Under the veil of a fast-unfolding global pandemic, we’re putting our long-term Jeep Compass to task as a family hauler.
And because our test Jeep is front-wheel drive, this is the battleground that matters. Being an SUV means the Compass has no shortage of competition or hungry buyers in Australia, but it will need to stand out for success.
Quick recap: our long-term Jeep Compass is the entry-level model. It’s called Night Eagle, and asks for $36,950 before on-road costs. Throwing in an optional sunroof ($1950) and Grey Magnesio paint ($645) leaves us at $39,545 for the model you see here.
For those who want some off-road chops, you'll need to consider the Compass Trailhawk. However, the asking price is much higher: $49,450.
Although the Compass is listed under the monthly industry sales wrap, VFACTS, as a small SUV, it packs a bit more of a medium-SUV punch at times. Not a bad thing, especially when you’re considering this as a family car.
Power is the same across the range, excluding the diesel-powered Trailhawk specification. A 2.4-litre ‘Tigershark’ petrol engine powers only the front wheels for the Night Eagle, with 129kW and 229Nm running through a six-speed automatic transmission.
While Jeep claims 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, we’re currently averaging around 10.8L/100km. So, it can be a little thirsty for a small SUV.
It might be more expensive than other base-specification small SUVs, but the Compass doesn’t feel like a stripped-out operator. There’s an 8.4-inch infotainment display, 18-inch alloy wheels (in black, of course), dual-zone climate control, automatic halogen headlights and automatic wipers.
The Compass offers a little more space inside and out compared to other small SUVs. Not a bad thing, right?
While operating as the family chariot for the Purcell family – who are used to a much bigger old Range Rover to spread the chattels in – the Compass is surprisingly comfortable and spacious enough to fit us and all of our gear.
As the impact of Coronavirus restrictions began easing in New South Wales, we found ourselves chasing multiple weekend daytrips in the Compass, eking out new bushwalks and other local delights to ease the cabin fever.
So, the boot, measuring in at 438L, got a thorough workout. And, I was impressed with how much we were able to cram in. We went so far as to spend a weekend down the coast with family, and managed to fit enough gear in for all four. Just. Without a luggage blind, we were loading up bulky gear like beach towels towards the roof in order to fit everything in.
There is a Bridgestone Turanza spare under the false floor, and it’s a proper-sized spare wheel without kilometre or speed restrictions, but is mounted onto a cheaper steel wheel.
You could squeeze a few other smaller bits and bobs under here when you get desperate, but I can attest to the bag hooks in the boot working well for a heady combination of takeaway chicken and garlic for dinner. Bottles of wine also stop sliding and rolling about when you stick them in the handy side bins.
The second row, although it doesn’t have any sliding ability, was able to fit in baby seats while two adults sat upfront. The middle seat is tight and uncomfortable, and made worse by the transmission tunnel (redundant in our front-wheel-drive's case).
|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|
Those who use more leg room up front might find things tighter than we did, but because we both sit relatively close to the dashboard, there was enough room for all and sundry to be comfortable for extended periods.
The windows are low enough for the forward-facing kids to look out and watch the world go by (something I rate very highly for keeping them entertained and not screaming), and the big sunroof (a $1950 option) was another winner. It helps keep an otherwise dark cabin airy when the cover is opened, and can also entertain the kids with the glass peeled back.
The air vents in the second row are a welcome addition for a family car, as always. And considering the glass roof, and black and dark grey colour palette of our Night Eagle, sunny days saw the air-conditioning working hard to cool down the cabin. But, it did a good job. At least the sunroof has a proper cover to keep out the sun’s rays and associated heat.
Power outlets are reasonably well accounted for: one USB, one 12V and an auxiliary audio socket up front, plus a USB point at the back. There is also a 220V outlet in the second row, although I noted that it dropped out frequently when charging my few-years-old Macbook Pro.
Another important thing to note with this Compass is that the interior, presenting nicely with its interesting materials, survived the family assault quite well. After barrages of sand, tiny teddies and half-sucked lollipops, a bit of time with the vacuum cleaner and some baby wipes restored the interior back to looking good.
Up front, don’t forget about the hidden storage underneath the passenger seat. It’s handy, and an impressive unique feature for this Compass. However, I have to say that I haven’t used it yet.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a Compass for a family with longer-limbed teenage kids, it worked well for our young family and performed better than I expected. There’s enough room inside to get the job done, and while the 2.4-litre powertrain does feel a little stressed at times under load (and getting a little thirsty), it also does the job well enough.
And, of course, don't forget about the so-called Easter eggs scattered throughout the Compass. Keep an eye out for the grand-daddy Willys on the front windscreen, and a Loch Ness Monster at the other end. There are plenty more, but I won't give away the rest of them just yet.