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Jeep Compass 2022 review: Trailhawk

Jeep has made some subtle tweaks to the Compass’ front-end styling. (image: Tim Nicholson)

Daily driver score

3/5

Urban score

3/5

The Jeep Compass is something of a unicorn among the long list of small SUVs sold in Australia. It is now the only model in either the light or small-SUV category that is available with a diesel engine.

That diesel is found under the bonnet of just one variant – the rugged Trailhawk which is also the flagship of the range.

Aside from Suzuki’s adorable Jimny light SUV, the Compass Trailhawk is the only small SUV with some off-road ability.

After going on sale in Australia in late 2017, the second-generation Compass was overhauled as part of a mid-life update in 2021. Aside from subtle styling tweaks, the biggest change was a new multimedia system.

Has Jeep done enough to lift the Compass from an also-ran to a model that buyers should consider, or was the update too little, too late?

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

Jeep’s pricing for the updated Compass range is at the higher end of the segment compared with its rivals. It starts at $37,950, before on-road costs, for the Launch Edition and tops out at $51,650 for the range-topping Trailhawk.

Our Compass Trailhawk test vehicle was fitted with options including premium paint ($895) and a 'Trailhawk Premium' package ($4195) that added heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof and a nine-speaker Alpine audio system. That bumped the price up to $56,740 before ORC, meaning it’s about $60,000 on the road.

Top-spec versions of competitor small SUVs are much cheaper than that. The Kia Seltos GT-Line is $42,200, the Mazda CX-30 X20 Astina is $47,390 and even the European Peugeot 2008 GT Sport is $43,990.

Jeep’s pricing for the updated Compass range is at the higher end of the segment. (image: Tim Nicholson) Jeep’s pricing for the updated Compass range is at the higher end of the segment. (image: Tim Nicholson)

Considering you can buy an Audi Q3 40 TFSI quattro for $61,600 or a Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design for $56,990, Jeep is creeping into premium territory with the Compass Trailhawk.

Luckily, Jeep has packed the Compass Trailhawk with loads of standard goodies.

The Indian-built SUV includes keyless entry and start, wireless charging, leather bucket seats, dual-zone air conditioning, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, power folding exterior mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.1-inch multimedia screen housing a 360-degree surround-view camera, satellite navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Jeep has packed the Compass Trailhawk with loads of standard goodies. (image: Tim Nicholson) Jeep has packed the Compass Trailhawk with loads of standard goodies. (image: Tim Nicholson)

As the rugged Compass variant, the Trailhawk comes with off-road bits as standard, like underbody skid plates, a 180-amp alternator, two front (red) tow hooks, reversible carpet and vinyl cargo mat, low-range gearing as part of the four-wheel drive system, hill hold control and a terrain-type mode selector.

Despite all the standard gear and unique off-road features, it still doesn’t represent great value compared with its rivals.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

When the second-gen Compass was revealed, it was seen by many as a mini Grand Cherokee. Which isn’t a bad thing. It looks tough enough, but also has a softer edge than something like the Jimny.

As part of the 2021 update, Jeep refreshed the styling with slimmer LED headlights and a new daytime running light signature, a revamped bumper and seven-slot grille, as well as a broader bonnet.

It certainly gives the impression of having some off-road cred. (image: Tim Nicholson) It certainly gives the impression of having some off-road cred. (image: Tim Nicholson)

The Trailhawk features variant-specific red and black decals on the bonnet, and a unique grille treatment, as well as the visible skid plates and red tow hooks.

It certainly gives the impression of having some off-road cred, and while some will love the Trailhawk name emblazoned across the bonnet, it’s a bit much for me. The 'Galaxy Blue' premium paint looks too sparkly in direct sunlight and has an almost purple hue.

An example of wishful thinking is the green ‘Diesel’ badge with a leaf next to it on the rear of the vehicle. Save the eco badges for your electrified vehicles, Jeep.

How practical is the space inside?

The Compass sits in the small-SUV category but its larger dimensions mean it’s almost big enough to compete with models in the medium-SUV segment.

It’s longer, taller, wider and has a longer wheelbase than other larger small SUVs like the Kia Seltos and Honda HR-V, but isn’t as big as a mid-size Mazda CX-5.

It feels larger inside than other models it shares a platform with – namely the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X, that are no longer sold in Australia.

The biggest change ushered in by the update is the interior. Jeep has completely overhauled the cabin to the point that it’s unrecognisable compared to the pre-facelifted model.

The new dash design is much more appealing and the layout is well executed. There’s a mixture of soft-touch materials and plastic panels with red stitching running across the fascia. It’s so much more up-to-date than the old Compass and there’s a robust yet semi-premium look to the cabin.

A new steering wheel is in keeping with Jeep’s new generation of models that includes the Grand Cherokee due in Australia this year. It’s chunky, feels nice to touch and features clear audio, phone and cruise controls.

The Compass feels larger inside than other models it shares a platform with. (image: Tim Nicholson) The Compass feels larger inside than other models it shares a platform with. (image: Tim Nicholson)

Jeep has persisted with its quirk of housing the volume and song/station skip buttons on the rear side of the steering wheel spokes. Once you remember which side volume lives (the right), it’s easy to change the levels. But surely it would be better to house them on the front of the wheel, with labels?

Storage wise, the glove box is narrow, as is the central bin, but it’s deep. The doors will hold 600ml bottles and the console houses two decent-sized cupholders with durable rubber lining which is easy to clean and can take a beating. The cupholders are separated by an upright phone holder.

Speaking of durable, that’s clearly the theme Jeep is going for with the Compass Trailhawk interior. It comes standard with rubber mats throughout, including the boot, which is great for protecting the carpet if you fancy a bit of camping.

What isn’t durable, however, is the cheap and tacky indicator stalk that feels like it will snap off every time you touch it.

After spending some time in European cars prior to the Jeep, it’s nice to experience strong air flow from the air conditioning system, especially at the height of a Melbourne summer. It’s also great to see physical buttons for the air con controls.

You can, however, also control the climate via the latest 'Uconnect 5' multimedia system housed in the 10.1-inch touchscreen.

Space wise, there’s plenty of leg and toe room in the rear. (image: Tim Nicholson) Space wise, there’s plenty of leg and toe room in the rear. (image: Tim Nicholson)

This system is undoubtedly one of the Compass’ strong points. The modern graphics look very cool and the main icons make sense.

Once you dive into the menu there are extensive options but it’s not overwhelming. It’s intuitive and clever. The sat-nav visuals are clear and appealing too.

It’s an excellent set-up and better than systems from a whole host of Jeep’s mainstream rivals.

Apple CarPlay set-up was easy but there is an odd lag when selecting a command on the touchscreen that isn’t there when you use the Jeep system.

Another highlight is the exceptional Alpine nine-speaker audio system that’s part of the Trailhawk Premium package. It’s a belter!

The new digital instrument cluster has clear dials but changing the screen layout is fiddly. The Compass also lacks a head-up display.

  • The boot doesn’t look particularly big, but at 438 litres, it's bigger than some competitors. (image: Tim Nicholson) The boot doesn’t look particularly big, but at 438 litres, it's bigger than some competitors. (image: Tim Nicholson)
  • Fold the seats down and you're met with 1251L of boot space. (image: Tim Nicholson) Fold the seats down and you're met with 1251L of boot space. (image: Tim Nicholson)

The front seats with red embossed Trailhawk across the front look good, but the cushion feels like it’s elevating you in the seat. It’s not a problem with the power adjustment, it’s just the way the cushioning is designed. Thigh support is limited but upper body bolstering is good.

Visibility is impacted by the narrow rear windscreen and the tiny rear windows behind the C-pillar, that are pointless.

Rear occupants have access to lower air vents, a USB-A and USB-C port, 230-volt AC plug and a 12-volt DC plug. There are two map pockets, rubber floor mats and 600ml bottles will just fit in the door.

Space wise, there’s plenty of leg and toe room in the rear, and just enough headroom for this six-footer to avoid scraping the headliner.

Getting in and out of the front and rear seats is easy thanks to the Compass’ ride height.

The rear seats are flat and firm and the 60/40 split-fold seats have a fold-down central armrest with two cupholders.

When you open the power tailgate, the boot doesn’t look particularly big, but at 438 litres (1251L with rear seats folded), it’s five litres more than the Kia Seltos GT-Line and eight more than the Haval Jolion.

A full-size spare wheel lives under the boot floor and the cargo area features metal tie-down hooks and a small storage tray.

The cargo blind is useful but there’s nowhere to stow it when it’s not in use. And you have to lower the rear seats when you want to put it back in place.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

As mentioned, the Compass Trailhawk is now the only remaining small SUV in Australia offered with a diesel engine. Well, from a mainstream brand at least. The BMW X1 is the only premium small SUV offering with a diesel donk.

The Jeep uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel delivering 125kW at 3750rpm and 350Nm at 1750rpm. It is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and comes with four-wheel drive as standard.

The Compass Trailhawk is now the only remaining small SUV in Australia offered with a diesel engine. (image: Tim Nicholson) The Compass Trailhawk is now the only remaining small SUV in Australia offered with a diesel engine. (image: Tim Nicholson)

How much fuel does it consume?

Jeep’s official combined cycle fuel use figure for the Trailhawk is 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres. After a week of mixed but mostly urban driving, we recorded a much higher figure of 11.2L/100km.

The Compass has a 60-litre tank. Combined CO2 emissions are rated at 181g/km.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Jeep Compass was tested by ANCAP in 2017 and the updated model retains its five-star rating.

It features a solid list of standard safety gear including auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, a driver fatigue monitor, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitor, tyre pressure monitor, parallel and perpendicular park assist, 360-degree surround-view monitor, and front and rear parking sensors.

It has six airbags but does not include a front centre airbag that helps minimise injuries during a side collision.

The proximity sensor for the surround-view monitor is overly sensitive when parking or in traffic. It beeps a lot when it doesn’t need to.

Thankfully you can alter the strength of many of the Jeep’s driver assist functions because there are so many audible alerts that it can be overwhelming.

The forward collision warning can also be overly sensitive and go off when there’s clearly no danger. On the flip side, the adaptive cruise control is too slow to respond, prompting me to brake before getting dangerously close to the car in front on the freeway. I had to double check that the car was fitted with adaptive cruise and not just regular cruise control.

Jeep’s 'Active Lane Management System' caused some headaches. It ping pongs you between lane markings rather than centring the vehicle in the lane. It’s jolty and pulls at the wheel far too much.

Again, you can change the strength, but even on the lowest setting it intervenes far too much and makes for a truly frustrating drive experience.

It’s an opt-out system and by the end of my time with the Compass I switched it off every time I got behind the wheel. It’s one of the worst lane-keeping systems I have come across in some time.

On the positive side, the 360-degree reversing camera display is top notch.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Compass comes with a five-year or 100,000km warranty and five years of free roadside assistance. Every time you service your vehicle at a Jeep dealer, another year will be added to the roadside assist program.

The servicing schedule is every year or 20,000km for a diesel Jeep, whichever comes first.

Jeep offers a capped-price servicing scheme for the first five years. The Compass Trailhawk costs $399 for each of these services.

What's it like to drive around town?

Jeep claims the Trailhawk has some off-road ability, but we didn’t get a chance to test that. Most driving was around town, freeways and city fringe.

The first thing I noticed when I got behind the wheel was the awkward position of the accelerator pedal. It could be the wheel arch intruding into the footwell, but the right side of my right foot constantly brushed the carpeted panel. It’s annoying and a clear design flaw.

Another flaw is the idle-stop system. When you park, the idle stop kicks in and cuts the engine off. But if you want to properly turn the engine off and get out of the car, you have to do something to wake up the engine, then turn off the ignition. Another annoyance.

The diesel engine is responsive enough, but it lags on take-off and it’s not as torquey as expected. Accelerating hard doesn’t reward the driver with instant response, and momentum is blunted by steep ascents.

It does come alive around 3000rpm which seems to be a sweet spot.

The Trailhawk feels like a heavy vehicle on the road. (image: Tim Nicholson) The Trailhawk feels like a heavy vehicle on the road. (image: Tim Nicholson)

The nine-speed auto can sometimes hold gears and the brakes are on the spongey side.

The Trailhawk feels like a heavy vehicle on the road. Much heavier than its 1621kg tare weight would suggest. As a result, it lumbers along and makes for sloppy handling.

It moves around the road too much and there is quite a lot of body roll in corners. It’s slow to respond coming out of corners, too.

The steering feels lazy and it’s weighted on the heavy side. It doesn’t make for an engaging steer.

Ride comfort around town is well sorted. For the most part, it absorbs speed bumps and crumby urban streets, without offering a truly comfortable ride.

Overall ride quality diminishes at higher speeds. It’s busy and jittery and never feels settled.

Needless to say, this is not the small SUV to buy for navigating city traffic or to take for a fun drive on your favourite twisty country road.

A brief section of unsealed road highlighted the excellent traction of the Trailhawk.

The 225/60 R17 Falken Wild Peak tyres produce a bit of tyre noise on coarse chip roads but otherwise the cabin is fairly well insulated from outside noise.

The Jeep Compass Trailhawk is a curious beast. On the one hand, it looks pretty cool, and it has a well-executed new interior, featuring one of the best multimedia set-ups in the business. It’s spacious and has a long list of standard comfort and safety gear.

Sadly, that’s where the positives end.

It is way too expensive for what you get, especially when you consider the quality of some of its rivals from mainstream and premium brands.

The driver assist features are badly in need of recalibration and the overall drive experience is a letdown.

If you really want a diesel-powered small SUV, perhaps look at one of the much better diesel models at the smaller end of the medium-SUV segment.

$23,990 - $54,950

Based on 153 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3/5

Urban score

3/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.