Big Improvement

Let’s be honest the outgoing Jeep Compass was nothing short of a rental fleet dud with a cheap and noisy interior and cartoonish looks. A revamp in 2011 improved things somewhat, including a new steering wheel, a new front fascia and grille with a revised hood to match, along with a new four-wheel-drive package that gave it a “Trail Rated” label.

Fast forward to 2017 and the all new 2017 Jeep Compass, now assembled in 4 different countries, is a huge improvement. Clean lines make for a sleeker profile than the Renegade, which is quite boxy and dare I say the Compass actually looks quite handsome and Jeep like. In fact, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between this new compact crossover and it’s larger brother the Grand Cherokee. The new Compass is thankfully, the replacement for the outgoing Compass and discontinued Patriot models. Our tester was a Trailhawk version with matte black roof and hood and an MSRP of $33K.

There’s only one powertrain available and that’s the 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder, and since ours was a Trailhawk it was mated to a very smooth 9-speed automatic. Front drivers get the six speed only. Power output figures of 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. are good enough but a turbocharger would make a big difference….hint hint.

How Does It Go?

You’re not going to win any drag races in this Jeep but that’s not really the point of this car. Yes it does take 9.7 seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop, and that’s quite slow, but settle down and drive at a modest pace and the Compass rewards with smooth shifts and a quiet ride. Body roll is well controlled and you can plow into corners with ample speed, with little complaint from the the relatively narrow tires. The steering is well weighted and accurate, which together with firm damping help the Compass feel more stable overall. But let’s forget on road and go where this car does best…..

We headed North out of San Diego and passed through the city of Ramona, CA. A mile East we turned left and headed North on Sutherland Dam Road a well maintained crushed granite truck tria l that winds its way past Lake Sutherland and some very pleasant views. The grades are pretty gentle and much of the road is wide enough for two cars to pass. Eventually you meet Black Canyon Road and a small truck trail which heads West around the South side of Black mountain. This is a little narrower, fairly rutted and progress is slow. Even though our Jeep had a 4 wheel low setting we didn’t use it. We did try the Compass’ Hill Descent Control however, and it works well.

Thanks to shorter and higher front and rear overhangs the Trailhawk manages a 30-degree approach angle, 24-degree breakover angle, and 34-degree departure angle, which came in very useful over some large humps in the road. The one-inch lift over other trims helped us over some technical rocky sections and all in all the Jeep did very well. June in California doesn’t offer much in the way of river crossing…most are dry at this late stage, but it’s good to know the Trailhawk can also ford 19 inches of water. Out only water crossing had a handy concrete bridge.


I was pretty impressed with the interior, it’s such a huge improvement over the old Compass. Gone are the swathes of hard plastic, replaced by nice soft feel stuff, giving a much better impression of quality. Fronts seats are excellent and as I like them suitably firm. Back seat occupants haven’t been forgotten, the chairs providing decent leg and headroom, and passengers back there get fresh air, (without having to open the window), a USB port, and a 115-volt AC outlet on the back of the center console. Surprisingly the cargo space with all seats up is bigger than in the larger Cherokee.

UConnect is still one of my favorite infotainment systems, so easy to use and I connected my phone in less time than it takes to say “Rain Sensitive Intermittent Windshield Wipers”. It’s so simple to use, has clear graphics and isn’t trying to be too clever. Add Android Auto and Car Play and it’s all you’ll ever need. Our tester had the the leather wrapped steering wheel, along with a host of goodies that took the price up to $33,065.


I like to have my expectations exceeded, I wasn’t expecting such a complete car and if you don’t mind slightly pedestrian acceleration this is a great option if you’re in the market for a small SUV. Everyone seems to love Jeep and with this new Compass they have a stronger line up than ever. Forget the Honda HRV and Hyundai Tucson, get a Trailhawk and get back to nature, before there’s none left.

2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk Numbers

VEHICLE TYPE: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
BASE PRICE: $28,595
ENGINE TYPE: 2.4 LITER, SOHC 16-valve inline-4
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
POWER: 180 hp @ 6400 rpm
TORQUE: 175 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
CARGO VOLUME: 27 cu ft
CURB WEIGHT: 3,345 lb
ZERO to 60 mph: 9.7 Seconds
EPA combined/city/highway: 25/22/30
PROS Great off-road, solid build quality
CONS Needs more power