Subaru XV VS Jeep Compass
- Solid road feel
- Relative value
- Safety equipment
- Thrashy 2.0L engine
- Hybrid not super efficient
- Small boot
- Good looking
- Limited and Trailhawk are off-road capable
- Spacious cabin
- No AEB as standard
- Reversing camera picture isn't great
- Hard seats
Subaru has always been a good fit for Australia.
Cars like the Forester and Outback solidified the brand’s place amongst SUVs before SUVs were really a thing, and the XV is the logical progression of the Impreza range, slotting nicely into the brand's offerings of lifted all-wheel-drive wagons.
It’s been a few years since the XV launched, however, so can its latest 2021 update keep it in the fight in a quickly evolving and notoriously competitive segment against many newer rivals? We’ve taken a look at the whole range to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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|
Even years on from its initial launch and with only subtle changes to its main range, it’s really to Subaru’s credit that the XV feels just as capable and modern as any of its rivals.
This is not to say it’s perfect. We can’t recommend the base model, the maths don’t really work out on the hybrids, the only available engine is breathless, and it has a small boot.
But the XV’s excellent safety suite, driving dynamics, all-wheel-drive capability, quality finish and comfortable interior mean it’s hard not to be charmed by this little lifted hatch.
Our pick of the range? While the 2.0i-L is great value, we’d recommend you splurge to the 2.0i-Premium to get the full safety suite and extra garnish.
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 key to the XV’s fun and adventurous appeal is perhaps the fact that it’s not really an SUV at all. It’s rather obviously a lifted version of the brand’s Impreza hatchback, and this is to its credit.
It’s simple but tough, cute but capable, and really everything many consumers are looking for when it comes to a small, all-wheel-drive SUV. Not only does this design philosophy (of lifting wagons and hatches rather than creating bespoke “SUVs”) match Subaru’s family of products, but the ride height, plastic claddings, and tough-looking alloys offer hints of the all-wheel-drive capability that lies beneath.
Little has changed for the 2021 model year, with the XV most recently receiving a tweaked grille, updated front bumper, and a new set of alloy wheels. The XV range is also available in a fun array of colours, which Subaru hopes will help it win more of a youth vote. As an added bonus, none of the colour choices carry an extra charge.
The interior of the XV continues the fun and adventurous theme with Subaru’s signature chunky design language noticeably different from its rivals. My favourite element of this has always been the bumper-car steering wheel, which feels great in your hands in its leather-clad finish, but there are also nice soft claddings throughout the doors and big seats with nice bolstering and design.
While we like how big and sharp the main 8.0-inch screen is, if there’s one thing Subaru gets wrong it’s how busy the whole cabin package is. The visual assault of three screens seems unnecessary, and as much as I like the wheel, it is also completely adorned in somewhat confusingly labelled buttons and toggles.
Still it’s an attractive, fun, and unique design amongst its small SUV peers. Subaru fans, at least, will be sure to adore 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.
In some ways the XV is very impressive when it comes to its interior practicality, but in other ways it disappoints.
The front seats offer heaps of room for adults with good adjustability, and while the seating height is very high by default, there’s still lots of headroom and adjustability, with the added benefit of a very commanding view of the road for such a small SUV.
As mentioned, the doors, dash, and transmission tunnel are all clad in soft materials, and front passengers also benefit from no less than four USB ports in every grade except the base 2.0i, a huge centre console box, comfortably large bottle holders in the centre with a removable divider, a small bay under the climate unit that also houses a 12v outlet and auxiliary input, and a single large bottle holder in the doors with a small adjoining bin.
A surprise comes in the rear seats, which offered enough head and knee room for a particularly tall friend of mine. It’s rare for the small SUV segment to offer such space, but behind my own (182cm tall) seating position I had ample airspace for my knees and decent airspace for my head too, even despite the Premium and S grades having a sunroof fitted.
Rear passengers get a flip-down armrest with bottle holders, a small bottle holder in the doors, and pockets on the backs of the seats. The seat cladding is just as good as it is in the front, and the width in the rear seats is notable, however the centre seat suffers from the existence of a tall transmission tunnel to facilitate the all-wheel-drive system, and there are no adjustable air vents or power outlets for rear passengers either.
Finally, one ongoing weak point for the XV is the amount of boot space on offer. Boot capacity is 310-litres (VDA) for non-hybrids or 345 litres for hybrid variants. This is decent when compared to smaller light SUVs but definitely leaves room for improvement when it comes to the XV’s main small SUV competitors.
Space can be boosted to 765L in non-hybrid or 919L in hybrids with the seats down (again, not great), and the hybrid model loses the underfloor space-saver spare wheel, instead leaving you with a very compact puncture-repair kit.
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.
Price and features
Subaru’s pricing strategy is an interesting one. Generally, the brand’s entry-level models are priced above rivals, but top out well below them. For 2021 the XV range has four variants, two of which are available with the hybrid-drivetrain option.
The entry-level XV 2.0i ($29,690) sits above the entry-level Hyundai Kona ($26,600), Kia Sportage ($27,790), and Honda HR-V ($25,990). Keep in mind, the XV range is all-wheel drive by default, which is a value boost, but the unfortunate news is that we’d recommend you ignore the base XV altogether.
Included on the base 2.0i are 17-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch multimedia touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 4.2-inch supervision cluster and 6.3-inch function screen, basic air conditioning, a single USB port, basic cloth seats, halogen headlights, standard cruise control, and some more basic trimmings. Not only is this car the only one with the more basic multimedia screen, but crucially it misses out on any of Subaru’s excellent EyeSight safety suite.
The starting point for your XV journey, then, should really be the 2.0i-L, starting at $31,990. The 2.0i-L ups the interior to include a dazzling 8.0-inch multimedia screen, improved interior trimmings with premium cloth seats and leather-trimmed steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, extra USB ports, and adaptive cruise control as part of the EyeSight safety suite.
Next up is the 2.0i-Premium at $34,590, which adds a sliding sunroof, heated wing mirrors, built-in navigation, a front-view camera, and the full safety suite with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and rear auto emergency braking. This variant is now the best value, as it offers the full set of safety items previously only available on the top-spec car at a lower price.
This brings us to the top-spec 2.0i-S with an MSRP of $37,290, which adds LED headlights with auto high-beam assist, a side-view camera, leather interior trims with extended premium cabin upholstery and chrome finishes, auto power folding wing mirrors, leather-appointed seat trim with heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 18-inch alloy wheels, and extended functionality for the all-wheel-drive system.
Finally, the 2.0i-L and 2.0i-S can be chosen with the “eBoxer” hybrid drivetrain option, wearing MSRPs of $35,490 and $40,790 respectively. They mirror the specification of their 2.0i counterparts while adding silver exterior accents and a pedestrian-alert system. They also trade out the space-saver spare wheel in favour of a puncture-repair kit, due to the presence of an under-boot-floor lithium-ion battery system.
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.
Engine & trans
The XV now has two drivetrain options in Australia. One is the carryover 2.0-litre petrol engine, now with a smidge more power, and a hybrid version of the same layout with an electric motor housed in the continuously variable transmission. There is no manual variant in the XV range.
The 2.0i models produce 115kW/196Nm, while the hybrid produces 110kW/196Nm from the engine and 12.3kW/66Nm from the electric motor. All variants are all-wheel drive.
The hybrid system is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack under the boot floor, and in practice functions a bit differently from Toyota’s popular system.
We’re sure Subaru die-hards will be dismayed to know a version of the XV packing the larger Forester’s 2.5-litre petrol engine (136kW/239Nm) will not be making it to Australia for the foreseeable future.
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.
It’s not such a great story for the hybrid variant here, as even on the official numbers it only saves a tiny amount of fuel.
The official/combined number for 2.0i variants is 7.0L/100km, while the hybrid variants trim this to 6.5L/100km.
In practice it only got worse on my test. Over similar driving conditions consisting of several hundred kilometres over the course of a week, the 2.0i-Premium non-hybrid produced 7.2L/100km, while the hybrid actually used more fuel at 7.7L/100km.
It’s worth noting we’ll be holding on to the hybrid for a further three months as part of a long-term urban test. Check back in to see if we can trim this number down to something closer to its claim in the coming months.
All XV variants can drink base-grade 91RON unleaded and 2.0i variants have 63-litre fuel tanks while hybrids make use of a 48-litre tank.
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.
No matter which XV you choose, you’ll be getting a very comfortable and easy-to-steer small SUV, and the drive experience has only improved with this year’s updates.
The XV’s newly re-worked front suspension and tall ride height make for a package more than capable of dealing with anything the suburbs will throw at it. This is the kind of car that scoffs at speed bumps and potholes.
The steering is light enough to be comfortable, but provides just enough feedback to keep it engaging, too, and the always-on all-wheel-drive system provides a sense of constant security in corners and even on loosely sealed or wet surfaces.
The XV has better SUV cred than almost every other car in its class on the capability front, enough at least to make it a decent companion for seeking those unsealed campgrounds or vantage points.
Where it’s not as good is its engine options. We’ll get to the hybrid in a moment, but the standard 2.0-litre engine is underpowered for a relatively heavy small SUV, with the added burden of all-wheel drive, and it feels it. This engine doesn’t have the follow-through of its turbocharged rivals and is very thrashy when much is asked of it.
This experience isn’t really helped along by the rubbery-feeling continuously variable automatic transmission, which is at its best in stop-start traffic. It strips the fun out of trying to drive this car with a bit more vigour.
Unlike Toyota's hybrid alternatives, the hybrid XV isn’t a significantly different experience behind the wheel. Its electric motor doesn’t really have enough strength to get it up to speed, but it does assist when it comes to acceleration and coasting to help take the stress partially off the engine. The XV also doesn’t provide a hybrid indicator like Toyota does, so it’s much harder to understand the effect your accelerator input is having on the motor.
The centre screen does display the energy flow, though, so it is good to have some kind of feedback that the hybrid system is helping on occasion.
Hybrid variants also add something called “e-Active Shift Control”, which uses input from the car’s sensors and all-wheel-drive system to better tune the hybrid assistance to the CVT. In general driving terms, this lets the electric motor pick up the slack of the petrol engine when it's most needed in the corners and in low-torque instances.
On a final note, all of these moments of electrical assistance do make the hybrid versions notably quieter than the non-hybrid ones. I still wouldn’t recommend choosing the hybrid on its driving experience alone, but it will be interesting to see how Subaru can build on this technology in the future.
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.
The XV has an excellent safety suite so long as you avoid the base model 2.0i. Every other variant gets at least the forward-facing and unique stereo camera safety suite, which Subaru dubs ‘EyeSight’.
This system provides auto emergency braking up to speeds of 85km/h capable of detecting pedestrians and brake lights, it also includes lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and a lead vehicle start alert. All XVs get an excellent wide-angle reversing camera.
Once you get to the upper-mid-grade 2.0i Premium, the safety suite is upgraded to include rear-facing technologies, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and rear auto braking. The Premium gets a front-facing parking camera, while the top-spec S grade gets a side view camera as well.
All XVs come with the expected stability, brake, and traction controls, as well as a set of seven airbags, making for a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating to the 2017 standards.
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.
Subaru remains on par with other Japanese automakers, with a five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty promise. There’s 12 months of roadside assist included, and the XV is also covered by a capped-price servicing program for the life of the warranty.
Services are required once every 12 months or 12,500km, and while this is a welcome improvement on the six-month intervals this car used to have, these visits are far from the cheapest we’ve seen with an average price of nearly $500 per year.