Jeep aims to improve the efficiency of mainstream versions of its Compass model with innovative e-Hybrid technology. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Jeep's Compass e-Hybrid claims to blend both mild hybrid and self-charging full-Hybrid technology together into one, efficient and quite affordable C-segment SUV package. But you have to have auto transmission and there's no 4WD option. Plus there are all the improvements lately added to this significantly updated MK2 Compass model. It's something a bit different - in almost every way.
We all know what a real Jeep looks like - rough, tough and wilderness-ready. You might though, be less acquainted with the models this growing brand wants to sell to ordinary, family SUV buyers. Cars like this one, the Compass, aimed directly at the buoyant mid-sized Qashqai segment, especially in this more efficient e-Hybrid guise.
Electrification will of course be the over-riding theme in future Jeep models - the company's already shown us how its first full EV will look. For now though, the brand still needs to sell with fossil fuel in the SUV market's core C-segment, a class the brand has unsuccessfully been trying to crack for years. Will this Compass e-Hybrid give Jeep a genuine contender in the Qashqai class? Let's see.
Jeep calls this a 'Hybrid', but it's probably best to view the 1.5-litre 130hp e-Hybrid powertrain as a mild hybrid package with a few extra tricks up its sleeve. The fact that it's based around a belt starter generator which drives the engine stop/start system suggests that, as does the fairly unremarkable set of overall efficiency stats. Evidence that the e-Hybrid set-up wasn't primarily developed for Jeeps (it wasn't) lies in the situation of the e-Hybrid system's 19hp electric motor in the gearbox, rather than on the rear axle where it would usually be with a Hybrid; that means there's unfortunately no scope for an all-wheel drive Compass e-Hybrid model. But at least there is an electric motor, which means that unlike with an ordinary mild hybrid engine, this one can drive the car on electric power alone - though because the 48-volt battery that's being charged is tiny (just 0.8kWh in size), only at very slow speeds and only for a few hundred yards.
It actually does so in lots of ways and Jeep has decided to give names for all of them. 'Silent Start' is when you prod the start button and the car springs into life but the engine doesn't; 'e-Launch' is where the electric motor pushes you off for the first few metres before the engine quickly springs in to help; 'e-Creeping' uses electric power where a conventional petrol auto would creep forward on tick over; 'e-Queueing' will keep you battery-powered in stop-start heavy traffic; and 'e-Parking' will use electric power at parking speeds. If there's any battery charge still left over after all of this by the time you get to the open road, 'e-Boosting' will use it to help acceleration. And to help recharge said battery, recuperated energy is reclaimed when you brake. You can probably guess what that's called - 'e-Braking'.
Design and Build
This second generation 'MP/552'-series Compass has been given a darned good wash and brush up in this facelifted guise. 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.
Market and Model
The e-Hybrid Compass variants require a £3,000 premium over the base 1.3-litre engine. You don't get any more power with the 1.5-litre e-Hybrid petrol unit, nor can the car offer 4WD with this powerplant, but opting for it does gives you a 7-speed dual-clutch auto transmission - and of course a great deal more efficiency. There's a wider choice of trim options too; not only 'Night Eagle' (from around £33,000) and 'Limited' (from around £34,000) but also eco-conscious 'Upland' (from around £36,000) and plush top 'S'-spec (from around £37,000).
Even the entry-level 'Night Eagle' model comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED Smartbeam reflector headlights with auto high beam, LED tail lamps, Solar control glass, power-folding mirrors, rain sensitive wipers, roof rails and an alarm. Inside, you get a 10.25-inch instrument cluster screen, Dual Zone climate control, heat for the front seats and steering wheel, all-weather branded floor mats and powered lumbar adjustment for the front seats. Plus the front passenger seat folds flat for really long loads. Drive stuff includes an Active speed limiting device, cruise control, trailer sway damping, a rear view camera and rear parking sensors. Plus a competitive package of camera safety kit.
Cost of Ownership
Ultimately, this e-Hybrid powerplant is a kind of compromise between the mainstream electrified engines competitors offer - either mild hybrid units that don't deliver much efficiency benefit or self-charging full-Hybrid powerplants that do but cost a lot more. Sure enough, the tax-determining CO2 emissions stat of a Compass e-Hybrid - up to 139g/km of CO2 - sits plumb between these two approaches. For comparison, a mild hybrid Nissan Qashqai DIGT 140 manages 143g/km, while a full-Hybrid Toyota RAV4 returns 126g/km.
Dig a bit deeper though and the readings don't look so good from Jeep's point of view. Its e-Hybrid tech may be supposedly more sophisticated than what you'd get in a mild hybrid engine but the combined fuel cycle figures lag well behind what you'd get from typical mild hybrid rivals. A Compass e-Hybrid returns a combined reading of 36.3mpg; for a mild hybrid Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage or Hyundai Tucson in this class, the return is closer to the 45mpg mark. And of course it's way off what you'd get from the kind of self charging full-Hybrid model in this segment that you could have for the kind of money Jeep wants for an e-Hybrid Compass: that Toyota RAV4, for instance, manages just over 50mpg on the combined cycle. Still, there are plus points here. Insurance is group 18E and Jeep includes three years of servicing as standard.
The e-Hybrid concept seems like an awful lot of effort to go to for the creation of something that at the end of the day isn't quite as good as the kind of self charging full-Hybrid engine we've now had on cars of this size for the last two decades. It does though, make the Compass e-Hybrid feel like the proper Hybrid it's pretending to be when setting off, manoeuvring and inching along in traffic queues, all of which is accomplished in impressive EV silence. Away from walking pace though, the slightest flex of your right foot introduces the 130hp engine, not always very subtly.
Then there are the efficiency stats, not as impressive as the trumpeted tech would lead you to believe. If you really like the idea of a Compass of course, this may not matter much, but we can't help thinking that if that's the case, you might be better off saving the £3,000 premium the brand wants for its e-Hybrid tech and opting instead for the base 1.3-litre conventional engine in this model. After all, though the CO2 return of that entry-level variant is quite a lot worse - 159g/km - its combined fuel reading of 42.8mpg is actually quite a lot better, aided by a lighter kerb weight and the use of a manual gearbox rather than an automatic. All food for thought.