Plug-in hybrid tech promises to maintain key adventure seeking abilities, but with a softer environmental impact
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It’s been barely a week since Jeep unveiled a 6.4-litre V8-powered Gladiator concept, but in an effort to balance the karmic ledger, the brand has this week revealed a much greener plug-in hybrid version of the Compass small SUV.

The new Compass 4xe as it will be known, and the smaller-still Renegade 4xe will be offered in EMEA regions (covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa) and form part of what Jeep is calling its “green evolution”.

On the surface, the Compass 4xe looks little changed from the regular petrol-powered Compass, but beneath the sheet metal lies a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with an electric motor driving the rear axle, powered by an 11.4kWh lithium ion battery.

Two output versions of the petrol engine will be available, rated at 96kW and 132kW, both with 270Nm while the electric motor contributes 44kW and 250Nm, bringing claimed combined power outputs to 140kW and 176kW respectively.

Jeep boasts a 0-100km/h time of ‘around’ 7.5 seconds with a top speed of 130km/h under electric power or 200km/h when running in hybrid mode.

The Compass 4xe will be available in Limited, Trailhawk and S trim levels, with Limited using the 140kW output powertrain combo, and Trailhawk and S running the high-output 176kW format.

An integral electric motor also assists the petrol engine and is able to function as a high-voltage generator, harvesting kinetic energy as the Compass 4xe slows, relying on friction brakes for low speed driving or emergency stops only.

Electric only range is rated at 50 kilometres from a full charge, and like so many plug-in hybrid vehicles before it the 4xe system offers three driving modes including Hybrid, where electric propulsion is prioritised until depleted and the car’s software can chose the appropriate power source, Electric for zero-tailpipe emissions driving in urban settings, and E-save which can either maintain the battery at a set state of charge through prioritised petrol engine use, or charge the battery to 80 per cent using the petrol engine.

Two-mode 'e-Coasting', Jeep’s term for energy recuperation, can operate in Normal or Intense modes with Intense slowing the vehicle more effectively as it harvests more power under deceleration. There's no mention of one-pedal driving capabilities, but given the specific mention of friction-braking for low-speed use, it's likely Jeep hasn't included one-pedal functionality (which tends to be reserved for pure EVs).

Jeep also claims the 4xe system not only maintains the Compass’s off-road ability, but with no mechanical linkage via a prop shaft, each axle can modulate torque independently as conditions demand – improving off-road prowess.

Jeep calls its through-the-road all-wheel drive system Active Drive Low, and pairs it with Selec-Terrain driving modes across Auto, Sport, Snow, and Sand/Mud modes with Trailhawk versions gaining an extra Rock mode. Each adjusts drivetrain outputs, throttle sensitivity and stability control to suit the conditions.

A 4WD Lock mode, which sends power to both axles up to 15km/h before reverting to on-demand power delivery, and 4WD Low mode are also available.

Jeep describes the system as using a “very low transmission ratio” rather than a separate low-range transfer case and claims up to 2500Nm of wheel torque from the rear axle with 4WD Low mode.

As The Compass isn't Jeep’s most off-road-capable vehicle, water wading is limited to 40cm on regular model and up to 50cm for the Compass Trailhawk.

The battery pack and motors are described as fully sealed and waterproof, with up to 21.3cm of ground clearance listed for the Trailhawk 4xe. The Compass Trailhawk retains Jeep's 'Trail Rated' capability ranking.

Australia

A spokesperson from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Australia told CarAdvice "We are monitoring the take-up of electrification in Australia and we will be ready to launch our PHEV strategy as soon as consumer appetite, regulations and infrastructure suggests the time is right."

While that doesn’t rule the Compass 4xe out entirely, it makes the new model an unlikely addition to Australian showrooms without a major shift in local market forces.

The latest round of 2020 model year changes to the Compass range in Australia sees the addition of Night Eagle and S-Limited trim levels, with more traditional petrol and diesel engines available. Click here for full details.