The Jeep Compass compact crossover moves into a new generation for 2017, replacing not just the original Compass in the lineup, but also the Jeep Patriot, which has been discontinued.
Jeep introduced the first Compass for 2007, based on the chassis of the now also-discontinued Dodge Caliber compact hatchback, and the two were nearly identical underneath, including the same drivetrain. But the body of the Compass was made to look like a Jeep, even though it was not intended for serious off-road use.
It’s even more Jeep-like with the complete redesign for 2017, and continues to have the signature seven-slot grille, but with a new look.
Dimensions are nearly identical to the model it replaced, with a length of 173 inches, down about a half-inch from the previous generation. The interior is roomier, and the cargo area has 27.2 cubic feet of space, up about 5 cubic feet from before. That expands to 59.8 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.
Four trim levels are available: the base Sport, which starts at $20,995 (plus $1,095 freight) for the front-drive version, and $22,495 with the simplest four-wheel-drive system; the Latitude ($24,295, front- or four-wheel drive); Trailhawk ($28,595, 4WD only); and Limited ($28,995, 4WD only), which we tested for this report.
Under the hood of all models is the 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine from the previous model, rated at 180 horsepower and 175 foot-pounds of torque. On the Sport and Latitude front-drive models, a six-speed manual gearbox is standard. Sport models can upgrade to a six-speed Aisin automatic for $1,500, while Latitude models can get the nine-speed automatic for $1,500.
With the makeover, the new Compass gets the beefier Jeep styling similar to the larger Cherokee, rather than the more-carlike exterior of the previous generation. It just looks more like a Jeep vehicle now.
Only the Trailhawk model has a four-wheel-drive system — called Jeep Active Drive Low — that earns the vehicle Jeep's “Trail Rated” designation. Although it doesn’t come with a two-speed transfer case for low-range gearing, it does offer a low gear — with a 20:1 crawl ratio — that gives it capabilities similar to the traditional off-road “low-low” gearing.
The other four-wheel drive system – included in the Limited model -- is called Jeep Active Drive, and is intended primarily for on-road driving, especially on snow, ice or wet pavement. It also is capable of limited off-road duties, but does not feature the low gear provided with the Trailhawk’s system.
The Trailhawk also includes more-aggressive exterior styling, higher approach and departure angles, an inch more ground clearance, underbody skid plates, and red front and rear tow hooks. It has special 17-inch wheels, and 19 inches of water-fording capability,
With both of the four-wheel-drive systems also comes Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction-control system. Using a dial on the center console, the driver can choose among four modes on the Active Drive — Automatic, Sand, Sport or Sand/Mud — or five on the Trailhawk’s Active Drive Low, which adds a Rock mode.
There is a disconnecting rear axle and power take-off unit with both of the systems to bring better fuel economy when the extra traction of the four-wheel drive is not needed. The Active Drive and Active Drive Low systems instantly re-engage when wheel slippage is detected and extra traction is needed.
Inside, the Compass seats up to five, but only four can ride in true comfort. The middle rear position is a tight fit for adults when people are riding in the two outboard positions.
Our Limited model came with leather front bucket seats with perforated-leather inserts. There is an eight-way power driver’s seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment. Both front seats are heated, as is the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The rear bench seat includes a pull-down center armrest that brings a pair of cupholders. There are single bottle holders in all four doors, and a map pocket in the back of the driver’s seat.
The Compass offers the fourth-generation Uconnect infotainment system, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the choice of 5-, 7- or 8.4-inch touch screens with pinch-and-zoom capability.
Jeep says the new Compass has a rigid unibody setup – in which the body and frame are combined into a single structure – with extensive use of high-strength steel and modern structural adhesives. This translates into a quieter ride, better handling, and increased crashworthiness, among other attributes.
The exterior was designed with a “fast, dramatic roofline and muscular fenders and shoulders,” Jeep says, and there is an available Gloss Black painted roof, as well as an optional Command View dual-pane sunroof ($1,295), which was included on our tester. It comes close to opening the entire roof for an almost convertible-like ride.
There are new LED taillights (optional), and a power-operated liftgate ($495), also included on our vehicle, offering easy access to the cargo compartment.
Other standard features on our Limited model included a backup camera, rear defroster, remote keyless/proximity entry with pushbutton start, speed-sensitive automatic door locks, windshield wiper de-icer, electric park brake, tilt/telescopic steering column, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
There is a 60/40-split-folding rear seatback that allows for expansion of the cargo area.
Outside, there are power-adjustable/heated mirrors, a single exhaust outlet with bright tip, halogen quad headlights (automatic, with delayed off), fog and cornering lights, and 18-inch polished gray pocket aluminum wheels.
Our car came with the Redline Pearl Coat exterior paint (no extra charge), and a black interior.
Besides the sunroof and power liftgate, options on our test vehicle included the Advanced Safety and Lighting Group ($895), which added advanced brake assist, lane-departure warning, full-speed forward collision warning, the LED taillights, Bi-Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights with LED signature, and automatic high beams.
The Safety and Security Group ($745) brought the ParkSense Rear Park Assist System, Blind Spot and Cross-Path Detection, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
We also had the Navigation Group ($895), the Beats premium audio ($695), and a compact spare tire ($245).
Total sticker price of our test vehicle was $35,355, including freight and options.
We didn’t have the opportunity to try any off-roading with our Compass Limited, but did give it a workout on some fun, twisty country roads. Roadhandling was better than I expected, and the ride was smooth and quiet at highway speeds.
The 2.4-liter engine coupled with the nine-speed automatic transmission gave us more-than-adequate power for some hilly routes we took, and for passing on the two-lane back roads.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the Limited with this powertrain are 22 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined. We averaged 24.7 mpg with about an equal mix of city and highway driving.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Jeep Compass
The package: Compact, five-door, five-passenger, four-cylinder, front- or four-wheel-drive crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: The Compass is all-new for 2017. It‘s a compact family hauler that has good power, decent fuel economy, a roomy interior, and Jeeplike styling.
Negatives: Can get pricey with all the options; not suited for serious off-road use except with the Trailhawk version.
Engines: 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual (standard, two-wheel-drive models); six-speed automatic (optional, 2WD); nine-speed automatic (standard, 4WD models).
Power/torque: 180 HP/175 foot-pounds.
Length: 173 inches.
Curb weight: 3,184-3,633 pounds.
Cargo volume: 27.2 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 59.8 cubic feet (rear seat folded).
Trailer towing capacity: 2,000 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Side curtain standard, both rows; seat-mounted side air bags, front row.
Fuel capacity/type: 13.5 gallons/unleaded regular.
EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg city/32 highway/26 combined (manual, 2WD); 22/31/25 (manual, 4WD); 22/31/25 (6-speed auto/2WD); 22/30/25 (9-speed auto, 4WD).
Major competitors: Subaru Forester, Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3/CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Honda HR-V/CR-V, Mazda Rogue Sport.
Base price range: $20,995-$28,995, plus $1,095 freight.
Price as tested: $35,355, including freight and options (Limited).
On the Road rating: 8.4 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.