- Refined 6-speed automatic
- Good value
- Compact dimensions a boon in urban environments
- Dated feel inside and out
- Questionable styling
- Lackluster safety scores
The 2017 Jeep Compass hasn't aged well, and its space, performance, and especially safety are all now well below par.
In its first generation, it went down in history as one of the most unloved crossovers on the road from day one. But that's the past and, aside from its badge, the Jeep Compass is all-new for 2017.
We've waited a long time for the Compass to be rebooted and the wait has mostly been worth it. Based on its nice combination of style, ride quality, and a modicum of off-road ability, it scores a 6.8 out of 10 overall on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Compass, available in Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited trim levels, replaces both the old compass and the Patriot in Jeep's lineup. Confusingly, the old Compass was also built early in the 2017 model year, so for a brief period dealers may have both models on their lots. Our advice: unless they're halving the price of the old model, which was among the lowest vehicles we've ever rated, go for the new one.
Jeep Compass styling and performance
Jeep says that the Compass comes from its Grand Cherokee school of design, albeit with some modern twists. It boasts the same signature Grand Cherokee grille and bird-like headlamps, but the Compass' side profile is distinct thanks to an upward kick toward the rear of the passenger compartment. All models offer a black-painted roof, which adds some visual interest to what could otherwise have been a bulbously anonymous crossover.
Trailhawk models get their own front and rear bumpers, which are cut in to improve approach and departure angles for off-road use. A wide range of wheels are on offer, starting with black-painted 16-inch steel wheels for base Sports before moving up through a series of 16-, 17-, 18-, and 19-inch wheels. To say that there's plenty of rolling stock choice is an understatement.
Inside, the Compass is cut from the same cloth as the smaller Renegade with which it shares its underpinnings with a swoopy look inside. Switches and knobs are grouped together and most secondary controls are accessed via the Compass' infotainment system. In all, the screen is placed high on the dash; base models get a 5-inch unit, while higher-spec variants up that figure to 7.0 and 8.5-inch touchscreens.
Every Compass uses the same 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine rated at 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, an engine shared with the larger Cherokee. Sport and Latitude models come standard with a 6-speed stick shift—a rarity in this segment—and offer an automatic as an option. Limited and Trailhawk models are all automatics. Front-wheel drive models use a 6-speed automatic, while all-wheel drive examples use a 9-speed unit.
Speaking of Trailhawks, they're the only ones designed for real off-road use. That said, even though they have a modest 1-inch lift, gearing that replicates a low range, skid plates, and all-terrain tires, they're better suited to light trail use than rock-crawling like a Wrangler. All Compasses use a fully independent suspension and a platform derived from the smaller Renegade.
Jeep Compass comfort, features, and safety
All models we've sampled so far boast above average materials with soft-touch surfaces on their dash tops and front door panels, although predictably things are a little lower budget in the rear seat area. At around 73 inches wide, the Compass' measurements are about par for its segment, but it feels narrower inside. There's not much room for three adults to sit in the rear seat, even though there is terrific leg room and acceptable head space. Front seat riders get firm, but thinly padded seats and their compartment suffers from the same narrow feel.
Visibility is about par for the class with wide roof pillars and a high belt line giving a more claustrophobic feel inside than in, say, a Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester.
Admittedly, those two aren't really rivals for the Compass since they're both sized more like the Cherokee. But the Compass is priced about on top of some larger rivals like the CR-V, Forester, Ford Escape, and Hyundai Santa Fe. Base Sports come in just over $22,000 by the time an unusually hefty and mandatory $1,095 destination charge is applied. With all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, the cheapest Compass you're bound to see on a dealer's lot will be more like $25,000.
For that money, the Compass Sport comes with air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors, two USB ports, a 5.0-inch touchscreen audio system, keyless ignition, cloth seats, and a rearview camera. The Compass Latitude runs about $2,000 more with all-wheel drive and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a proximity key, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth/vinyl upholstery, and a number of extra-cost option packages. Limited models bring leather seats, an LCD screen in the instrument cluster, heated seats, and an 8.5-inch touchscreen for its audio system. With a few more options, the Compass tops out around $35,000.
All Compass models come with the expected anti-lock brakes and full barrage of airbags include a knee bag for the driver, plus a rearview camera. A Safety and Security group available on all but base models adds blind spot monitors with rear cross traffic detection and automatic windshield wipers. From there, the Advanced Technology Group adds HID headlights, lane departure warning that can nudge the vehicle back into its lane if it begins to drift, and automatic emergency braking. Adaptive cruise control isn't available.
Every version of the Compass is rated 30 mpg or higher on the highway and all come in at 25 mpg or higher combined, figures commendable for its segment but not quite class-leading.
2017 Jeep Compass
With its Grand Cherokee-lite looks, the Compass is pleasing but not remarkable inside and out.
Though its underpinnings may be shared with the Jeep Renegade, the 2017 Compass looks and feels more like a shrunken Grand Cherokee.
That's a good thing; we like its style inside and out and we've rated it a 7 out of 10 accordingly. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Compass' mini-me Grand Cherokee looks make it almost indistinguishable from a distance from big brother. The brand's seven-slot grille remains present (even though it's not actually functional here since all airflow comes from the bumper's opening) and it is finished in an attractive glossy black shade. That same theme is available on the Compass' roof, which can either be specified in body color or in a shiny black that's split from the rest of the body by a matte silver trim line.
Compass Sports look a little bare bones without an optional Appearance Package that adds alloy wheels, dark tinted glass, and a roof rack. Other models look suitably upmarket and offer an unusually wide choice of alloy wheels—16-, 17-, 18-, and 19-inch options are available depending on the model.
The Trailhawk model features more than just rugged tires. In addition to a modest 1-inch lift, it has its own front and rear bumpers designed to improve approach and departure angles off road. Given how low the standard bumper sits on other models (allowing for less than a 16 degree approach angle), the Trailhawk (30 degrees) is worthwhile even if you simply plan to venture up an old mining road to your favorite hiking trail.
Inside, the Compass follows Jeep's recent design language with lots of curves and organic shapes. Climate controls are grouped below the infotainment screen and in the center console, considerable real estate is taken up by a knob that modifies the traction assistance system's parameters. Jeep offers the Compass in some design-savvy interiors, but the light grey on some test models could be especially prone to marking.
2017 Jeep Compass
The Compass rides and handles well as long as you stay away from its 19-inch wheels, but it won't win a drag race.
The 2017 Jeep Compass boasts a stiff structure that endows it with an excellent ride quality, but we're less than enthralled with its only engine choice.
We've given it an extra point for that ride quality on 16- and 17-inch wheels and one more for its accurate steering, but we've deducted one for an underwhelming engine that simply doesn't feel as powerful as it is. That brings the Compass to a 6 out of 10 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Globally, Jeep plans to offer a staggering 17 different powertrain combinations on the Compass, but the American market is offered one engine and three transmissions. Under every Compass hood sits an aging 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated at 180 horsepower and 175 pound feet of torque. It's a big engine for its class and that power output looks good on paper, but in reality the Compass feels labored with just two passengers aboard. With a full load of cargo and humans, it will require a deep stab at the throttle to climb hills.
On the other hand, the 2.4-liter is nicely isolated from the Compass' cabin thanks to extensive sound deadening. Although we've yet to drive one with the standard 6-speed stick shift (Sport and Latitude models), we applaud Jeep for offering the choice. Front-wheel drive models offer a 6-speed automatic, while all-wheel drive variants are available with a 9-speed automatic. We've only driven the 9-speed. It's the same gearbox that felt clunky and confused when it first launched, but Jeep and German supplier ZF, which designed the transmission, have refined it considerably since then. Aside from some occasionally delayed downshifts—which often required stepping through a few cogs—the transmission is largely imperceptible. Compared to some lunging transmissions in competitors, we consider this a win.
Underneath, the Compass rides on a fully independent suspension tuned for on-road comfort—unless you pop for the Trailhawk. It's soft and compliant with the standard 16-inch wheels and about the same with the optional 17s. Step up to the 19s, however, with their tighter sidewall, and the ride becomes jittery and busy. Fortunately, those big wheels are an option not worth ordering since they don't really benefit the Compass in the handling department.
Although there is considerable body lean, the Compass feels checked and confident when hustled through a curvy road. Its tail felt a little more eager to step out than we would have liked, but a dialed-in stability control quickly rectifies any antics. The Jeep's thick three-spoke steering wheel hints at sporty driving dynamics that aren't there—but they aren't really necessary, either.
The Trailhawk is our favorite model. It's not a real off-roader like the Jeep Wrangler, but for the way most drivers will use it, the Trailhawk delivers a terrific on- and off-road compromise. Its suspension sits about an inch higher, giving it a decent 8.4 inches of ground clearance, while special front and rear bumpers significantly improve its approach and departure angles. A simulated low range is accessible at the press of a button, which keeps the Jeep in first gear and delivers a 20:1 crawling ratio that will be just fine for light duty use. More importantly, Trailhawks add two more modes to the traction control system that proved useful on a special off-road course that Jeep built for us.
2017 Jeep Compass
Comfort & Quality
Above average materials elevate the Compass inside, but it feels rather narrow and the cargo area is high off the ground.
Despite its trim exterior dimensions, the Compass is actually rather roomy inside and it is well-finished—even if there are definitely some compromises passengers and their cargo will have to make.
We've awarded it a point above average for its nice materials, quality feel, and rear-seat leg room, but the front seats aren't very comfortable and this crossover feels oddly narrow. That brings it to a 6 out of 10 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
First, the upside. All models boast soft-touch materials on their dashboards and front door panels. The cloth upholstery on Sport models is chunky and durable-feeling. Higher-spec versions combine cloth and vinyl or leather and cloth for a modern atmosphere. Limited models boast real leather, but it's definitely a bit budget grade.
Drivers get a height-adjustable driver's seat on all models and higher-specification variants include the same functionality for the passenger. But the seats themselves are small and not particularly comfortable thanks to their odd padding and head restraints that push forward into the driver and passengers' heads. Moreover, the seats are close to one another; while the front seat occupants probably won't brush shoulders unless they're Olympic swimmers, there's no denying that the Compass is surprisingly narrow inside.
The same is true for the second row. Two passengers will be fine thanks to excellent leg room and acceptable head room even with the optional panoramic moonroof that doesn't cut too far into the cabin. But three adults sitting abreast is wishful thinking.
With 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the second row up, the Compass comes in about par for its class. Its trunk area is nicely finished, but the 31.1 inch liftover height is rather hefty for bulky items.
2017 Jeep Compass
The expected high-tech safety equipment is available, but not standard on any model.
The Jeep Compass hasn't yet been thoroughly crash-tested, so we can't give it a score here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
All Compass models come with the expected anti-lock brakes and full barrage of airbags include a knee bag for the driver, plus a rearview camera.
The IIHS says that the Compass' crash structure holds up well and that it has good head restraints. It rates the crossover a Top Safety Pick, but only when fitted with automatic emergency braking. The Compass' standard halogen headlights rate "Poor," while the optional HIDs are rated "Marginal."
While the NHTSA has tested the older design Compass—also a 2017—it has not yet evaluated the redesigned model.
A Safety and Security group available on all but Sport adds blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert and automatic windshield wipers. From there, the Advanced Technology Group adds HID headlights, lane-departure warning that can nudge the vehicle back into its lane if it begins to drift, and automatic emergency braking. Adaptive cruise control isn't available.
2017 Jeep Compass
All models are nicely outfitted and the off-road-ready Trailhawk is a class standout.
Jeep offers four trim levels with a wide range of options on the Compass, meaning there's one for just about everyone—although it's pricey for its compact dimensions.
We've given the Compass extra points for decent base specification, a terrific infotainment system, and the complete feel of the Trailhawk package. That brings it to an 8 out of 10 in our ratings. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Sport models run a hair under $22,090 to start—that's for a manual front-wheel drive model. Adding all-wheel drive bumps the price $1,500. And there's an especially hefty mandatory destination charge on all (which we've included in our figures): $1,095. Most manufacturers charge $200-300 less for that fee.
For that money, the Compass Sport comes with air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors, two USB ports, a 5.0-inch touchscreen audio system, keyless ignition, cloth seats, and a rearview camera.
The Compass Latitude lists for about $2,000 more with all-wheel drive and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a proximity key, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth/vinyl upholstery, and a number of extra-cost option packages. Limited models bring leather seats, an LCD screen in the instrument cluster, heated seats, and an 8.5-inch touchscreen for its audio system. With a few more options, the Compass tops out around $35,000.
A wide range of packages are available on nearly all models. Kudos in particular to Jeep for making niceties like a heated steering wheel optional on even the Compass Sport.
That said, there's definitely a small premium for the Jeep nameplate. The Compass' pricing puts it pretty much on top of larger crossovers like the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.
2017 Jeep Compass
All models are rated at 25 mpg or higher combined.
The Jeep Compass checks in with fuel economy figures that are a little above class average—but not quite class-leading.
We've awarded the range a 7 out of 10 since all models net at least 25 mpg combined and 30 mpg on the highway. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Let's start with the thriftiest: the front-wheel drive stick shift model, which is rated at 23 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined. From there, the all-wheel drive manual and front-wheel drive automatic are rated using the EPA's test at the same 22/31/25 mpg.
The least thrifty is what's expected to be the most popular model, the automatic all-wheel drive: 22/30/25 mpg.
Some rivals are rated as high as 34 mpg with front-wheel drive and 32 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Automatic transmission models feature an unobtrusive start/stop system that turns off the engine to save fuel at stop lights. While the advantage of that tech generally isn't reflected in the EPA's test, it should prove useful in real-world situations. No hybrid powertrain is currently available for the Compass.