For proof of America’s insatiable appetite for crossovers, look no further than the current Jeep Compass and Patriot twins. The crossovers made their debuts over 10 years ago, but despite their age both have continued to sell relatively well, having posted year-over-year increases in 2016. That said, the compact crossover segment is full of fancy newcomers, which is why the Patriot will soon be discontinued and the Compass will be replaced with a second-generation 2017 Jeep Compass aimed at taking a larger share of pie from competitors.
The 2017 Compass is based on a stretched version of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ small-wide 4×4 architecture that also underpins the Jeep Renegade. With a wheelbase and overall length of 103.8 and 173 inches, respectively, the new Compass sits smack dab in between the Renegade and the Cherokee. Under the hood is a carbon copy of the Renegade’s powertrain—a 2.4-liter I-4 that also makes 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive versions come standard with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed auto, and the Compass 4×4 is paired with a nine-speed automatic.
Jeep is offering the 2017 Compass in four trim levels—Sport, Latitude, Limited, and the off-road ready Trailhawk. The Compass Latitude will likely command a bulk of the sales, so we spent most our time with this model equipped with all-wheel drive and the nine-speed auto. When we tested a Renegade 4×4 with the same powertrain combo, it needed 9 seconds to run from 0 to 60 mph. The larger and heavier Compass 4×4 will likely need more time—we guesstimate a 0-60-mph jaunt closer to 10 seconds, and that’s certainly how it felt behind the wheel.
Compounding the Compass’ poky pace is the transmission’s propensity to favor and hold on to higher gears, even long after mashing the go pedal. Tweaking the gearbox’s software for better responsiveness would help here (and so would an additional 20 hp and 20 lb-ft of engine output). Tow capacity maxes out at 2,000 pounds.
On the upside, the Compass 4×4 with the nine-speed auto returns relatively good fuel economy with an EPA rating of 22/30 mpg city/highway, which is actually 1 mpg better (city and highway) than a similar Renegade. Features helping the Compass sip fuel efficiently include stop-start technology (not available on Renegade) and the 4×4’s ability to decouple the rear axle during low load conditions.
Suspension consists struts at all four corners with self-adjusting dampers that work as advertised, smoothing out road imperfections while keeping body roll at bay through the corners. Steering is on par with the segment—slightly numb with little feedback, though accurate and responsive.
Inside, the rear passenger area boasts plenty of leg and headroom and the cargo area is decent as well, providing 27.2 cubic feet of storage (increasing to 59.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down). Jeep says the Compass is the first to get the next-generation UConnect infotainment system, which showcases a brighter and sharper screen that is quick to respond to swipe-and-pinch inputs, much like a smartphone (the 2017 Compass Limited’s interior is shown below). Other tech highlights include the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a long list of driver and safety assistance features including lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
Compared to the Renegade, the Compass sports a more upscale look inside and out. Comparisons to the fancy Grand Cherokee should be common, thanks to the extensive use of exterior chromelike accents and an available blacked-out roof. The Compass doesn’t have as many fun Easter eggs as the Renegade (from our unofficial count), but there are a few.
With the new 2017 Compass, the bottom of Jeep’s lineup is clearer and more competitive. More power would be welcome, but the Compass’ overall package should make it a segment standout.