26 September 2023

One For The Great Outdoors

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By Paul Gover.

A trail-rated Jeep is not just another family SUV.

Winning the trail rating means the Jeep in question is capable of tackling, and defeating, the benchmark Rubicon Trail in the USA.

The Rubicon is a seriously nasty rock-hopping challenge and it takes a vehicle with great grip, strong pulling power and plenty of ground clearance to make it through.

Not that any of the Aussie families considering a Compass will be thinking about the Rubicon.

Instead, they will be looking at a multi-purpose family SUV that can be a genuine weekend escape machine.

They will need a hefty budget and a love Jeep, the brand and its capability, to dismiss contenders from Toyota and Kia and Hyundai and all the rest to settle on the Compass.

That’s because the Compass is not a heavyweight Jeep, but something with much more of a suburban focus.

It’s become typical of Jeep, which has moved with the times – and the buyers – to stay relevant.

Some people still want and need a Grand Cherokee for exploring and towing, but it’s far more likely that a Compass will suit the majority of Aussie households.

That’s why the Compass got a tweak last year with some extra niceness, including a 10-inch infotainment screen, full-scale connectivity, a re-designed cabin and a full suite of the latest driver aids that includes a 360-degree camera.

The Trailhawk pack, in keeping with a $50,000-plus price-tag, also gets more-supportive seats, extra ground clearance, chunky 17-inch alloys, a skid-plate and even two big red tow hooks in the grille.

It only comes with a turbodiesel engine, which sounds fine a first, but it only makes 125 kiloWatts and is more coarse than many similar power-plants. The fuel economy is good, but not great.

Despite the Trailhawk badge, the Compass is not a full-scale Jeep off-roader and most of its capability comes from electronic control of the wheels and not traditional ‘crawler’ gears and mechanical differential locks.

Even so, it promises to any anywhere you want and is fine for beach work and bush tracks.

In day-to-day driving, this Jeep can be noisy and a bit slow. Its driver-assist systems can also be way too intrusive, intervening when there is no need.

The cabin might look good, but the materials and final finishing are no match for a Toyota – or even a Kia – and that’s something Jeep in the USA needs to be considering.

The Jeep brand is more than enough to trump a Hyundai in the ’states, but here in Australia there are countless customers whose tastes are more refined and who expect more from their family SUV.

So, although the Compass Trailhawk has some notable strengths, it’s not good enough to threaten the class leaders in 2022.

Jeep Compass Trailhawk

Position: family SUV with an off-road bias

Price: from $52,650

Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel

Power: 125kW/350Nm

Transmission: 9-speed auto, four-wheel drive

Plus: capable, great name

Minus: expensive, relatively unrefined

THE TICK: only for off-roaders

Score: 6.5/10

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