However these days you can barely move for them with the Nissan Qashqai, Mazda CX5 and the Seat Ateca among the most well-known and highly rated of the myriad of choices available.
Rather oddly Jeep – which is a manufacturer famous for its SUVs – hasn’t managed to grab a hold of that market and has not even had a rival to the likes of the Qashqai since the last Compass left showrooms in 2015.
But for Jeep fans the wait is almost over as the new Compass finally arrives in the UK at the start of next year. Jeep hopes to continue and improve upon the success it has enjoyed with the smaller Renegade, 14,000 of which were sold in the UK in 2016.
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Perhaps unsurprisingly Jeep says that the Compass’s unique selling point will be its off-road ability.
Jeep would be disrespecting its heritage if the Compass didn’t outperform its rivals off road, and the signs are this latest version has serious aspirations on that front
The standard version, available in Longitude and Limited trims, comes with some of the old-school looks that hint at this, such as the trapezoidal wheel arches and the chunky seven-slot front grille that gives the Compass a robust appearance.
It stops short of being as daring as the smaller Renegade, though, and the rear and side profiles are conventional enough not to scare off more conservative buyers.
For those who want to do more than the occasional bit of offroading there is the range-topping Trailhawk version and this gets a notably different look front and rear.
Jeep Compass will cost between £21,900- £34,000
This serves a practical and a visual purpose, as the squared-off bumpers have been cut back and covered with protective cladding that gives a tougher look and means the Trailhawk is able to climb and descend steeper slopes than the standard version.
Jeep has confirmed there will be a choice of four engines, with one petrol and three turbo-diesels, although we won’t get official economy and performance stats for the UK until closer to launch date.
Of the diesels the 118bhp 1.6-litre version will be the most efficient, helped by the fact that it is only available as a two-wheel drive.
Expect average fuel economy to be around 64mpg and emissions to be under 120g/km, while the two larger 2.0-litre diesels boast 138bhp and 168bhp and will manage just under 50mpg and produce around 148g/km.
For those after a petrol, there’s a 1.4-litre, 138bhp unit that is expected to manage around 45mpg and emit just over 140g/km.
None of them is fast mind you, with the petrol set to be the quickest, although even then the 0 to 60mph sprint will still take more than 9.5 seconds.
The bigger diesels will all take around 10 seconds to do the same sprint but have plenty of pulling power and feel quicker than that time suggests when overtaking.
Jeep Compass can do 0 to 60mph in 9.5 seconds with a top speed of 122mph
That is a noisy job though, as all three diesels are harsh under heavy acceleration in a way rivals aren’t.
The nine-speed gearbox isn’t as smooth as you would expect either – there is a noticeable clunk when you change down that you would associate with a smaller gearbox with much fewer ratios. The manual version is much better, with a smooth and easy action.
Steering is very light, which is good at low speeds but less reassuring on the motorway.
Add in a touch of body roll through corners and the Compass isn’t as composed as the likes of the Seat Ateca. The flipside of this is that it cruises comfortably.
Jeep would be disrespecting its heritage if the Compass didn’t outperform its rivals off road, and the signs are this latest version has serious aspirations on that front. It might not be the sort of car you buy to plough through tough terrain on a daily basis, but the rubber mats in the boot of the Trailhawk hint at a car that is ready for a harder life than most.
It is likely to go further, steeper and deeper than its competition, thanks in part to the Selec-Terrain system, that has up to five modes: Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud, plus a Rock mode that is only available on the Trailhawk version.
The Trailhawk also has a ride height almost an inch higher and offers a hill-descent control function that lets you crawl down steep slopes. Up front the interior is much more family crossover than hardy off roader, with seats supportive, comfortable and offering a wide range of adjustment. Reversing camera and all-round parking sensors are also available.
Jeep Compass has an average fuel economy of 64.2mpg
A new Uconnect infotainment system is offered with either a 5.0, 7.0 or 8.4-inch touchscreen. It can be a bit fiddly to use, as most of the navigation and other functions are controlled through the screen.
Space is a bit of a mixed bag. There is lots of storage in the front, with the generous glovebox a highlight, while visibility, shoulder room and legroom are very good for back-seat passengers.
However the panoramic sunroof severely cuts into headroom for adults. The boot has a decent, if not class-leading, amount of space, with a floor that can be set on three levels.
At its lowest you get 438 litres of room – better than the Qashqai’s 430 litres, but some way short of the VW Tiguan’s 615. The family-friendly intentions take a bit of a hit when you try to drop the seats. They fold fl at but there are no handles to do so from the boot and removing the parcel shelf is a very complicated affair.
It would be harsh to dismiss the Compass on these small things, though, as it is a decent all-round package.
Its biggest problem is the strength of its competition and standing out against a raft of established and family-oriented rivals is going to be hard.
While the four-wheel drive automatic isn’t going to make much family sense, the petrol and the 1.6-litre diesel in two-wheel drive format might make more sense when those economy, performance and pricing figures are finally revealed.
Jeep Compass CO2 emissions range is between 117 and 150g/km
Model: Jeep Compass
On sale: January
Price range: est. £21,900- £34,000
Engine range: Petrol – 1.4-litre turbo; Turbo-diesel – 1.6, 2.0, 2.0-litre 168bhp
Power: 0 to 60mph in 9.5 seconds, 122mph top speed (1.4)
Average fuel economy: est. 64.2mpg (1.6TD)
CO2 emissions range: est. 117-150g/km
Rivals: Nissan Qashqai, Mazda CX5, Volkswagen Tiguan