Now we must draw the curtains on our time with the 2021 Jeep Compass as our long-term loan concludes.
And it’s been an overall positive experience with Jeep’s small SUV in its cheapest Night Eagle guise. Costing $36,950 before on-road costs, the Night Eagle represents the Compass at its most compelling.
However, it’s fighting in a segment brimming with good options. And looking at things like the new Kia Seltos, updated Hyundai Kona and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, and new segment entrants like the MG ZST, that fight isn’t going to get any easier.
Aside from the range-topping, off-road-capable Compass Trailhawk and its turbo-diesel engine, you’ve got only one choice of engine: a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine known as ‘Tigershark’. It makes 129kW and 229Nm running through a six-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels.
Compared to many small SUVs that have traded in capacity for forced induction, the Compass does have a different driving demeanour. There’s a sense of laziness to the power delivery, with enough torque in the right places for around-town driving.
And even though we’ve only got six gears in this case (higher specs get a nine-speed all-wheel-drive system), you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Around-town performance is good, and is matched well through competent steering and comfortable suspension. Only on the highway does it start feeling a little breathless as it accelerates in the higher gears.
|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|
Unfortunately, fuel economy isn’t the strong suit of this big block. We’ve averaged just over 10 litres per 100km, which isn’t as good as the more advanced turbocharged engines you can get in this segment.
Just a note on size, this Compass is classed as a small SUV, but somewhat straddles the small and medium segments in terms of its size. And as we found on our family-test updates, we were able to fit parents up front and ratbags in the back for long stints at a time.
Consider that family box well ticked, although the rearmost middle seat is tight, both in terms of width and that empty transmission tunnel.
Its 438L worth of boot space is good for the segment, and you’ll find a full-sized spare – mounted on a steel wheel – underneath.
Infotainment is another strong point: an 8.4-inch display gives all of the modern amenities one desires like smartphone mirroring, native navigation and digital radio.
Safety is well covered with autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, reversing camera, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors.
It rounds out an offering that's much better than most other base-spec SUVs. You could argue that this is all that you need, and getting more would be frivolous. But, like I mentioned, the competition is tough. And around $36,000 puts the Compass right in the bearings of segment favourites like the MG ZST Essence ($31,490), Mitsubishi ASX Exceed ($33,490), Hyundai Kona Highlander ($36,660) and Subaru XV 2.0i-S ($37,290).
These competitors might not offer as much size as the Compass, but they do have high levels of specification in their respective trims. So, while the Compass isn’t the best in the segment, it also struggles to compete on value in a segment so laden with good options.
Like I mentioned before, the 2021 Jeep Compass is best had in this Night Eagle specification. And after our long-term review, we did grow to like the Compass more and more over the months.
There’s good space on offer for this small SUV, and a good combination of technology and comfort. While monthly VFACTS figures indicate that the Compass is only attracting a small portion of the small-SUV segment, I reckon it's worthy of more attention.