this famous name seems to have lost its sense of direction

This transition isn’t very polished, and since the petrol engine is quite sluggish, there’s still not much grunt, so you find yourself pushing the accelerator even harder. This spurs the gearbox into a rather sudden downshift, gets the turbo on song and pushes you forward perhaps more acutely than intended.

The way the Compass rides on bumps contributes to its rather clichéd feel on the road. None of the SUVs that sit on this Fiat-Chrysler “Small Wide” platform ride particularly well, but the Compass feels particularly wooden, tripping stiffly over lumps in the road and pounding its wheels in potholes.

You might think this tendency would fade with speed, and it does – but the 4xe still feels unsteady even on the highway, oscillating and swaying over undulations, making it feel unsettled and not particularly relaxing.

Much better

If you’re expecting this to make for a rather uninspiring driving experience once you get onto a smaller, twisty road, you’d be partly right. But it’s actually not that bad.

This is mainly because when you switch it from ‘Auto’ to ‘Sport’ mode, the two powertrains work in parallel, rather than in series. This means the petrol engine works with the electric motors, rather than kicking in as a backup when the motors can’t do more.

Now suddenly the drivetrain feels very well-judged. At low revs, the compass moves forward, the electric motors fill the gap in torque left by the petrol engine’s turbo lag, and when the engines pull down, the engine’s turbo comes right into song, giving you plenty of lovely drive at the top end of the rev range too. Why can’t it be like this in “Auto” mode?

It’s even quite entertaining to drive, the body resists lean quite well, the front end dives eagerly into corners and the motors on the rear axle work independently to provide drive to the wheel with the most grip, mimicking the effect of a limited-slip differential .

Underneath, you can feel the hand of Italian chassis engineers too, although their best efforts are drowned out by the numb steering, as well as the stiff suspension’s habit of knocking the car off too easily, leaving you finding yourself having to adjust your line a little too much in the center of the corner.

Expensive choice

Is any of this enough to make the Compass a car you’d want to buy? Not really. Especially when you factor in its price; this S version may be the top spec model, but it’ll set you back nearly £41,000. And you can add another £1,100 to that if you want them to paint the body any color other than black, which feels like a bit of a rip-off.

Including colour, an equivalent Kia Sportage PHEV will set you back just £400 more; it’s a better car, and has a seven year warranty for good measure, so it’s well worth it. And a Vauxhall Grandland Hybrid-E in top spec Ultimate form costs more than £2,000 less.

Of course, this also affects the company car users’ voters, for whom the high P11D value will be a turn-off. And combined with relatively unimpressive CO2 emissions – for a PHEV, that is – of 44g/km, it will make this an expensive company car to choose from. In real terms, that means for someone paying the higher income tax, the Jeep will cost almost £500 more a year in company car tax than the Vauxhall – and almost £1,000 more than the Kia.

The Telegraph Verdict

Even at its best, the Compass 4xe is only average – but at its worst, it feels cheap, tacky and poorly finished. It’s OK to rush along a back road, but never more than that – and everywhere else feels heavy and shady.

You might be able to forgive this if it was priced accordingly, but it isn’t. And so it is even if you choose one as a company car, which is really the final nail in its coffin.

With that in mind, it’s very hard to recommend this car over its much more accomplished rivals. Unfortunately, this particular compass isn’t one that helps the Jeep change direction.

Telegraph rating: Two stars out of five

Facts

  • On test: Jeep Compass 4xe S
  • Body: five-door SUV
  • On sale now
  • How much? £40,895 on the road (from £30,705)
  • How fast? 124 mph, 0-62 mph in 7.3 sec
  • How economical? 149 mpg (WLTP combined)
  • Engine and transmission: 1,322 cc four-cylinder petrol turbo, six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
  • Electric powertrain: two AC motors with an 11.4 kWh battery, 7.2 kW onboard charger, type 2 charging socket
  • Electric range: 30 miles (WLTP combined EAER)
  • Maximum power/torque: 236bhp/N/A lb ft
  • CO2 emissions: 44g/km (WLTP combined)
  • VED: £0 first year, £510 next five years, then £155
  • Warranty: 3 years / unlimited miles
  • Spare wheel as standard: No (optional)

The rivals

Vauxhall Grandland 1.6 Plug-in Hybrid-E 225 Ultimate

222bhp, 192mpg, £38,125 on the road

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