Jeep is rolling out plug-in hybrid powertrains across its range, with the Compass being the latest model to gain the technology, resulting in an electric driving range of 30 miles.
It wasn’t too long ago when the idea of an electric Jeep would have been unthinkable. We don’t have an all-electric Jeep yet – although this is due soon – but in the meantime you can buy a Jeep Compass with a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
The Jeep Compass S 4xe PHEV has a 4-cylinder, 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine and a 44 kW (60 hp) electric motor powered by a 11.4 kWh battery, with drive to a 4×4 system being provided by a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Compass has an SUV body so it’s family-friendly, although the boot size of 420 litres isn’t particularly large.
The Jeep Compass promises 4×4 traction and the ability to drive on electric power. So how does this work out in real-world driving?
Driving around town on electric power gives the normal EV powertrain benefits of near-silence and refinement. However when driving on electric you only have 60 hp of power, which, combined with the hefty kerb weight of 1,835 kg, means performance is very poor. You’ll also find that, when driving in Electric mode, the petrol engine frequently fires up – presumably because the 60 hp electric motor isn’t enough to provide sufficient acceleration.
Apart from Electric, there are also driving modes of Hybrid (which uses the petrol engine and the electric motor) and E-Save, which uses the petrol engine to save the battery charge (this E-Save function often didn’t work). The button to control these modes is, strangely, right next to the button to release the petrol flap.
There’s also the Selec-Terrain traction control system that allows you to choose from four modes: Sand/Mud, Snow, Auto and Sport.
If you select Sport mode (or even Hybrid mode), you’ll find that the 4-cylinder, 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine becomes very revvy and noisy. The steering remains light with little feel.
There are also buttons for 4WD low and 4WD lock, yet if you select these controls and/or Sand/Mud mode and try to drive on an area of flat grass/mud you may well find, as we did, that the wheels spin and the Jeep goes nowhere. This is because, despite all the off-road controls, the tyres are standard road tyres with virtually no tread. To us, this makes absolutely no sense – why would you offer a car with a Jeep badge and various off-road systems with tyres with virtually no tread pattern, that can’t even get grip on a flat area of muddy grass?
It should be noted that the Jeep Compass is available as a Trailhawk model, which is supposed to feature tyres that work off-road – along with a ‘Rock’ mode.
The Compass regularly applies the electronic handbrake by itself, for instance in the middle of manoeuvring. The handbrake is positioned on the far side of the gear lever so you can’t see it in a right-hand drive car. If the car applies the handbrake when you’re manoeuvring on electric power, it’s likely that the petrol engine will fire up when you depress the accelerator to find you’re not moving anywhere.
The lane departure warning system results in the steering being wrenched out of your control if you drive near a white line. There’s a button under the touchscreen to switch off the lane departure warning system, but if you do this, it seems to also switch off the traction control, which is dangerous. There’s also a lot of beeping if you drive near a parked car as the car often seems to think that you’re going to crash.
It’s not easy to change radio stations on the touchscreen, and the satnav didn’t know that a road was closed due to long-term roadworks, adding half an hour to a journey.
Getting a perfect driving position is a challenge, and the centre console on the right of the gear selector can dig into your left leg when driving. The button to close the tailgate isn’t on the bottom of the tailgate, as it is on virtually all cars, but instead it’s at the bottom left hand side of the boot opening, so you have to press it and then get out of the way of the lowering tailgate very quickly.
The Jeep Compass S 4xe PHEV 4×4 has an official electric range of 30 miles – and it came close to delivering this range in real-world driving.
The Compass 4xe official economy figure is 156.9 mpg. Unless you only drive the same distance as the WLTP test between full charges you won’t enjoy this figure in the real-world; after a week of mixed driving we averaged 36.4 mpg – which is well down on the official figure.
The Jeep Compass S 4xe PHEV 4×4 costs £41,695. If you want tyres to transfer the potential of the 4×4 system to the terrain then, unless you fit your own after-market tyres, you’ll need to opt for the Jeep Compass 4xe Plug-in Hybrid Trailhawk.
Green Car Guide is completely independent, which means that we report honestly about the cars that we test. We also specialise in reviewing EVs and plug-in hybrids, as well as green 4x4s. So we’re very familiar with all the Jeep’s rivals, and our conclusion is that the Compass S 4xe PHEV 4×4 has a number of areas for improvement. Chief amongst these is the issue of the car having various off-road control systems, but being equipped with road tyres that resulted in the car getting stuck on a flat area of muddy grass. Another issue is the lack of performance in electric mode due to the 60 hp electric motor. For comparison, the base rear-wheel drive all-electric Kia EV6 has an electric motor that generates 226 bhp (229 hp) – almost four times more power than that of the Compass. And then there’s the problem of the powertrain switching to petrol too easily and the issues with various interior controls. So the Jeep Compass S 4xe PHEV 4×4 ends up with a Green Car Guide rating of 6/10.