- Old Compass? Put out to pasture
- No more CVT
- Trailhawk toughness
- Mini Grand Cherokee looks inside and out
- Comfortable ride quality and good handling
- Priced like a larger crossover
- Narrow inside
- High cargo area liftover
- Mediocre visibility
- Could use more power
Forget what you knew about the old Jeep Compass; this latest model is thoroughly modern, even if it doesn't exactly move the bar far forward in its segment.
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.