Having not ridden the Rubicon Trail, I could be wrong, but I would be loath to tackle the rock-strewn passage in the Sierra Nevada — rated a 10 in difficulty.
At least in the Jeep Compass Trailhawk, which the maker says has tamed the track and earned its Trail Rated tag.
This small-to-medium sport utility vehicle, flagship of the Compass range, which was tweaked last year, is a solitary ‘bird’, being one of the few diesel-powered compact SUVs around.
One of four Compass models (three petrol powered) that come to market starting at $39,950, plus on-road costs, the diesel Trailhawk sells for $52,650.
Premium paint adds $645, while a Premium Package, including twin-pane panoramic sunroof, ventilated and heated front seats, heated steering wheel and Alpine nine-speaker Premium Audio adds a further $3950 to the price, putting the vehicle close to prestige car territory.
In keeping with its Trail Rated status, the robust Compass Trailhawk comes with off-road kit including underbody skid plates, 180 Amp alternator, two front red tow hooks, reversible material / rubber cargo area mat, low-range gearing, hill hold and terrain mode selector.
What’s it cost?
Subject heavily to the designer’s pen, the Jeep Compass has been refreshed across the range.
In keeping with its Trail Rated off-road performance the Trailhawk has taken on a unique grille treatment, coloured fog light bezels, prominent skid plate and stand-alone 17-inch alloy wheels.
Functionality comes to the fore with bumpers, fog lights and camera radar housed in a higher position for greater protection off road.
This is further enhanced by full LED daytime running lights, high and low beam, plus fog lights, having doubled in brightness over the
old Xenon headlamps.
The rear has followed suit by being given a more modern, bolder look via its sleek tail lights.
The Compass debuts the latest generation Jeep Uconnect with its 10.1-inch-high-definition touchscreen with TomTom navigation incorporated.
Upgrades include voice recognition, woken by the phrase ‘Hey Jeep’ (not Google), to control settings and program the air-conditioning and change radio via voice commands.
Wireless smartphone charging is available across the Compass range via a pad in front of the gearshift.
New advanced driver systems, such as traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed assist, combining the above with adaptive cruise control, drowsy driver alert and automatic braking with pedestrian and cyclist recognition.
Carried over are forward collision warning, lane sense departure warning, electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation.
Front, side and curtain airbags stay standard across the Compass range.
What’s it go like?
The Compass Trailhawk is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine producing 125kW and 350Nm and paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive.
For many years Jeeps were not known for stylish refinements and easily accessible control systems.
The Compass sets the new standard in this field with a more functional use of space and convenience.
A higher central tunnel offers almost five litres of storage under the armrest and an additional 2.4-litre compartment, next to the new gear lever, with space to take a mini-tablet.
Convenience extends to the rear, with a new automatic tailgate operated by means of a kicking motion under the bumper providing access to the cargo area.
Rubber mats front and centre, plus a double-sided mat in the luggage area stand owners in good stead for carting all the kit needed when making the best of the great outdoors.
Keyless entry was debatable, failing to respond to the key fob button on several occasions.
The mystery was solved when a message on the instrument screen announced the key fob battery was low.
Totally out of order on such a new vehicle.
Trailhawk was slow to respond to the gas pedal and once or twice on an incline, even with foot flat to the boards, the transmission was reluctant to change up and move on smoothly.
Jeep rates the fuel consumption at 6.9L/100km on the combined urban/highway cycle.
On test it was more like 8.3L/100km on a combination of city and country driving.
As for lane keeping assist, Active Lane Manager in Jeep speak, was heavy handed and rived the steering wheel, causing the Compass to come to heel at the slightest shift from lane centre.
Flat firm seats would be far from welcoming on an extended run. But parking manoeuvres are kept well in the picture with the car’s 360-degree camera views.
Extra ground clearance and increased approach and departure angles go some way to validating the small SUV’s Jeep Trail Rating.
What we like?
More functional use of space and convenience
Double-sided rubber/material mats
What we don’t like?
Key fob battery needed replacement
Slow to respond to throttle
Heavy-handed lane assist
Excessive fuel consumption
The bottom line?
The Compass Trailhawk would pass for a good-looking boulevard cruising SUV, or on unsealed dirt or in snow — but I retain some doubts, due to its lack of muscle, as to its handling of serious off-road obstacles such as boulders or logs.