2020 Jeep Compass Night Eagle review

New to the Compass range, the Night Eagle offers FWD rather than AWD, and an impressive level of standard equipment for the asking price.

New for 2020, the Jeep Compass Night Eagle joins a revised range as the entry point into Jeep’s compact SUV. On price and numbers alone, it certainly makes a lot of sense, so now we take a closer look at Jeep’s mini Grand Cherokee.

It’s hard to believe that the revised Compass has been with us since 2017. At the US launch back then, it was immediately evident how much of a leap forward the new model had been from the previous iteration. Not a hard thing to do given the compromises with the old model, but the new version was immediately a competitive, well-rounded, small SUV.

Looking back over that original launch review now, the Trailhawk version stood out – unsurprisingly – given nothing in the segment can compete with it, and the general build quality and technical smarts of the redesign indicated that the Compass was going to make some inroads into the Australian market.

Three years on, Jeep has revised the range set-up and pricing, with the Night Eagle opening the range. Pricing starts from $36,950 before on-road costs, with the Grey Magnesio premium paint adding $645 and the dual-pane panoramic sunroof adding $1950. That brings the total cost of our test Compass to $39,545 before on-road costs.

An increase in the level of standard equipment was key to the 2020 model revision, and the Night Eagle gets a full suite of safety kit as part of that. There’s a five-star ANCAP rating, seven airbags, rear-view camera and rear parking sensors, full-speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, lane-departure warning plus, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection and cruise control.

Halogen headlights are standard for the Night Eagle, as are 18-inch wheels, dual-zone AC, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, fog lights, roof rails, and the black roof.

The 2.4-litre petrol engine generates 129kW and 229Nm while using a claimed 7.9L/100km. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic, and around town we used an indicated 10.4L/100km. On the highway, that figure very quickly dropped into the low nines and kept trending down, so if you do regular open-road driving expect a more frugal return.

The merest mention of a FWD Jeep generates plenty of debate, but the fact remains that this segment is dominated by city-dwelling, first car or family buyers with no off-road driving in the plan. As such, a FWD variant that offers a long list of standard equipment at a competitive price like the Night Eagle provides buyers with an option in the Jeep range they may not previously have had. As with all Jeep product, the offering is broad.

If you do need or want to go off-road, get yourself into a Compass Trailhawk and you’re set. We’ve tested that spec off-road, too, and it’s mightily impressive for a small SUV. What it can do against what you would expect of the segment is a long way apart.

In between Jeep's other Compass variants, Limited and S-Limited, not only offer additional equipment, but also come standard with all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic teamed with the same 2.4-litre engine.

The infotainment screen measures in at 8.4 inches and you get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, DAB+, proprietary satellite navigation, six speakers and clear audio controls. The smartphone connection worked faultlessly for us on test covering both Apple and Android systems. The system is easy to work out, and Jeep's U-Connect operating system is as concise and simple to understand as any. While most of you will opt for your phone’s satellite navigation, either through a proprietary app or third-party solution, the onboard Jeep system is excellent.

The Compass Night Eagle is comfortable, has excellent visibility and ergonomics, and the seats come in for special mention, too. You’ll effortlessly dispatch longer drives without fatigue. You’ll fit adults into the second row, and the Compass is no smaller inside the cabin than any of the main combatants in this segment. The 438L of space in the boot is more than enough for the segment as well, with fold-flat seats making it easy to carry longer, bulkier items.

Around town, on the highway, or out on country roads, there’s no doubt the Compass’s chassis, balance and ride quality are up there with the best in the small-SUV segment. Jeep has come up with a solid balance between handling ability and ride comfort, with the 18-inch rims and generous sidewalls playing their part.

We’ve said it many times before, but when this generation of Compass was launched in 2017, it moved into another league entirely from the old model – some would argue a league it should always have competed in. Much of that leap forward is evident in the resolution of the way the Compass rides and handles.

Jeep makes a lot of its off-road prowess, history and capability. In fact, much of the brand’s advertising and promotion features dirt, mud, rivers and rocks. So, on face value, you might think that a FWD Jeep doesn’t fit the bill. As I wrote above, this segment isn’t about off-road marauding anyway, but in no way does the Compass suffer from its FWD architecture.

Quite the contrary, actually, and unless you want the Trailhawk to go off-roading, we reckon the Night Eagle is the smart pick in the Compass range. In other words, it has the potential to do exactly what Jeep would be hoping it can do.

A naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine – emotive Tigershark name or not – has to work harder than a smaller capacity, turbocharged engine might, but it’s not obtrusive. You do need to kick the Compass to really get it hustling, but for 99 per cent of around-town driving, it’s more than adequate.

Interestingly, given we know how competent the nine-speed auto that features in other Compass grades is, at no stage did I have ratio envy. I didn’t find myself running round town thinking, ‘man it would be nice to be able to drop into eighth here, or tip into ninth even’. Six available ratios seems just about spot on to us given the size of the engine, the way it develops its power and torque, and the way you’re likely to drive the Compass.

The fact that the engine does have to work a little harder when you push it is borne out in the fuel-use numbers, but we weren’t trying to be frugal. Rather, we just tested the Compass without fear or favour in pretty heavy Sydney traffic most of the time. You only hear the engine working in the upper reaches of the rev range, too, everywhere else it’s insulated and composed.

The Jeep Compass is covered by Jeep’s five-year/100,000km warranty and lifetime roadside assistance plan – renewed for 12 months at a time with each Jeep dealer service.

Overall, the Compass Night Eagle does the job of city run-around meets weekend tourer quite nicely for those inclined to look at the medium-SUV segment. From day one, it’s had a job to do to change the perception that remained from the old Compass, but comparing them almost seems unfair – such are the differences and strides forward in quality and inclusions.

Outside the Trailhawk, we do think the Night Eagle – although new to our market in terms of specification grade – is the pick in the Jeep Compass range. Its styling is spot on, the standard equipment is well catered for, and you don’t really need AWD if you spend all your time on sealed surfaces.

Jeep is slowly starting to regain some of the ground the brand lost in Australia, and the Compass is part of the resurgence.

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