I often feel like a child in a sweetshop when it comes to new cars. The more there is to choose from the more I want and the less happy I am with what’s in the jars. I think, from anecdotal evidence, it is a trait I share with a good few. Enough is never enough and the broader the selection, the more we want. I suppose it is human nature.
On that front, I reckon this week’s test car, the Jeep Compass, is aptly named.
Without trying to be smart, I think the Compass graphically points to how far many of us sweet-toothed car buyers have travelled over the past 10 years when it comes to the sort of motor we want to own – and what we want in it.
We have such high expectations now that, for the likes of the new Jeep to truly impact, it would have to be something extraordinary rather than being what it is: a good, if not necessarily great, example of a modern well-specced family crossover/SUV.
And a family crossover/SUV this most certainly is. It is a tad ironic that Jeep, famous for 4x4s and off-road ruggedness, has two-wheel-drive versions, too. That, of course, is in response to the global demand for ‘soft roaders’.
We all know that most of those buying an SUV today will never go off-road (not intentionally, anyway).
‘Jeep’, by the way, is an oft-abused term. It is a trademark but has been used universally to describe what really are SUVs and crossovers.
Anyway, after a week of many journeys in my two-wheel-drive Compass I’d say Jeep has learned a good few lessons, but is grappling with a few more.
Being a rival for the likes of the KIA Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, etc it is in seriously competitive company and up against household names.
It’s a bigger motor than I expected (4.4m long); it sits tall and certainly had a presence about it.
Jeep has greatly improved the design, too, particularly at the front. Indeed, apart from the signature grille, it looks much more like a modern SUV and less like the sort of rugged ‘jeep’ many of us recall from a now bygone era.
My top-of-the-range ‘Limited’ version had leather upholstery but I still felt overall there had been a big step-up in the quality of other materials and finish around the cabin.
It’s now a match for the general run of rivals in terms of looks and fit.
For some reason, I particularly liked the driving position – nothing unusual in that as most SUVs afford it. But there was excellent visibility to accompany it which is not always the case.
There was good room in the cabin, too – I felt well catered for. But I had complaints from the back that the old Kia Sportage was roomier and more comfortable at the rear.
The seats and seating were above average, I thought too, but again there was disagreement from the back and, to a lesser extent, the front-seat passenger. We agreed to disagree; I think they’re fine seats.
One thing we didn’t argue about was boot room. Even with the praiseworthy intrusion of a full spare wheel (€350 option) we still managed to get two massive suitcases, and a more conventional one, on board.
It’s not earth-shatteringly copious but, for me, the reassurance of having a spare outweighed the absence of more generous cargo dimensions. And, remember, the rear seats fold if you want mega space.
One thing in the Compass’s favour is the level of spec you get for your money.
Like a big bag of assorted sweets, there’s a tasty spread of stuff – from safety to comfort across the range.
The central touchscreen worked fairly well and was reasonably intuitive so I felt nicely set up for several journeys – I was on the road, or just sitting waiting, a lot in it over the week, so I had loads of time to fiddle with things. (There are USB and 12v sockets front and rear, too.)
So, the Compass was a decent package and a good-enough drive on main routes.
But it was let down by a noisy diesel engine – something especially noticeable in town driving. That left a sour taste and would be a major reason why I’d have to move it down the shopping list a bit. One thing you want is quiet and smooth in that department.
A couple of other small things irritated. I had little or no room to rest the ould left (clutch) foot – something I noticed in town driving more acutely. And there was a rather unsightly hole into the boot when we folded down the rear centre armrest.
Little things like that contributed to a sense that, overall, it lacked the little bit of refinement and panache that many of the rivals seem to have. Needless to remark, contributing to that was the poor noise insulation of the engine.
But overall, I’d have to say, this new Jeep Compass has made up a lot of ground.
FACTS & FIGURES
Jeep Compass ‘Limited’ 1.6-litre diesel family crossover, 120hp, front-wheel drive, 6spd, 4.4l/100km, 117g/km; €200 tax.
Price: €34,695, tested version €38,345. Range from €27,995.
Spec includes: leather upholstery, electric/adjust/heated front seats, dual-zone air con, cruise control, 18ins alloys, front/rear park distance control, parallel/perpendicular park assist, Parkview rear camera, 7ins TFT display, BeatsAudio infotainment/nav: 8.4ins touchscreen, eight speakers, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, DAB radio, front fogs/corner function, chrome exterior pack. Options: white pearlescent paint/black roof; visibility pack.