If it seems like the Jeep Compass has been living on borrowed time for years, well, it has been. Envisioned as a more style-oriented sibling to the boxy Jeep Patriot, the Compass has been on the market for a decade and is long overdue for a redesign.
Jeep will sell two Compass SUVs in the 2017 model year. We'll call the older model Compass X; a new Compass emerged early in 2017.
Like the Patriot, it scores very low—a 4.3 out of 10 overall. The score comes as much from its awkward styling and sluggish performance as its questionable safety record, though its low price is initially tempting. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
But here's where it gets confusing: Jeep has unveiled an all-new Compass that went on sale and is also badged as a 2017 model.
With that replacement, Jeep slimmed down the Compass lineup last year. For 2017, things remain essentially the same—including the curious renewal of an appearance package celebrating the brand's 75th birthday (which was in 2016). Sport, Sport SE, 75th Anniversary, Latitude, and High Altitude trim levels are available.
2017 Jeep Compass styling and performance
And that replacement can't come soon enough. While the Compass has some virtues, styling really isn't one. For 2011, about halfway through its model cycle (which has been, incidentally, more than twice as long as a typical small crossover), the Patriot gained a new, more Grand Cherokee-influenced style. It's still somewhat trapezoidal with softened details and a generally confused sense of design direction. Things get better inside, although again the Compass is a relic against more modern rivals like the Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, and even Jeep's own Renegade.
The first few years of Compass were known for their coarse, buzzy engines, and sluggish continuously variable transmission (CVT). Refinement has improved, but the base powertrain on the Compass remains a 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4, while a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated at 172 hp is optional. A 5-speed manual gearbox, a relative rarity these days, is standard with front- or all-wheel drive and with either engine, while a 6-speed is optional and will probably be most common on a dealer lot.
That CVT remains available as part of the Freedom Drive II package that gives the Compass more off-road capability at the expense of both fuel economy and on-road drivability.
The 5-speed is fine and helps deliver up to 30 mpg on the highway in a front-wheel-drive Compass. The 6-speed was a welcome improvement over the CVT that used to be the only automatic gearbox, and it continues to deliver a surprisingly high degree of refinement. The CVT, on the other hand, is among the worst we've encountered, resulting in a hefty dose of an undesirable "rubber band" effect—and it forces an already unrefined 4-cylinder gas engine to stay high in the rev range in many driving situations.
2017 Jeep Compass comfort, safety, and features
Part of what helps the Compass feel so dated dated is that passengers sit far deeper below the belt line here than in many newer crossover or small-SUV models. Front seat comfort is merely adequate, while the rear bench is one of the hardest, flattest ones we've tested in such a vehicle. Moreover, a height-adjustable driver's seat is optional and middle seat rear bench passengers have to fight with a cupholder (and outboard passengers) for leg room.
All Compasses have acoustic laminated front windshield glass, which incrementally helps subdue this model's ongoing issues with engine noise. But that's about as far as the refined feel goes. The 2011 update saw a blocky dashboard thrown out in favor of a more organic design and some soft-touch materials on the door panels. Overall, though, there's not an especially high-quality feel to the Compass, even when outfitted with optional leather seats.
Its safety record is hard to stand by. While front active head restraints, electronic stability control, and Hill Start Assist are standard on all models of the Compass, its three-star frontal results from the federal government are cause for hesitation. The IIHS hasn't tested the Compass, but its Patriot sibling performed well in most of the agency's crash tests but was rated a "Poor" in the more demanding small overlap frontal test. Additionally, no collision avoidance technology is available and even a rearview camera is on the options list for all Compass trim levels.
Jeep has slimmed down the number of ways you can order the Compass to five trim levels. For whatever reason, Jeep positions the Compass slightly more upmarket than the Patriot—but there are no exclusive features to this model not found on the boxier Patriot. Instead, what's optional on the Patriot—namely, air conditioning—is instead standard on the Compass.
The Sport trim level also includes Bluetooth connectivity (including audio streaming) and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The Sport SE adds to that heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 18-inch alloy wheels. From there, the 75th Anniversary adds a power sunroof and a host of attractive appearance upgrades. However, all three of those models force buyers to pay extra for power windows and locks—an oddity in 2017.
The Latitude includes those power accessories and a trip computer, but it is also available with a few more luxurious features like automatic climate control, a navigation system, and a Boston Acoustics Radio. The High Altitude builds on the Latitude with standard leather seats and a bunch of additional appearance items.
The main option worth discussing is the Freedom Drive II Off Road Group, which adds the aforementioned CVT, skid plates, tow hooks, and all-terrain tires. The CVT is included because it allows Jeep to simulate a proper two-speed transfer case's low range for more serious off-road duty. But if rock crawling's your thing, the Jeep Wrangler makes more sense—or a standard Compass with four-wheel drive will get you to most trailheads without subjecting you to the CVT.
Unless you want a stick shift, the base 2.0-liter engine, and front-wheel drive, you won't find a lot of fuel efficiency in the Compass. That model leads the charts at 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined. The volume model is instead the 2.4-liter with front- or four-wheel drive and the 6-speed automatic. Send power to the front wheels and you'll see 21/27/23 mpg, while the wet weather-friendly four-wheel-drive model knocks those numbers down to just 20/25/22 mpg.
The Freedom Drive II model, meanwhile, comes in at just 20/23/21 mpg—figures more on par with a full-size, three-row crossover these days.
- 2017 Hyundai Tucson
- 2017 Nissan Juke
- 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
- 2017 Subaru Crosstrek
- 2017 MINI Countryman
The 2017 Jeep Compass' base price may not be much lower than some of its rivals, but this dated model is usually subject to heavy discounts. That can work in your favor if a good deal is your bottom line, but it's worth shopping rivals. The Subaru Crosstrek is a little more car-like on road without sacrificing much (if anything) off road, and it is available with all of the latest safety and convenience technologies. So too sporty the Mazda CX-5, which, like the Subaru is available with a stick shift. The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are a little pricier than the Jeep but reveal their refinement quickly. And if you're set on staying in the Jeep showroom, the brand's Renegade has more personality, safety, comfort, and refinement.