2017 Jeep Compass

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Jeep, a brand that builds nothing but more than capable SUVs, is absolutely booming. Overall sales are up for the seventh year in a row, including three straight years of one million vehicles sold, with a record breaking 1.4 million in 2016. It doesn’t hurt that American car buyers have made a dramatic shift from traditional family sedans to utility vehicles; the hottest segments are compact and subcompact crossovers.

For proof, we only need to look at sales of the recently introduced subcompact Jeep Renegade, which now leads the segment with more than 106,000 sold last year. And, amazingly, Jeep Compass achieved sales of 94,000 with a model that remained well past its freshness date and mostly unchanged for over a decade.

Now at last, there’s an all-new Compass going on sale this month. In size, it slots between the Renegade and Jeep Cherokee, with a new design language that looks like Jeep designers shrunk the upscale flagship Grand Cherokee. With this change Jeep discontinues the boxy Patriot model.

The new Compass will be offered in Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited trim levels and sold with four interior design color palettes: Urbex, a dark tan with lighter accents for urban explorers; Sandstorm, with a big hex design Sedoso cloth seats and accent colors on the instrument panel; Trailhawk, black with red accents and a premium Alpine leather interior, white with blue-black contrasting color. Overall the interior is massively improved, and looks upscale with impressive materials and build quality.

Front and rear seat room is more than ample and easily accommodated my 6-6 frame in comfort. But models equipped with the large dual-pane sunroof minimize headroom.

All four trim levels will be powered by a 2.4-liter Tigershark 180-horsepower and four-cylinder engine with 175 lb-ft torque. A six-speed automatic transmission
is standard in front-wheel drive models. 4x4 models get Jeep’s nine-speed automatic with Active Drive. It’s a full-time system that allows for front-drive or all-wheel drive, depending on conditions; for more serious all-wheel drive off-roading, Active Drive Low is available only on the Trailhawk. A six-speed manual is optional on all models. Start-stop technology is standard on automatic transmission models.

I drove all models except the Sport in sunny San Antonio, with a combination of highway, two-lane and rugged off-road ranch paths in the rural hilly surroundings. Highway travel delivered a refined, smooth, quiet ride with excellent visibility, minimum body roll and secure handling.

Off road, the Trailhawk model adds a Rock mode drive selection
to the standard Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud driving modes standard on other all-wheel-drive Compass models. We selected Rock mode as we negotiated muddy bogs, small running streams, sharply angled, near vertical boulder paths where the Compass confirmed the Trail Rated creds affixed to the front fender.

Confusingly, Jeep has chosen to keep the older Compass model on sale also as a 2017 model for the next few months. But the new Compass is an excellent choice for those seeking a subcompact utility vehicle with all the features, technology, safety and capability usually found in vehicles costing thousands more.

Vital Stats

Price: $22,090  - $30,090
Price as Tested: $34,260 (Limited 4x4 trim level)
Seating: 5
Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 180-horsepower
Fuel Economy: 22-MPG City – 30-MPG Highway

Competes With

Hyundai Tucson
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
Subaru Crosstrek

Fab Features

Impressive off-road capabilities
High-end interior and exterior styling
Excellent ride, handling and comfort

— Jim Prueter