JEEP has failed to take the lead on its mid-sized SUV by not having autonomous emergency braking fitted to its new Compass range.
That's not a good look when key competitors - including the cheaper Nissan Qashqai and more expensive Volkswagen Tiguan - have the potentially lifesaving technology as standard.
The Compass starts at $27,850 for the Sport variant before on-road costs with a six-speed manual gearbox matched to the company's 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, which is good for 129kW/229Nm.
That compares to the base Volkswagen Tiguan at $31,990 and the Nissan Qashqai at $25,990. AEB is an option on the two top-spec Compass variants - at a $2450 premium.
The adoption of AEB is a priority for Australian crash-test authorities and Jeep Australia spokeswoman Lucy McLellan says the absence of AEB will be rectified if customer demand dictates it needs to be fitted.
"The Compass specification was decided 18 months ago," McLellan says.
"We have the capacity to change that if we determine Australian buyers want it."
Aussie-spec Compasses will be built in India and the model's chief engineer Audrey Moore says almost 26 million kilometres were racked up to ensure the variants built in all four plants around the world were identical in terms of fit and finish.
"There is no difference between a car built in Mexico and a car built in India - that was part of the brief," she notes.
Most buyers will turn to the base Compass equipped with a six-speed auto transmission for $30,750 - $2900 more than the manual.
The Compass Sport includes seven airbags, digital radio, a five-inch touchscreen, digital driver's display and leather steering wheel.
Moving up to the auto-transmission Longitude at $33,750 adds the likes of auto wipers and headlamps, roof rails and privacy glass. A $2150 option pack includes an 8.4-inch touchscreen with satnav, smartphone mirroring and dual-zone aircon.
The top end of town is where the Jeep performs best. The Compass Limited starts at $41,250 with the 129kW/229Nm petrol engine or $43,750 with a 2.0-litre diesel turbo good for 125kW/350Nm.
Default equipment includes Jeep's four-wheel drive software, 18-inch alloys, a nine-speaker Beats Audio stereo, seven-inch full colour driver's display, powered front seats, front and rear parking sensors and park assist. An optional $2450 pack adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic assist and auto high beam.
The off-road focused Trailhawk costs $44,750 before on-roads and features a nine-speed auto transmission matched to the diesel engine, along with low-range off-road gearing, skid plates, 25mm higher suspension to cater for bush-bashing, recovery hooks in case it goes pear-shaped and a full-sized spare wheel.
Jeep says it benchmarked everything from the Tiguan to the Hyundai Tucson and is confident its car matches them for dynamics and performance while holding a big edge in off-road ability.
The Compass arrives early next year and the proof the pudding will be in the local drive but buyers will dictate if - and how quickly - Jeep adapts to demand for AEB.
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