Jeep's Compass 4xe blends PHEV tech with a famous badge. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
The Compass 4xe sees Jeep at last bring plug-in hybrid tech to compete with established rivals in the mainstream mid-sized SUV segment. This isn't the kind of Jeep you'd have ever pictured yourself owning. But might the Compass 4xe be one you could credibly consider?
In the last few years, we've had to get increasingly used to the idea of a Jeep you've the option of plug-in. Not one as a total EV (though that can't be far off) but various models featuring the brand's '4xe' plug-in hybrid tech. We first saw it with the little Renegade, following which '4xe' versions of the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee and, as here, the mid-sized Compass have been launched. The Compass gains the PHEV tech as part of a package of wide-ranging updates made to this 'MP/552'-series model, a car just first launched in 2018. That design couldn't have justified this 4xe variant's quite exalted price point in its original form. But with a smarter look and a much improved interior with considerably enhanced media connectivity, it stands more chance against a tough crop of better established volume brand plug-in hybrid rivals.
You may have read elsewhere that the Compass 4xe has the same PHEV powertrain as the smaller Renegade 4xe. Well, yes and no. With most plug-in Renegades, the four cylinder 1.3-litre petrol engine this powerplant works with is of the lower-output 130bhp variety, with total output 187bhp. Only the top rarely-chosen Renegade Trailhawk 4xe features this PHEV powerplant mated to that 1.3-litre engine in 178bhp form (total output 237bhp), which is the powerplant combination that features with both Compass 4xe variants. Either way, this set-up features an engine allied to an electric motor on the rear axle, creating a four-wheel drive model with a 6-speed auto gearbox When fully charged, you can expect up to 30 miles of electric-only driving range when the 11.4kWh battery is fully charged. This PHEV variant offers the usual choice of driving modes that you'd expect with a car of this kind, in this case either electric only, Hybrid or one that enables you to save charge for future use in city driving. As you'd expect from the output figure quoted earlier, 4xe performance is quite sprightly: despite this electrified version's extra kerb weight, it'll hit 62mph in 7.5 seconds. And if you want to attempt any kind of off road traversing in a model of this sort, this Compass 4xe would by far be the best choice thanks to its better traction and body clearance from the ground.
Apart from the badgework, there's no external clue here that this Compass is of the PHEV rather than conventional non-electrified variety. This second generation 'MP/552'-series Compass design has been given a darned good recent wash and brush to justify the premium pricing here. There's the usual 7-slot front grille, but flanking it are bolder headlamps now featuring full-LED technology. You can have a contrast colour roof if you want, the tail lights are now also of the LED kind and the trademark trapezoidal arches can house Iarge wheels of up to 19-inches in size, allowing you to make the appropriate statement in the gym car park. What's more significant though, are the changes which have taken place inside, where the cabin gains a new 10.1-inch 'Uconnect' infotainment central screen that works up to five times faster than the previous display and incorporates Alexa integration, automatic over-the-air updates and "Hey Jeep"-activated voice functionality. This monitor also incorporates 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone mirroring wireless technology so that you can connect and access two smartphones at the same time without having to connect a cable Perhaps even more importantly, the interior now looks and feels more European - as perhaps you'd expect now that this model is being built in Italy. There's lots of storage space and two adults will be comfortable on the back seat, though it would be a bit of a squash for three. Out back, there's a 438-litre boot. It's annoying though, that you can't flatten to the rear bench without coming round to the side doors.
Jeep isn't bothering with poverty specs for this 4xe variant, which costs just over £10,000 more than conventional non-electrified 1.3-litre petrol derivatives of this car - think around £40,000 as a price starting point. Obviously, you'd expect to pay a premium here, not only for the PHEV tech but also for the all-wheel drive system that comes with it. That starting price applies to the least expensive 'Trailhawk' version: or there's an identically-priced eco-themed 'Upland' model; the top plusher 'S' version retails at around £1,000 more. As you'd expect from a PHEV, you can only have 4xe variants with an automatic gearbox, this one featuring six speeds. Equipment includes a 10.1-inch 'Uconnect' central screen with navigation, wireless 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone mirroring and "Hey Jeep" voice functionality. 18-inch glossy black diamond alloy wheels are standard, with 19-inch alloys optional on the 'Limited' model. The headlights and tail lights are of the LED variety and you can have a powered tailgate with a kick sensor. Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist both come standard, along with Traffic Sign Information and Intelligent Speed Assist.
Whether the PHEV 4xe variant will make economic sense for you will of course depend on how much you keep it plugged in. If you don't, you'll merely be driving around in a pretty heavy petrol-powered Jeep and there's nothing very frugal or efficient about that. But use the battery to its fullest and the WLTP figures suggest that, with the entire 30 mile driving range regularly maximised, official fuel economy will be rated at between 141.2 and 156.9mpg. You'll never actually record that in real motoring of course, but you should get fuel figures comparable to those of the old diesel variant: and the low CO2 figure of up to 44g/km will help with your BiK tax payments and VED tax disc. Insurance is group 29E. For reference, the non-electrified 1,3-litre model (which costs £10,000 less) records up to 40.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 152g/km of CO2.
You sense a clearer perspective with this product now. Its original form, this 'MP/552'-series model was a car from an American brand with Italian parentage and engineering, made in an Indian factory with an outdated dependence on diesel and none of the powerplant electrification the market was looking for. Now, everything from the production plant to the smart 10.1-inch Uconnect infotainment screen is unashamedly Italian and under the bonnet of this 4xe model is the plug-in hybrid tech that customers in this class seem to want. You can't help thinking that all this has come a couple of years too late to really save this model in its segment, but it does provide something appealingly different in this sector. And there's more off piste ability here than you'll find in any rival, though you still wouldn't want to attempt anything too gnarly in one of these. Better to conquer the speed humps of the school run in your Compass 4xe and park it suggestively on the grass verge when it's time for the kids to get out. Jeep means something different these days. And this car encompasses exactly that.
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