Suzuki Vitara VS Jeep Compass
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
- Good looking
- Limited and Trailhawk are off-road capable
- Spacious cabin
- No AEB as standard
- Reversing camera picture isn't great
- Hard seats
Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.
The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.
That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.
|Fuel Type||Regular 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|
It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.
The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.
The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised.
Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know in the comments below.
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.
Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.
The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.
The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.
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.
Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.
Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.
Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.
The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.
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
Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.
That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.
That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.
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 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.
I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.
As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.
The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.
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 non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.
My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.
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.
As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.
For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.
It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.
It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.
The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.
The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.
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 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.
Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal.
Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.