The new compact SUV has up-to-date features packaged in a modern shape
Compass points the way for Jeep The Jeep Compass is powered by a 1.4-litre turbo mated to a nine-speed autobox. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

Six years ago, Jeep detoured from its rugged path to launch the Compass, its most car-like sport utility vehicle to date.

Its replacement has just arrived and it keeps to the theme set by its predecessor, with minor variations.

Instead of a 2-litre normally aspirated engine paired with a continuously variable transmission, the new car is powered by a 1.4-litre turbo mated to a nine-speed autobox.

It has a monocoque construction, comes with a dial-type terrain selection found on Land Rovers and the one thing most modern car buyers look out for these days - a connected touchscreen infotainment system (which incorporates Jeep's signature compass).

It also packs an impressive air-conditioning system, which is much appreciated in the current heatwave.

But traces of Jeep-ness remain. The instrument gauges display the cruise control speed in miles per hour and duplicates the date display side by side. At the back, you will find a fairly spacious boot section, but no sign of a parcel/privacy shelf. The Jeep dealer says there should be one, though.

In terms of design, the new Compass is pleasing inside and out. The cockpit is modern-looking, reasonably ergonomic and boasts a high fit and finish. The cabin is airy, with very decent headroom for front passengers. Taller occupants, however, will find it a bit of a squeeze in the second row.

For the exterior, the iconic Jeep grille is revised to go with the car's more streamlined headlamps. The angular wheel arches remain, but the window lines and C-pillars are redrawn to evoke a more contemporary feel.

If the previous Compass had brought Jeep out of the post-war design doldrums, this one takes it into the 21st century.

The equipment level reflects this transition. The latest Compass comes with modern-day irritations such as lane-keeping assist, blindspot warning and start-stop mechanism. Thankfully, you can switch them off.

The car is also equipped with park assist (for parallel and perpendicular parking spaces) as well as rear and front proximity sensors (although the front ones do not seem to work).

Safety aids include electronic roll mitigation and all-speed traction control, which is fairly unnecessary since the car is not what most will deem as fast or furious.

Throttle response is absolutely wooden, especially upon kick-down. Most times, the car feels a lot slower than its 8.5-second century sprint time suggests.

Gear changes are clunky and the ride quality is not what you would write home about. In this respect, you could close your eyes and imagine this to be a Jeep of old. The transmission may have nine speeds, but on Singapore roads, it is unlikely to go beyond the eighth cog.

SUV fans, however, may still find it attractive. The terrain select comes with snow, sand, mud and rock modes, as well as low-gear and hill descent options and an all-wheel-drive lock.

All others will do better with a Toyota C-HR or Honda CR-V.