Jeep’s new Compass small SUV might eschew the polarising styling of its larger brother, the mid-size Cherokee, but at a glance it could easily be mistaken for its two-segment-up sibling, the Grand Cherokee.
But according to the US off-road brand’s head of exterior design, Vince Galante, the model’s traditionalist, mini-Grand Cherokee design is no coincidence.
Speaking to motoring.com.au at the international launch of the Compass this week, Galante said it was important for the brand’s five SUVs to offer different styling, noting that C-segment (small) SUV segment buyers are more conservative than those elsewhere.
“We tried to capture the essence of that car [the Grand Cherokee],” Galante explained.
“It’s muscular and at the same time athletic, and there’s something about its body that looks protective or indestructible. We tried to keep that in mind.
“With the Cherokee it was different. We intentionally wanted to do something adventurous, because we felt that segment was pretty established,” he added. “While with the Renegade we also wanted to do something adventurous, to appeal to the younger, funky buyer.
“But with the Compass we knew right away that this is the biggest SUV market – the C-SUV segment is the most popular globally – and we knew that we’d have to really appeal to a wide range of people. So, we did, on purpose, make it more of a simpler, more conservative design,” he admitted.
Globally, the Compass will sell into a market segment expected to reach 7.5 million sales by 2020; and while Jeep was keen to retain its stand-out four-wheel drive ability, it was equally aware of the need to remain mainstream stylistically.
Galante said the brand had originally considered a more avant-garde design, but that the broad appeal and solid sales of the Grand Cherokee had an affect on toning things down.
“We always start out trying to scare ourselves, but then we reel it back,” he laughed.
“We tried lots of different things, but as we learn more about the markets the Compass will sell in – and seeing how widespread the appeal for this model would be – we chose to embrace a style similar to the Grand Cherokee, which is universally loved.”
We questioned Galante about the difference in styling between its SUV models, and asked whether the lack of similarly had worked for or against drawing buyers up through the line-up. He defended the design differentiation between the Jeep range, saying it was important that each model stood strong on its own merits.
“There’s a really broad range in personality in what Jeep can be,” he explained. “Every Jeep looks like a family, but they’re all different. We have a spread of personality with our models — each is like its own person,” he enthused.
“If you look at a lot of the car companies, and the German car companies are particularly well known for it, each of the models looks like a scaled version of the next. Ours are all related in a different way.”