Guess who does not love compact crossovers, generally, for their woeful speed and handling? This guy.
So the 2017 Compass really had its work cut out for it when it came to CRD for a review. We were pre-biased and would’ve been tossed from a jury trial for inability to be impartial.
Our personal disdain for micro-SUVs is dead wrong based on vehicle sales charts, though.
Mini crossovers are the hottest segment of the car business these days. They are replacing huge chunks of traditional compact and midsize car sales – through their combination of coolness and capability.
Jeep is in prime position to hoover up these sales at all price points. Compass enters the range as the smallest and most affordable model.
Compass 4×4 Limited really proved itself – and overcame big odds – to become a favorite around here by the time it left.
No mystery at all: this baby Jeep was playful and confident off-road. It was spunky but refined and polished on road. And its cabin is a best-yet achievement for $20k budget busters.
HD Drive Video with Aerial Drones
Tiny but oh so chic! This new Compass scores really fantastic looks for its all-new 2017 generation. It is instantly a Jeep and shares much of its nose with the top Grand Cherokee. Fairly traditional projector-beam headlights in square housings are much more reserved than the round-eyed Renegade or over-smoothed Cherokee.
This is the goldilocks of Jeep faces: it is just right.
Our top Compass Limited has some help via all its options, mind you. The LED daytime running lights line the bottom of the bi-xenon HID lamps cleanly and discreetly. A reflector piece brings a white square to the middle of the lamps in a fresh and interesting way.
Gloss black for the slim seven-slot grille sets the right tone. Black plastic cladding all around the lower bodywork is actually pretty subtle and seems appropriate with the squared-off fenders and wheel arches.
The gloss black theme continues up top for the Compass Limited and Trailhawk top trims. Black A-, B- and C-pillars blend cleanly with the fully black roof and black tailgate spoiler.
Cleverly, the chrome window edge at the top of the doors flows rearward before plunging at the back corner of the trucklet. Black roof and body-colored D-pillar shark fin are split by this chrome upper beltline in a seriously cool way. We’d wager this look is coming soon to other Jeeps in the new few years.
Other big design tweaks versus any baby Jeep before? Giant wheels and giant doors. These open properly wide, especially in back, and make ingress/egress about 10X easier than previous-gen Compass or Patriot.
In back, Compass Limited scores LED brake lights that cheaper trims miss. They all have fairly clean lines with a smooth underbody and up-chopped rear bumper. Proves that Jeep had off-roading skill at the heart of Compass design.
It all works to create a modern, sleek Jeep that looks fresh and fairly premium worldwide.
In addition to the USA’s baby-Jeep mission for Compass, this model also spearheads Jeep’s intro to global markets as diverse as India, Brazil and Japan. This is the only Jeep available in a few of those markets. Luckily, it makes a good brand impression for first timers.
All the capability and exterior style. With none of the previous cabin and handling compromises?
If the exterior is fresh and premium, the cabin is double fresh and super premium.
This is the place where the old Compass wore the worst of old-Chrysler hard plastics, boxy looks and atrocious comfort and refinement. Let’s make clear that all that is banished for 2017 Compass.
Compass Limited is seriously quiet, smooth and comfortable. It ride smoothly and its seating provides genuine, big-car comfort. Very unlike the Chevy Trax and upcoming Ford EcoSport, then.
This Compass cabin is so impressive we wonder if the top Compass Limited is extra special. Rubber-ized vent controls like an Audi? Gloss-black accents and soft-touch plastics all around? Can this be real?
Yep, it can.
Compass is a revolution inside. Here the much-stiffer platform rigidity combines with rugged assembly quality to make this baby Jeep a class-best in comfort and refinement.
Granted, the big options (with big prices) on our test Compass make it far posher than most will be on the road. Things like a giant panoramic moonroof, auto highbeams/wipers, lane-departure warning and even auto emergency braking? This is a seriously modern mini-SUV.
Standard CarPlay, Android Auto and 8.4-inch Uconnect system on the Limited model spoil you. $900 brings Nav to the system as an option.
Beyond all these options, the basic Compass is vastly improved and a top model versus rivals. Its huge back seat is a revolution in the segment versus Rogue Sport, for example. While truly generous cargo room is impressive too. Compass skips a real spare tire on most trims, unfortunately.
A thoroughly impressive cabin experience inside. Surely the Compass will fall apart in the Performance stakes if it did so well on style and comfort?
Sorry, haters. No disappointments in Compass performance. The 2.4-liter four is admirably torquey, loves to rev and plays nicely with the nine-speed automatic. This autobox is truly sorted these days. Perky off the line performance and ultra-relaxed highway cruising. In one compact car?? Rarely.
Jeep Compass earned major points for how awesome it is on the highway. With this short wheelbase and tight turning radius, Compass should be bumpy and spastic at 80 mph. It is emphatically not.
This Compass thrums down the road in the fast lane happily, maturely and safely.
Outright speed or passing power? Not much to write home about. But that is not this car’s mission.
Its mission is to be easy in town, safe on highway and shockingly capable off-road.
Easy in town? Check. Piece of cake. Even traditional PRND shift column is classic quality versus modern weirdness. The 4×4 system with Lock functionality and Sandy drive mode was a perfect fit for the back roads to a secret lake in South Carolina.
The 4×4 is basically AWD, technically, but is genuinely good at locking power to the rear end. This made slidey work of some gravel roads and brought huge grins with its four-wheel-drifts.
When actually off-road in tall grass and over huge mud ruts, Compass’s tight overhangs and great visibility made it a piece of cake. No getting stuck, no scraping the bottom over rocks. Just pure Jeep goodness off-road.
A last happy surprise is how planted and confident Compass is around fast corners. This Jeep really loves fast bends in ways the Renegade and even Cherokee do not. The steering is truthful, balance is decent and all-independent suspension feels like it is working all four shocks while rounding bends. You can’t take this for granted in offroaders, especially Jeeps.
Compass is better than you’d ever imagine it could be.
So, here is the only place Compass shocked us… in a bad way. The pricing is ambitious.
$30k is the base for 4×4 Limited spec, and the big moonroof, Beats Audio, power tailgate, optional spare tire, $900 Nav and $1600 in safety options takes the total to $35,355 out-the-door. This is high for such a tiny machine.
Then again, things like active safety galore or luxuries like glass roof and auto everything are usually not even available on mini SUVs. Or mid-size SUVs, in truth. RAV4 is missing at least 15 of the Compass Limited’s features — even in top spec for the Toyota. RAV4 is also much larger and usually tops out about $32k, mind you.
Any “Dart AWD Wagon” jabs are blatantly false with this generation of Compass. We were sure that Compass would be awful when it arrived this summer to raves from other auto journalists. And sure it would deeply disappoint when it arrived out front the other week.
When you’re wrong, you’re wrong though! And we were very wrong.
This 2017 Jeep Compass 4×4 Limited defies the CUV curse. It is actually Wrangler-ish fun to flog on road or off, and grows up into a Grand Cherokee on the highway.
Be selective on the options charts is our only advice when shopping Compass. Otherwise, this baby Jeep should be your top choice in this booming segment. It seems Jeep’s long history really does pay dividends – making a compact crossover that is as good in town as it is on the trails.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.