There are very few cars that have a cringe-worthy response quite like the original Jeep Compass. The outgoing model isn’t attractive and poorly built. There wasn’t much Jeeply about the Compass. That’s all changed for 2017, however. Freshly redesigned, from the ground up, this is a whole new Jeep Compass. Seems the folks at FCA dug deep into the Jeep archives, and injected some old school Jeep DNA into this tired vehicle. Combined with a new engine, transmission and the Trailhawk equipment package, this is a very different vehicle.
When compared to many aspects of the outgoing Compass, this 2017 is an improvement across the board. The improvements start from the inside out, but you really notice them from the outside in. Borrowing from its much bigger brother, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, there is a distinct and attractive Jeep look. If you option out the Trailhawk package, which our tester had, it add some additional ruggedness to the design. Get out of trouble hooks are front and rear. Ride is raised to an impressive eight inches, which adds to the feeling of being in a bonefied Jeep. There is a real feeling of confidence in the new Compass, which was totally lacking in its predecessor. FCA even chose to equip the Trailhawk with Falken-made off-road tires, making it feel even more the off-road machine.
Gone is the whiny CVT transmission of old. What was by far the biggest weakness has now been replaced with the same ZF nine-speed transmission we’re seeing across the FCA fleet. Powering the Compass is the 2.4L TigerShark four-cylinder engine, making 180hp. This engine is bigger and more smooth than the previous world engine, and takes advantage of some modern fuel saving technologies. The resulting is good fuel mileage, in spite of the size and weight increase.
This is a bigger vehicle, and it feels like a bigger vehicle. There is more space around the interior cabin than expected in a compact SUV. There is enough space for full sized adults to sit comfortably in the rear, though three side to side might be sardine like. FCA has given the interface of the infotainment a face-lift for the Compass, and it works. There’s a hexagonal theme at play, which actually works to add to the interesting looks this Compass has going for it.
For Jeep enthusiasts, the Compass now boasts a robust off road intelligence package, rivaling only that found in the Grand Cherokee. Drivers can put the vehicle into full time AWD, lock it into AWD low and use hill decent control. There is also a list of road types which the Jeep can be set to traverse. When equipped with Trailhawk, an additional setting for rock is included in the package. On the whole, it gives the Compass a much needed injection of Jeep. We took it on some moderate trails, and the Compass proved itself more than capable. The additional ground clearance of the Jeep Compass Trailhawk is a must for anyone leaving paved or gravel surfaces.
The not so good
The engine may be new to the Compass, it’s not new overall. This 2.4L is a fairly large displacement for a four-cylinder, but puts out average power. Maximum torque is only attainable 100 revs below the redline. Anyone familiar with off-roading will know how important torque is for powering up steep inclines. Around the city driving, there is enough power for the Compass. But at freeway speeds, passing often gets a double downshift to tap into the high revving torque. It feels like the engine would benefit from a turbo, or maybe a small V6 option for the higher trims.
Most cars these days are equipped with auto start/stop technology. The Compass, as tested, is no different. But, it’s one of the slowest to start we’ve tested. There is a noticeable delay when the engine fires up, sometimes the driver already has the gas pedal depressed. The start also causes a lot of the other functions in the car to freeze frame. Wipers stopped mid wipe, interior lights flickered on every start stop. You can get used to it, but be ready to be honked at by impatient drivers in the left turn lane behind you.
As well appointed as the Trailhawk is, and interestingly designed, there are some finish quality issues. Door handles are mock metal, instead made of plastic. Locks are loose, as is some of the plastic paneling. Panel gaps are numerous, and some of the interior build almost looks hastily thrown together. Overhead console has a lot of give when you press the moonroof button. Jeep choose some rather strange symbols on their automatic wiper stock, it’s hard to figure out what setting they’re in. They may be more familiar to Jeep enthusiasts.
Should I buy this car
If you’re in the market for a Jeep, and looking for something which is both eco and city friendly, the Compass is the best one for you. There are huge improvements over the outgoing model. This Jeep Compass has great 4×4 capabilities, and some of the most interesting styling in the compact SUV segment. If you’re just after a compact SUV, however, there are plenty of others with competitive pricing out there that may be better suited for you. At this price, it out-prices most of the small and mid-sized SUVs out there.