Jeep Compass VS Suzuki S-Cross
- Good looking
- Limited and Trailhawk are off-road capable
- Spacious cabin
- No AEB as standard
- Reversing camera picture isn't great
- Hard seats
- Goes alright
- Steers well
- Plenty of space inside
- Missing advanced safety gear
- That grille
- No digital speedo
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|
Here's a test for you. When was the last time you saw a Suzuki S-Cross? Now let me tell you you've probably seen one more recently than you think, because not only does Suzuki still sell them (I was certain they had quietly dropped it), but it actually sells almost a thousand new ones every year.
The S-Cross is a strange beast, even forgetting the vestigial SX4 badge. Like the Swift/Baleno conundrum, it kind of, sort of sits in the same space as the Vitara, except like that other pair, it kind of doesn't.
It has been a while since I drove the S-Cross - all the way back to its local launch, so it was an interesting prospect to dive in and see what's changed in (checks notes) six years.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium 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.
I won't be rushing out to buy an S-Cross any time soon because there are lots of other cars ahead of it. I had thought that this was a bit of a "for the fans" car but the sales figures, while comparatively modest, proved me wrong.
With a good warranty, capped servicing and tons of space, it's obviously a compelling proposition. Add to that a good driving experience and low running costs, it stacks up well. But it's missing a lot of modern safety gear and is looking a bit old even if it doesn't feel it.
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.
One of the reasons you probably think you haven't seen one of these is that, big half-a-BMW-grille aside, it's a bit anonymous. Which is perfectly fine if that's what you're after, but it's pretty functional rather than pretty. Suzuki styling is weird like that - funky chunky like the Ignis and Vitara and Swift, or terminally dull like the Baleno and S-Cross. It's kind of a shame it's so dreary because it's not, in fact, a dreary car. The chrome grille is way too much, a six-year-old screaming "Look at me!" at a dinner party.
The cabin is pretty standard Suzuki, meaning nothing too exciting or arresting. The materials are fine, the seats are a bit high (and a bit firm) and it does feel a bit yesteryear, but so did the Vitara when it first came out.
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.
This is where the S-Cross starts to get interesting. It's huge inside. The 430-litre boot (almost tripling to 1269 litres with the seats down), with underfloor storage and bins either side is massive for a car with this footprint.
Front-seat passengers score a pair each of cupholder and bottle holders, repeated in the rear. The front cupholders are a bit annoying because they're square and not as deep as you might want.
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.
You have a choice of two mechanically identical S-Cross, the Turbo and the Turbo Premium. The two cars are separated by just $1500. Up here in the dizzy heights of $29,990 for the latter car, you get 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control, sat nav, keyless entry and start, fake leather seats, LED headlights, auto wipers, powered wing mirrors and a space-saver spare.
The six speaker stereo controls are part of the tiny 6.0-inch touchscreen in the dash, which is the same system in every Suzuki, with or without the sat nav. It also has Apple CarPlay and is better than anything Toyota foists upon the owners of its vehicles.
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.
Under the bonnet - or more accurately - behind that giant grille lurks Suzuki's rather good 1.4-litre turbo, also found in the Vitara. Outputs are modest at 103kW and 220Nm, but the car weighs two-tenths of not very much at 1170kg, which is a bit of a Suzuki strength.
You can tow 1200kg braked and 400kg unbraked if you're that way inclined.
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.
Suzuki claims the 1.4 - without stop-start or other trickery - will deliver 5.9L/100km. Our time with the S-Cross was almost exclusively urban and it managed a very creditable 7.1L/100km, close to my colleague Richard Berry's 7.3L/100km in 2019. Not bad, but it does drink premium from its 47-litre tank.
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.
My memories of the first S-Cross I drove aren't all that distinct, which means it either wasn't very good or it was just okay. I'm leaning towards just okay, but it was slow with its 1.6-litre engine and whining CVT. It handled okay but the main selling point was the interior space.
I'm very pleased to report that, like the Vitara, the addition of the turbo has made it a much nicer thing to drive. With substantially more power and torque with very little extra weight, it feels far more modern.
And like its slightly bigger stablemate, the lightweight chassis strikes a really good compromise between ride and handling. It's always going to roll but the grippy Continentals keep things tidy in the corners and the light steering makes its around-town demeanour most agreeable. I had the car during Sydney's very wet week in late July and was impressed by how it handled the conditions.
Quiet and well-composed on the faster stuff, the strong winds didn't push the high-sided S-Cross out the lane, either. One irritation is that the little central screen in the dashboard doesn't have a digital speed readout which means deciphering the tightly-packed speedo.
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.
In 2013, this was enough to score five ANCAP stars and that rating still stands despite zero updates on the safety gear but big changes to the ANCAP criteria.
Out of the gate Suzuki offers you a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is quite generous. If you use the car for business (eg courier or ride-sharing), that does reduce to five years/160,000km.
Servicing is also capped for the first five years. The wrinkle there is that while the time between services is pretty standard at 12 months, not many people fall under the 10,000km interval. The first five services avereage out to $295. The fifth service is capped with pricing stepped up to 100,000km, topping out at a whopping $639 for a single service, which does not bode well for high mileage drivers, so keep that in mind.