2017 Jeep CompassPosted on February 24th, 2017
New compact crossover is a serious off-road machine
By Nina Russin
The 2017 Jeep Compass replaces the former Compass and Jeep Patriot no longer in production: positioned between the smaller Jeep Renegade and larger Cherokee.
The newest member of the Jeep family is built on the automaker’s small wide 4X4 architecture, providing the unibody vehicle with a rigid platform for good steering response on-road and a minimal flex for off-road trails.
There are four grades- Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited, with pricing starting at $20,995 for the two-wheel drive Sport. The off-road capable Trailhawk starts at $28,595, just below the upscale Limited priced from $28,995.
The Compass shares a 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with the Jeep Renegade, and comes with three available transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic and nine-speed automatic.
Test drive in Texas hill country
At a recent media event, I drove the Compass Limited, Latitude and Trailhawk models through Texas hill country outside of San Antonio. Our drive route included San Antonio city streets and freeways, two-lane rural roads and highways outside of town and off-road trails.
The Compass is geared towards buyers with active lifestyles who want the car-like handling of a unibody vehicle on-road with some serious off-road capability.
Both our Latitude and Limited test cars came with the nine-speed automatic. Engineers chose the nine-speed gearbox for optimum fuel economy on the upscale Limited. The transmission also gives the Trailhawk a low enough first gear that, combined with a slightly higher final drive ratio, has the power to propel the vehicle over obstacles when one or more wheels are off the ground.
We drove the Limited model out of San Antonio to the off-road driving area. Equipped with leather seating, an 8.4′ center stack screen featuring the latest version of uConnect, Android Auto Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth, it makes for a well-equipped daily commuter.
Active safety features on the test car included a rearview camera with cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring that make it easier to weave through daily rush-hour traffic.
The 2.4-liter engine has been tuned for better fuel economy. An automatic on-off feature when the car is stopped at a traffic light improves the city mpg even further. While the engine has adequate power on the high end, it tends to feel anemic during hard acceleration off the line. We would love to see Jeep add a turbocharged block to the Compass: similar to the powertrain strategy for the smaller Renegade.
An electric power steering system provides ample assist at lower speeds for excellent maneuverability. We performed a couple of U-turns on narrow rural road with ease. On-center response at higher speeds is on the soft side, but the driver by no means feels disconnected from the vehicle.
The Compass suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and in the back, Chapman strut steel links with an isolated cradle for 4X4 models and coil springs. The setup does an excellent job of combining a smooth ride on paved roads while providing the combination of wheel travel and robustness necessary for covering trails off-road.
Its off-road performance is what distinguishes the Compass from the growing pack of compact crossovers and makes it a true Jeep. Engineers added ground clearance to the trail-specific Trailhawk model, modified front and rear fascias for better approach and departure angles and added tow hooks. Smaller wheels are fitted with trail-specific tires with larger blocks and void areas and taller sidewalls.
Our off-road course consisted of some steep inclines and declines that required locking the differential and engaging hill descent control. Using the rock setting on the terrain control system makes the transmission hold onto first gear longer, giving the vehicle better traction in sections where two wheels were off the ground.
The Compass can ford up to 19-inches of water. Skid plates underneath the Trailhawk chassis protect sensitive chassis components from damage.
The biggest difference between the Jeep Compass and Renegade is in second-row passenger space and a larger cargo bay. For buyers with active lifestyles carry camping gear as well as kayaks, snowboards and bicycles, that’s a pretty important difference.
Standard upholstery material is cloth, although the Limited grade is available with leather. As an athlete living in the desert Southwest, I prefer cloth: easier to clean and not as uncomfortably hot in the middle of summer.
Access and egress to both rows of seating is good, with a low hip point. A low lift-over height makes it easier to load large items into the cargo area.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight. The Limited model comes with a large panoramic sunroof that brings additional ambient light into the interior.
I found driver’s seat adjustments on all three models easy to use with plenty of lower lumbar support. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view and safe distance from the front airbag.
The 2017 Jeep Compass comes with seven airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, electronic roll mitigation, hill start assist, a rear backup camera, tire pressure monitoring and trailer sway control. Towing capacity is 2000 pounds.
The all-new Compass rolls into dealerships the second quarter of this year.
Like: An affordably priced compact crossover with versatile interior, good road manners and exceptional off-road capability
Dislike: Engine feels anemic during hard acceleration.
Base price: $20,995
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 180 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 175 lbs.-ft. @ 3900 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: TBD2017, Best Value Offroad 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Compass, Jeep, Latitude, Limited, performance, pricing, standard safety, Trailhawk