Jeep’s new vision for the Compass is headed true-north.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2017 Jeep Compass
Base price (Trailhawk 4×4 trim): $32,895
Options: $995 Advanced Safety & Lighting Group; $895 Safety & Security Group; $1,500 Leather Interior Group; $700 navigation; $500 Popular equipment group; $1,595 panoramic sunroof; $525 power lift gate
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $41,500
OK, so first of all, I’m going to get this out of the way – I absolutely hated the previous generation Compass. It was built on a terrible platform that it shared with the Dodge Caliber and Jeep’s Patriot. None of those were great vehicles in my opinion. So when Jeep announced an all-new Compass that it was selling as a much more serious vehicle with real off-road abilities and a vastly improved interior, etc. etc., I wasn’t holding my breath for a winner. I expected more of the same. And I’m thrilled to say that I was wrong, and that Jeep has made the Compass a solid competitor.
Let’s start here. The Compass benefits from much improved styling. It looks much more upscale and has notes of beefiness and muscle. I quite like the new Compass’ lines.
The most recognizable traditional Jeep visual cue is right there front and centre – the good old 7-bar grille. Which is hilariously non-functional. Literally none of those grille openings are real – it’s just for show, as all air flow happens through the slots below the “grille”. There are very effective bi-xenon HID headlights on either side, as well as nicely integrated fog lights.
The Trailhawk package adds some nice details, which I suspect will be nothing more than eye-candy for the majority of buyers – even though they are functional. I’m talking about stuff like seriously heavy-duty red tow hooks (two in the front, one out back) and protective skid plates that I’ll get into later.
I really like the Rhino colour – even the name is cool! It shows as grey and blue, and really suits the tougher exterior styling.
The whole much-improved thing continues on the inside. The materials are quite decent for this category, consisting of mostly soft plastics and some interesting textures and styling – if not ground-breaking. The steering wheel is heated and behind it is an excellent, highly flexible driver information screen between the gauges. Speaking of the instruments, I found a lot of glare off both of the gauges, which was highly distracting during daytime driving.
The heated leather seats are OK in terms of comfort and could really benefit from more bolstering if the Compass is to be taken seriously as an off-roader. It seems like these seats were designed with larger people in mind. I always enjoy using FCA’s 8.4-inch touchscreen with the excellent uConnect interface – here it controls the navigation, phone functions and a good audio system. A dual-zone climate control system to keep things comfortable and an enormous panoramic sunroof overhead keeps things feeling airy and open.
This top-trim Compass comes loaded up with driver assistance technology – there’s a backup camera with front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and assist, forward collision warning and brake assist and automatic high beams.
Rear passengers get three seats – the two outboard seats are spacious with lots of leg room and a good amount of head room. Surprisingly, the middle seat is actually comfortable and would work for an adult passenger if required. In terms of comfort and convenience, there are adjustable air vents, a 115V household plug as well as a USB charging port. You’ll find two sets of LATCH anchors for child seats, and we found it quite easy to get into the rear seats for a smaller vehicle.
The tall armrest (the lid slides forward and back to adjust to your liking and comfort) contains a small storage bin and there is a tiny (read: I’m not sure what you’d use it for) bin near the front of the console where you’ll also find 12V, USB and auxiliary input plugs. The front passenger gets a little mesh pocket on the side of the console.
The Compass’ large 770L trunk can be accessed by a power trunk lid. I liked the nice high load floor and the added 12V plug. The rear seats fold down (almost flat) in a 60/40 split to add more cargo space – up to 1693L. And a couple of extra flexibility items for additional utility – the front passenger seat folds forward, allowing for the transport of some seriously big things, and the trunk floor is height-adjustable for taller items.
Under the Hood
The Compass gets a 2.4L inline-4 MultiAir engine, good for 180 HP and 175 lb.ft of torque. That jam goes through a 9-speed automatic transmission and out to an all-wheel drive system. Jeep rates it at 10.8 L/100 km in the city and 7.8 L/100 km on the highway. We averaged exactly 10 L/100 km during our week with it, and while that’s not terrible, the smallish 51L tank does impact the Compass’ overall range.
To help you save a few drops of fuel, the Compass has auto start/stop technology which I found to be relatively unobtrusive during normal city commuting.
There is certainly enough power around town but falls a bit flat when you’re already on the move and you need more power – like during passing or merging onto the freeway. It’s not so much the engine at fault here, but rather the transmission. It immediately seeks the highest gear possible to eke out maximum fuel efficiency but then it takes a couple of seconds to downshift to an appropriate gear to do the aforementioned moves. And that makes the Compass feel sluggish. If you’re the kind of person to take things into their own hands, don’t bother with the manual shifting here. It’s almost laughable as it’s a bit of a crapshoot whether the transmission will react at all to your manual shifting (this was a hit and miss thing during the entire week I drove the Compass), and if it does shift manually, it’s horribly slow.
I found the Compass to have a nice ride and the handling is quite good. The Compass is surprisingly nimble, even though there’s plenty of body lean when you take a corner with any kind of speed
At the front of the console is an all-wheel drive mode selector which lets you choose between Auto (essentially front-wheel drive until it loses traction), AWD lock (full-time) and a low range as well. You can also hit up the Selec-Terrain system which has Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock programs and there’s a hill descent mode as well.
Speaking of the all-wheel drive system, it remains mostly invisible during regular driving but I found some highly irritating driveline friction or grinding between 50-70 km/h, particularly when I was coasting. It always showed up when accelerating on a green light and then letting off the gas to coast with traffic.
Jeep’s Trail Rated designation (available on a number of their products) doesn’t mess around. No, it doesn’t make the vehicle an automatic Wrangler competitor, but it together with the Trailhawk trim does add abilities and accessories that allow you test this little machine’s mettle on some more serious terrain than you might expect. While we didn’t do anything beyond soft-roading, it was clear that the Compass doesn’t mind getting dirty and bouncy. Its soft underbelly gets plenty of protection from a series of skid plates which cover the fuel tank, transfer case, transmission and front suspension bits. Between these things and the drive and terrain modes, we felt quite comfortable climbing over obstacles that we normally wouldn’t tackle, even in so-called crossovers or SUVs.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was somewhere in the middle. She liked the styling, saying it comes across as a teenaged Grand Cherokee, and the interior, but said she didn’t like how it drove. She said it felt cheaper than it looked.
The first Jeep Compass was not cool. I wasn’t a fan, and so I am very happy with what Jeep has done here. They have improved on the Compass in virtually every way, and although this top-trim is hitting some high notes in terms of its pricing, the Compass on the whole is a competitive little crossover with some serious off-roading chops (for this vehicle class). And just as importantly for many buyers in this category, it looks the part.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by FCA Canada.
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