The Jeep Compass, is it still for General purpose?

By Philip Hedderman

One of the most bitterly contested pub arguments is the origin of the word Jeep.
Some will swear hand-on-heart that it comes from the acronym Just Enough Essential Parts.
Others will argue that it comes from the term General Purpose Vehicle GPV which was subsequently abbreviated to GP and phonetically became GeeP.

Google it and Wikipedia would have you believe that it actually was a cartoon character – namely Popeye’s pet critter which bounded about the place with vigorous energy.
So, is it A, B or C?

Well, no one is certain which is the correct version, but my money is on General Purpose Vehicle.
The reason is simple – it was designed at the behest of the US army with no particular brief in mind other than it had to be four wheel drive.
With America’s involvement in the war looking increasing likely the Pentagon put the tender to 135 car companies across the States.

Only two replied – American Bantam Car Company and Willys Overland – who between them are responsible for the mode of transport that not only won World War II, but revolutionised the movement of people and goods globally.
The design which took just two days and on a zero budget (Bantam were facing bankruptcy) but it was tweaked by Willys to become the MB.
Those plans were handed over to Ford who put the iconic Army runner into mass production … and the rest is history.

Thankfully that history continues to live on in today’s models.
The most obvious is the Wrangler which still sports the oversized wheel arches, round headlights and slatted grille.
A firm favourite of hairdressers, Californians and Mork and Mindy fans, the quirky wagon sold by the lorryload in the States.
This side of the pond it was a little less of a success mainly down to the weather and the impracticality of it.

Wrangler’s bigger brother, the Compass had a similar front end which thankfully has been binned in favour of a more refined European look .
That’s down to the influence of FIAT who became business partners with Chrysler two years ago.
What we now get is chisled, muscular look more fitting of a proper off roader with serious 4X4 credentials.
In comparison to it’s older brother you actually believe that it is capable of doing what it says it can.
But the main objective of the Compass range is to cash in on the lucrative soft road market and are offering for the first time vehicles in 2WD but with limited off tarmac ability.
What I mean by that is although it’s not all wheel drive, high clearance, proper tyres and decent waterproofing may be just enough to blag it on not too challenging surfaces – more so than some wishy washy rivals.

The model we tested was the 2.2 litre CRD diesel with four-wheel drive and a manual gearbox.
The oil burning powerplant is a hangover from the Damlier party and comes courtesy of Mercedes.
It bangs out a very respectable 161bhp while returning around 40mpg and emissions of 171g/km, which translates into annual road tax of 649???

Combine that bhp with massive torque and you have an 4X4 SUV capable of towing 2 tonnes which is huge considering it weighs over 2 tonnes itself.
On the downside the gearbox is rather clunky and in lower gears feels like you’re driving an old tractor.
The diesel plant is gruff and noisy at high revs but once you get her up there it does peter out.
Handling is also a bit of an issue too with wooly steering and, like all American cars, was not designed to go around corners.

Inside it’s a little more calming as she gets a bit of a makeover and although not exactly luxurious, is a hell of a lot better than its predecessor.
There is lots of technology in here including the Uconnect sound and navigation system featuring a 30-gigabyte hard drive which can store thousands of songs pictures and videos – all operated via a 6.5-inch touch screen.

An utterly brilliant piece of kit and one very bored father and son were mighty thankfully while watching Toy Story 3 in a shopping centre car park last week.
Other goodies as standard include Cruise Control, Bluetooth, Climate Control alloys and MP3 connectivity.
But it’s the feeling of invincibility that wins the day for me.

It feels bulletproof, so much so, that you could see yourself mowing down the Taliban on their Honda 50s across Afghanistan as much as dodging traffic on the schoolrun.
Pound for pound this Compass is far from perfect but it’s also a far cry of Jeeps of old.

The other options in the Compass line-up include a 2-litre 2WD manual petrol, a 2.2 CRD (134bhp) and a 2.4 litre 4×4 petrol with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

In Ireland the 2wd “Sport Plus” model comes with 17-inch alloys, front fog lights, a leather steering with audio controls, cruise control, UConnect Bluetooth, rear privacy glass, climate control and ESP with Hill-Holder starting at around €30,000 while the 4X2 Limited adds 18-inch alloys, leather trim, heated electric front seats, and iPod/iPhone control for around €33,000.
The 4X4 Limited will be around €35,000.