The small- and medium-sized SUV segments are the most popular and competitive in Australia, accounting for one in every five new-car sales so far in 2020. If any carmaker wants to do well overall, they would want a solid and successful offering in this arena.
But, with 19 small SUV options available to choose from (or 28 if you also look at the premium bracket), anything needs to be compelling to cut through the noise.
And tasked with being compelling in our local market for Jeep is the updated 2020 Jeep Compass. Designed in America and built in India, it’s looking for a much larger slice of pie than the seven-slot grille has enjoyed before in Australia.
|2020 Jeep Compass Night Eagle|
|Engine||2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||129kW @ 6400rpm, 229Nm @ 3900rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined||7.9L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Five stars (2017)|
|Warranty (years / km)||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Kia Seltos, Subaru XV, Honda HR-V|
|Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)||$36,950|
It's worth pointing out here that while Jeep refers to the Compass as a small SUV in the monthly VFACTS sales reports, our measuring tape does see a bit of medium size about the dimensions: 4394mm long, 1819mm wide and 1629mm tall. What's the boot space of the Compass? 438 litres.
So, in a way, the Compass also competes against an in-house rival, the Cherokee, along with next class up rivals like the Skoda Karoq, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota RAV4.
It’s no secret that Jeep has been having a hard time of things lately. Those heady days of huge Grand Cherokee sales, big enough to even topple the LandCruiser Prado in 2014, seem like such a long time ago. Jeep’s yearly sales records look something like a mountain range with only one peak.
While other problems, like increased competition in the SUV space and a weakening Australian dollar are out of Jeep Australia’s control, it is owning up to its issues of product quality and customer satisfaction, and taking them head-on.
Incidentally, before coming to Australia, Jeep Australia’s new boss Kevin Flynn was busy in India overseeing the production of the new compact SUV called the Compass. Sitting atop a new platform, it will look to replicate what the Grand Cherokee did back in 2014 or 2015.
And that’s what we’ve got for long-term assessment: a 2020 Jeep Compass in entry-level Night Eagle specification.
While the top-specification Compass S-Limited 4x4 didn’t fare so well in a comparison against the (also top-spec) Skoda Karoq Sportline, I reckon there is a chance the result might have been different if we looked at the base-spec models. On first impressions, this specification looks to be where the smart money might be looking at.
Priced from $36,950 before on-road costs, the Night Eagle doesn’t feel or seem overly cheap. It’s got the same 2.4-litre engine, Uconnect infotainment display, basic ergonomics and floor plan as the rest of the range (excluding the more off-road oriented Compass Trailhawk).
We do have a couple of options ticked. In this case, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof ($1950) and Grey Magnesio paint ($645) leave us at $39,545 before on-road costs.
The Night Eagle doesn’t completely skimp on safety, either. Along with a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2017, you’ve got full-speed Forward Collision Warning Plus (autonomous emergency braking), lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
There are seven airbags inside, including dual front, front seat side, head (curtain), and a single knee airbag for the driver.
This specification misses out on automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors and park assist, and bi-xenon headlights. Halogens live on for the Night Eagle, with a basic reflector assembly.
Even though leather has been traded in for a cheaper cloth and vinyl seat covering, they’re still plenty comfortable and don’t look cheap and nasty. Actually, they present quite well and give the cabin a positive vibe.
With that 2.4-litre ‘Tigershark’ engine powering the front wheels exclusively, this Jeep isn’t doing anything terribly exciting away from the blacktop. Rather, this is Jeep’s take on the modern-day everyday family car. Our first impressions so far tell us that it’s competent without being terribly exciting.
Our testing is running in that direction, as well. It’s all about day-to-day convenience, space, comfort and practicality. We’ll be putting the Compass to task far away from the wilds that Jeeps normally find themselves in: urban driving, with the odd road trip thrown in for good measure, will be the majority of testing for this car.
Those of us with little kids in tow will put the interior to the test, with special attention going to the second row and boot.
Is it a viable alternative to market leaders from the likes of Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai and Subaru? We will know more as we spend more quality time with the Compass.
As always, we’re keen to answer any questions you may have on the Jeep Compass while we have it. So don’t be shy, fire away in the comments section below. And stay tuned for more updates in the future.