVs yet, but this facelift may bring some more potential buyers out of the woodwork – especially those looking for something with a bit of off-road ability.
Jeep is working hard to turn its reputation for poor service around as well, and its warranty and service plans are longer than those of the biggest Japanese players.
Would you prefer your SUV to have more of an off-road focus? Tell us in the comments below.
There are too many cute SUVs on this planet, which is why Jeep's unapologetically tough exterior styling is always welcome in my books. The Compass is more a mini Grand Cherokee than the Cherokee, with a high, broad and flat bonnet, squared-off headlights, signature seven-slot grille, bulky, strong wheel arches and the rear spoiler. This is a darned good looking SUV. The Trailhawk with its tough body kit gives the Compass an even more hardcore presence.
American cars tend to have less refined cabins than European and Japanese cars, but the Compass's interior has a premium feel. That said, we were only given the top-spec Limited and Trailhawk to drive, with their leather seats, large screens and all the fancy trimmings.
The Compass's dimensions are interesting because at 4394mm end-to-end and 1819mm wide, it's a big-small SUV like the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Nissan Qashqai.
The height varies from the Sport and Longitude, which are 1629mm tall, to the 1644mm Limited and the Trailhawk at 1657mm.
The Compass also has small design elements you'll adore or abhor. They the 'Easter egg' surprises Jeep loves so much – tiny design features hiding around the car. I'm a fairly cynical bloke but even I liked discovering the lizard, the Loch Ness Monster, the Morse Code and the Willy's Jeep grille hidden around the car.
Thank the Lord, the ugliness is no more. There’s a difference between unusual and terrible, and the previous Cherokee - in my eyes at least - had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down. Hard.
Jeep was all too aware that the challengingly styled Cherokee had a perception problem; in fact, Fiat Chrysler Australia chief Steve Zanlunghi told us that the number one reason people chose not to buy it was because of the way it looked.
So gone is the divisive split and inverted headlight design, replaced with something that is much more closely related to the Grand Cherokee. Narrow LED headlights and a classic seven-slot grille are complemented by a new lower bumper bar and LED daytime lamps, while there’s also a new composite bonnet.
New LED tail-lights and a composite tailgate join a new bumper skin on the rear, while roof rails are now standard, along with a push-open fuel door and capless filler. It now looks much more resolved, although the excess of chrome trim on the nose does age the car prematurely.
While the interior basics are still the same, Jeep claims it’s worked hard on the ‘touch and feel’ stuff; better quality plastics, bigger oddments trays and nicer trims.
Vinyl replaces cloth on the door cards, and the electronic park brake surround has been rejigged to increase the size of the phone tray, but other than that, the interior remains largely as it was.
It's been a long time since I've squealed with delight (in a car), but until I pulled the little tab on the Trailhawk's front passenger seat, I had no idea its base folded forward to reveal a huge storage compartment underneath.
Under-seat storage space is rare, and while the entry-level Sport doesn't have the secret stowaway compartment every Compass has a decent sized centre console bin, two cupholders up front and another two in the back, plus bottle holders in all the doors.
A boot with a cargo capacity of 438 litres makes it one of the biggest in the class, although it can't quite beat the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross's which can go from a luggage capacity of 341 to 448 litres thanks to a sliding rear row – no such thing with the Compass. Still you won't find many small SUVs with boot space dimensions this generous. The Compass's cargo cover (liner) is the no-retractable type.
How many seats in a Jeep Compass? There's seaitng for five and the room is excellent with a spacious cockpit for the pilot and whoever called shotgun, while rear legroom for me was great with about 40mm of space between my knees and the seat back which was in my driving position (no easy feat with me being 191cm tall).
Headroom is good, too – even with the optional sunroof fitted to the Limited and Trailhawk I tested.
I also liked the chunky, tough-looking, all-weather (standard) floor mats in the Trailhawk.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t extend to more room inside the cabin. The second row of seats can be a cramped place to sit, especially if the occupants are even slightly taller than average.
Throw in a small rear door aperture and – if you have one fitted – a crazily low sunroof headliner, and the back can soon becomes cramped for teens and grown-ups. The seat backs can be reclined to help out here, though.
Bottles can also be added to the four doors, and there’s a decently sized centre console bin behind two front cupholders.
Front seat occupants fare well enough, with decently bolstered and supportive seats. However, the driver’s position is more than a little compromised, thanks to a huge, bulbous protrusion on the transmission tunnel that gets in the way of your left leg, and there’s nowhere to rest your left foot. Surely a plastic footrest for RHD markets wouldn’t be a big expense.
The wheel is comfortable enough, but could extend towards the driver another 15 or 20mm, and I inadvertently opened the powered tailgate a couple of times when trying to start the car; both buttons are round and located in places where such buttons should be.
Boot capacity has been increased by 84 litres to 784 litres by way of a two-level boot floor, though bear in mind this is measured via the SAE standard, and not the VDA standard used by virtually everyone else.
A full-size steel wheel serves as a spare for all variants.
Price and features
Want to get into a Jeep Compass model for as little money as possible? Go the Sport grade, which lists for $28,850 and you'll also instantly become more attractive because it has a manual gearbox. Can't shift on your own? Don't stress there's an automatic, but you'll pay another $1900 for the privilege. Just to be clear the Sport is not a Sport edition - there really is no sportier slant here compared to the rest of the range.
Standard features at the Sport level are fairly ordinary but, no, Jeep hasn't been stingy. There's a 5.0-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, six-speaker stereo with digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity, leather wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control (not the adaptive type), daytime running lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Want more? There's the Longitude, which would come close to being the best value in the range but further up the price list at $33,750, and comes with all the standard features of the Sport grade but adds auto headlights and wipers, roof rails, tinted rear glass and passenger seat storage.
Yup, a 5.0-inch screen is small, so if size matters to you, you'll be impressed by the 8.4-inch display in the $41,250 petrol version of the Limited.
This grade also comes with a massive haul of standard feature such as sat nav (GPS navigation system), Apple Carplay and Android Auto for iPhone and Android users, nine-speaker Beats Audio sound system with digital radio, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats (but no heated steering wheel), leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto headlights and wipers, roof rack, tinted rear glass, auto parking (park assist for parallel and perpendicular parking), passenger seat storage and 18-inch alloys. Want diesel with that? Then you'll pay another $2500.
The Trailhawk sits at the top of the range at $44,750 but misses out on some of the Limited's standard features. This might seem like some type of scam, but it isn't because while it doesn't get a proximity key, push button start and the fancy stereo, it comes with off-road components such as red recovery hooks and under-body protection, there's also different 18-inch rims to the Limited.
I'm not a fan of the reversing camera picture quality. I can tell the screen is excellent from the clarity of the maps in navigation, but the camera itself must be letting things down with not capturing the best quality image. Not a deal breaker, though.
The Compass comes with two USB ports and two 12-volt outlets (one of each in the front and in the back), while the Limited and Trailhawk also come with a 230-volt outlet.
A power tailgate can be optioned on the Limited and Trailhawk through the purchase of a $2450 tech pack. A panoramic sunroof is $1950, and if you like the two-tone black roof that'll be $495 please.
The sport and Longitude come with halogen headlights, while the Limited and Trailhawk get bi-Xenon. There are no LED headlights in the Compass range, sadly.
All come with hill assist, but only the Trailhawk has hill descent control. I know what you're thinking - no CD player. Yes, outrageous.
Only the 'Colorado Red' colour is the standard paint, the rest are optional and includes 'Minimal Grey' which is really silver, 'Brilliant Black', 'Vocal White', 'Hydro Blue', 'Grey Magnesio', 'Mojave Sand' and 'Bronze Metallic' a sort of orange or as I like to call it Electric Brown. No yellow or army green unfortuantely. How cool would a Trailhawk look in a matte green? That would be special.
The genuine accessories list isn't huge for the Compass and doesn't list a bullbar, nudge bar or a snorkle - it would be best to speak to Jeep before fitting these through another provider.
What other SUVs would you compare the Compass to? Well, as a model comparison the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross matches the price and size, while the Nissan Qashqai would be another rival. That said if it was Qashqai vs Compass off the road - the Jeep would win hands down.
Jeep claims it’s in a space called ‘access premium’ – think premium economy – that offers extra kit on its cars at a more affordable price. It sees itself rivalling the likes of the Honda HR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe, rather than the CX-5.
The updated Cherokee will maintain the status quo when it comes to the model mix, with the entry level Sport keeping its $35,950 (plus ORCs) price tag.
As well, you’ll also score LED headlights and tail-lights, a 7.0-inch 'Uconnect' multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather-wrapped wheel and gear knob, roof rails and a comprehensive suite of driver aids over and above the outgoing model.
It only has cloth trim, regular lights and wipers and single-zone air, though, so you’ll need to look at the Longitude ($41,950 plus ORCs) for more of the good stuff.
It adds AWD to the 2.4-litre four-cylinder powertrain, as well as auto lights and wipers, a multi-mode traction management set-up, powered front seats, parking sensors, a powered tailgate with foot activation (only if the wind is blowing the right way and Jupiter is in crescent moon ascending, if our brief and fruitless testing is anything to go by) and push-button start with keyless entry.
Add $5000 to get into the Limited, and you’ll get a proper low-range 4x4 drivetrain hooked up to a 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine, leather upholstery with heated and vented front seats, 18-inch rims, a larger 8.4-inch multimedia system with sat nav and a colour screen between the dash dials, along with adaptive cruise control and auto parking.
Topping the tree is the $48,450 Trailhawk, Jeep’s self-rated offroad-ready version of the Cherokee that complements the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee Trailhawks.
It’s the more rugged version of the Limited, and its triple-diff 4x4 drivetrain also includes a low-range transfer case, the ability to lock all three diffs, hill ascent and descent control, taller suspension, unique bumpers and underbody skid plates, offroad-spec rims and leather/cloth seats.
The Trailhawk makes up about 10 per cent of the model sales at present – given there’s only been 324 sold all year so far (as opposed to 16,000 for the CX-5), it’s still not a big number.
On balance, the Cherokee starts further up the ladder price-wise than its rivals, but there’s value to be found in the additional off-road performance – and the new additions have come at zero cost over the old car.
Engine & trans
The Compass is available with a 2.4-litre 129kW/229Nm four-cylinder petrol engine or a 2.0-litre 125kW/350Nm turbo-diesel. Yup, the diesel motor is smaller in engine size but that turbo makes up for it, while the petrol feels like it needs more horsepower. Those are fairly simple specifications to get your head around, which is good.
The catch is the Sport and Longitude only come with the petrol engine, in front-wheel drive (FWD) (4x2) with a six-speed auto or six-speed manual offered on the Sport, and auto only for the Longitude. There's no rear wheel drive only Compass.
The Limited comes with a choice of the petrol or diesel, with four-wheel drive (4WD) (4x4 or 4 wheel drive, which is different to most all wheel drive systems) and a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Jeep does not recommend towing in the front-wheel drive petrol variants, while it advises the braked towing capacity of the 4x4 petrol Limited is 1000kg and 1500kg if you're in the Trailhawk. That's not terrific pulling capacity, but remember this is a small SUV. A tow bar kit is available through Jeep's accessories department.
During test we didn't experience any automatic transmisison problems or general transmission issues.
Gross vehicle weigh ranges from 1905kg for the Sport to 2189kg for the Trailhawk.
The Trailhawk is diesel only, which is the better engine, with its higher torque all rushing in as low down as 1750rpm (idle is about 800rpm). The petrol isn't bad, it's just not as grunty.
Thank the auto gods that Jeep hasn't chosen a CVT auto. The nine-speed auto is great – quick and smooth, although, with so many gears, it can sometimes feel indecisive about where to shift next.
The 2.4-litre 'Tigershark' engine makes 130kW and just 229Nm of torque, while the heavier 3.2-litre 'Pentastar' V6 offers up 200kW/315Nm.
All variants use the Chrysler-designed ZF-sourced nine-speeder, which has seen its transmission maps updated for this facelift.
There are effectively three drivetrain types; front- and all-wheel drive for the four-cylinder Sport and Longitude, and 4x4 for the Limited and Trailhawk, both of which use the V6.
The 4x4 system is 8.0kg lighter than previously, too.
Hill descent and ascent is standard on the V6-powered cars, while 'Select Terrain' offers up Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud settings. Trailhawk adds extra elements including a rock crawling mode, as well as a mechanical locking rear diff, and electronic locks for the centre and front diffs.
Quite a lot or not much depending on which engine you choose. The petrol is the thirstier one, and when teamed up with the six-speed manual in the FWD Sport is claimed to consume 8.6L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads, while the six-speed auto in that grade and the Longitude lowers that mileage to 7.9L/100km.
That petrol engine in the 4WD Limited with the nine-speed auto uses 9.7L/100km according to Jeep, but the trip computer was telling me it was necking 12L/100km, which isn't bad fuel economy considering there was a stack of off-roading going on, too.
The diesel in the Limited will only need 5.7L/100km and Jeep says you'll get the same from that engine in the Trailhawk, although our trip computer was reporting an average of 10.1L/100km. But again, that was after highways, country roads and a lot of off-road work.
If it came down to diesel vs petrol, normally I always go for petrol, but not in the case of the Compass. The diesel engine makes the driving experience much better.
The Compass has a fuel tank capacity of 60 litres - both for the petrol and diesel versions.
Claimed fuel consumption figure for the smallest engine is 8.5 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, 9.8L/100km on the V6 Limited and 10.2L/100km for the Trailhawk.
A 90km highway stint in the latter saw a dash figure of 12.1L/100km, while a similar distance in the Limited yielded 11.8L/100km.
All variants use a 60-litre fuel tank, and will accept regular unleaded fuel. The lightest Cherokee weighs 1590kg and the heaviest is 1889kg.
Jeep had the two highest spec grades of the Compass saddled up for us to drive – the Limited and the Trailhawk. Both are 4WD and have the nine-speed automatic, but because the Trailhawk runs on diesel and the Limited we had was a petrol variant, the personality differences were apparent from the get-go.
The Limited's four-cylinder petrol is the slightly more powerful of the two engines, but the Trailhawk has far superior grunt thanks to the extra torque from that turbo-diesel engine.
The Trailhawk idles at about 800rpm, and by 1750rpm all 350Nm is under your right foot – great for towing and the low-end torque suited the slow off-road component in our test where a slow crawl and low-range gearing was needed.
That off-road section wasn't the most challenging terrain I've seen, but the elbow-deep ruts and the soccer ball sized rocks on the dirt road we climbed up would have stopped just about everything else in the current small SUV class in its tracks.
The Trailhawk's 225mm of ground clearance combined with the 30.6-degree approach and 33.1-degree departure angles are impressive. This combined with a low-range, lockable 4WD system make for a competent light duties off-roader.
Sure, it's no body on-frame Wrangler, but I challenge you to find something from another brand in this segment that is this adept off the road.
The Limited doesn't have a low-range 4WD setting, but it does share the Trailhawk's selectable terrain feature for snow, mud and sand. We took the Limited off-road, too, and while the course wasn't as gnarly as the Trailhawk's route, you'd be mad to take a regular city-focused SUV where we took the Limited.
On the road I found myself drawn to the Trailhawk for its extra grunt and ride comfort (higher profile tyres and off-road suspension make life comfier), while the Limited felt a little too firm. Handling in both is good for the class.
Some road noise from the tyres in both found its way into the cabin, while wind noise was minimal.
There's good visibility out the windscreen, thanks to thoughtfully designed A-pillars, while the view out the back and rear quarters is also unobstructed.
Steering is my only main complaint – while accurate, there's a lack of feeling and feedback through that wheel. An 11.0m turning circle is getting big for a small SUV, too.
No Compass is super quick with the 0-100km/h time ranging from 9.3 seconds to 10.1 seconds. An SRT compass would be great. Hint, hint, Jeep.
The Trailhawk's wading depth is 480mm, while the rest make do with 405mm.
Over a 200km-odd drive route in the Limited and Trailhawk V6s, the Cherokee reinforces its position as a more rugged and ready SUV. It lacks the absolute precision and poise of more road-oriented rigs, but – and particularly in the case of the Trailhawk – shows its chops when the going gets a bit steep and slippery.
The V6 I sampled is adequate rather than enthusiastic, and it doesn’t make soul-stirring noises, but it’s linear and reasonably responsive underfoot. I found the throttle to be a bit sticky underfoot, which made smooth pull-aways a pain at times, but its relationship with the nine-speed auto is a good one.
The Cherokee’s electrically assisted steering verges on being too light and vague, but body roll suppression is really impressive, especially across the front axle, while ride quality is excellent.
A quick – or slow, in this case – lap of a genuinely rugged off-road course shows that the Trailhawk is more than a rebadging exercise. With bespoke bumpers, underbody protection and proper off-road tyres, the smaller form factor of the Cherokee Trailhawk would make for a very handy full time off-roader for a couple, if ultra-long range touring wasn’t a consideration.
The Jeep Compass scored the maximum five-star ANCAP score when it was tested in 2017, and while the Longitude does have seven airbags, traction and stability control and ABS it does not come standard with advanced safety equipment such as Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) – you'll have to option that feature.
The $2450 'Advanced Technology Group' package is available to option on the Limited and Trailhawk and adds AEB, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, blind spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. I'd buy that package before I even though about any other option.
There are three top-tethers for child restraints across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
Where is the Jeep compass built? The Jeep Compass that is sold in Australia is made in India.
Active forward collision warning and AEB, advanced lane departure wanring and rear cross traffic alert are now standard across the four-model line-up. Adaptive cruise is optional on the Longitude and standard on the Limited and Trailhawk.
LED headlights are also standard across the line, as well as six airbags, rear view camera with guidelines and parking sensors (from the Longitude up).
Jeep is currently in a wait-and-see situation with its ANCAP rating, which currently sits at a maximum five-star rating under last year’s rankings, but it expects to be issued a similar score from the safety body.