Jeep has remade its Compass and moved it from near the bottom of the small crossover sport-utility list to much nearer the top.
The former Compass didn’t impress in any way, while the new Compass starts by looking like a miniature Jeep Grand Cherokee with a handsome 7-bar grille and well-proportioned profile. But it’s much more refined than its predecessor with a quiet and roomy interior and good behavior over the road, plus some ability to go off road, if needed.
Compass slots between the small, but cute, Renegade and the handsome more futuristic looking Cherokee. That means the interior is more people friendly too, and, somewhat ironically, the new Compass has more cargo room behind the rear seat than the Cherokee. It’s simply a pleasant vehicle to drive and ride in.
If shopping right now, be aware there may be some confusion if you go to a dealer asking simply for a 2017 model. Both the old, and new Compass models are being sold as 2017s. Make sure you try the newer version, although the former models should be on deep clearance.
Mine was the Latitude with 4-wheel drive. Here the power comes from a 2.4-liter, Multi-Air I4 that creates a healthy 180 horsepower. Not fast, but sufficient for all city and highway driving. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard on Compass, a rarity in today’s market. But the bright red test vehicle added a 9-sped automatic for $1,500. Shifts were smooth, but acceleration is modest as the new tranny works to save fuel, and it does a great job of that. I got 27.4 miles per gallon in a week’s drive and spent about 60% of my time on the highway. The EPA rates the Compass at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Both numbers seem achievable. The Compass also features stop-start technology to save gas while the vehicle is at rest.
Handling is fine too, with a little play in the wheel, but a well-weighted steering effort that fit the crossover well. There isn’t much body roll in turns either, so the Compass feels well planted and with 4-wheel-drive gives you sloppy weather stability too. There’s a dial on the console to allow the driver to choose from four AWD settings. Automatic will be used most, but Mud and Snow are other options, if you stray from the road. You have to move up to the pricey TrailHawk model to get the Rock setting and true off-roading ability.
Jeep reports ground clearance at a healthy 8.2 inches and Car and Driver magazine puts it at 8.5 inches. Either way, you can skedaddle over dirt and gravel trails and roads, such as in county or state parks.
Ride is mostly fine too. Compass features a 103.8-inch wheelbase, just a smidge longer than before and about the same as a Subaru Forester and other small to mid-size crossovers. But the suspension tames most area roads and never become harsh or severe. In fact, the suspension seems a bit on the soft side to me in that there’s more bounce after a major bump than a straight shot to the solar plexus. That’s refreshing in a Jeep, but can surprise the driver a bit.
Inside the Compass is quiet and comfortable, moreso than many a small crossover or ute. Jeep creates a handsome and user-friendly interior with the tested red Compass featuring a black cloth interior with the seats trimmed in leather. Stitching here was gray and brown on the seats and brown on the thick leather steering wheel. Trim was matte silver
Road noise was well hushed and there was no wind noise to speak. Several riders of various size commented on the Compass’s comfy confines. Head and legroom were both good front and rear and the front seats were mildly supportive, the driver’s being powered and the passenger’s being manual. The power seat is part of a Popular Equipment package that bumps up the size of the touchscreen (more on that) plus adds remote start, dual-zone climage controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and 115-volt power outlet. The package runs $995.
Jeep’s dash is easy to see and understand and there’s a large, 8.4-inch touchscreen for radio and navigation. That’s an upgrade that’s part of the $995 navigation group that includes the matte or gun metal interior accents, GPS, Uconnect, satellite radio plus both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for synching a cell phone.
There’s push-button start here, and the radio has big volume and tuning knobs, which simplified radio operation. On the down side, the radio must be on to view the navigation and climate control settings, a downer.
For those who like their jams, the test vehicle upgraded to a Beats premium audio system, a $695 extra.
More important are the safety upgrades, including blind-spot and cross-path detection systems. Those plus rain-sensing wipers, security system and ParkSense to assist while backing up are a $795 package, and well worth it. My only complaint would be the blind-spot system’s loud warning beeps. Many vehicles now just use a light to alert the driver and this was so disconcerting that passengers often blurted out, “What’s that for?”
One other concern is the giant A-pillar, which feels and looks massive. It not only is wide, but thick so it angles out toward the interior considerably.
I also wished there had been a sunroof. Considering Jeeps are known for their roofless and open-air motifs, it just seems mandatory to me in keeping with the brand.
But starting at $24,295 the Latitude seems a reasonable bargain for families looking for comfortable transportation plus AWD. There’s a $1,095 delivery fee too and this one added quite a few options to hit $31,210. Still, that competes well with Subaru’s Forester and other small utes and crossovers.
The base Sport model begins at $22,090 and comes with the 6-speed manual and front-wheel drive. A TrailHawk lists at $29,690 and gives you skid plates for off-road protection, more ground clearance, Falken Wildpeak H/T tires and a crawl mode for conquering rocky terrain. The ultimate Compass, for now, is the Limited, listing at $30,090 and featuring more luxury features, including most of the options that were on this Latitude model.
FAST STATS: 2017 New Jeep Compass Latitude 4×4
Hits: Roomy, quiet and looks like a miniature Grand Cherokee. Good power, smooth shifts, OK handling, 4 adjustments for 4WD, comfy seats and good gas mileage.
Misses: Giant A-pillar, radio must be on to see navigation system and temp settings, blind-spot warning beeps are really loud, no sunroof (I thought this was a Jeep).
Made in: Toluca, Mexico
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 3,184-3,345 lbs.
Length: 173.0 in.
Wheelbase: 103.8 in.
Cargo: 27.2 cu.ft., 59.8 cu.ft. (rear seats down)
MPG: 22/30 (EPA)
MPG: 27.4 (tested)
Base Price: $24,295
Invoice: $24,953 (includes delivery)
Safety/Security group (ParkSense rear park assist, blind spot and cross path detection, rain-sensing wipers, security alarm), $795
Navigation group (gun metal interior accents, GPS nav, Uconnect, 8.4-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Sirius/XM radio/guardian service 1-year sub, 5-year Travel Link sub, Traffic Plus), $995
Popular equipment group (4-way power lumbar, 8-way power driver’s seat, 7-inch color info center, remote start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, 115-volt auxiliary power outlet), $995
9-speed automatic transmission (includes leather steering wheel, AutoStick, rear seat air vents, $1,500
Beat premium audio system, $695
Compact spare tire, $245
17-inch polished granite pocket aluminum wheels, $595
Test Vehicle: $31,210
Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage