If you like small crossover/SUV’s, you’re living in the golden age. Where most manufacturers were once happy to offer one model, it seems like many are doubling – or tripling – down, to give you your own perfect blend of goodness.
And that includes Jeep. Here we have an all-new Jeep Compass. Originally introduced in 2007, the Compass was sort of a slapped-together version based on the Dodge Caliber. More tall wagon than true ‘ute, it still proved to be very popular with buyers, but kind of felt out of place with the Jeep Brand.
Fast forward 10 years, and now we have the smaller Jeep Renegade and larger Jeep Cherokee offering real SUV attitude and capability. It’s certainly time for the Compass to step up and be part of the family.
So, is the Jeep Compass pointed in the right direction?
Well, it certainly doesn’t look adopted any more. Riding on an extended wheelbase of the stubby Renegade – which is a Fiat – the lines are much more in line with the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, with crisp modern lines, that border on sleek.
Adding a little butch to that elegant, our tester was the off-road, credential-carrying Trailhawk edition. Sitting a little higher, and rolling on 17-inch polished black alloys, the T-hawk shows its intentions with visible red tow hooks and skid plates protecting the oily bits. Finishing off the look, a flat black patch on the hood and two-tone black roof add a tough vibe.
And as an added bonus, Jeep hides some styling cues inside and out as Easter eggs to add to your enjoyment.
The Great Indoors
While the Compass may look tough as nails on the outside, the interior aims for upscale and plush. There’s plenty of room to stretch out front and back, and the design is fresh and modern. As you’d expect there are an analogue tach and speedo flanking a digital driver’s display, while a massive 8.4-inch touchscreen dominates the center console.
Like every other Dodge/Jeep/Chrysler product we’ve had, the Uconnect info-tainment system works quickly and flawlessly, and is one of the best in the industry. Underneath, the switchgear is logically-laid out, simple to understand, and would be easy to use, even with bulky gloves on. Jeep understands where their vehicles live.
The steering wheel and shift lever are beefy, leather-wrapped affairs, and feel good to the touch. And the leather seats were surprisingly soft and plush. What otherwise might be a dark interior was brightened up on our tester with the optional Panoramic Dual Sunroof, which floods the cabin with light.
The overall boxy design pays off with a spacious cargo area with the rear seat up, and a massive hold with the rears folded down. The Trailhawk’s tall stance means the load height is taller than other small SUV’s, but it’s nothing we found to be a major problem.
Built for the Great Outdoors
Small SUV usability? Check. But so do a lot of competitors. What makes the Compass stand out? Allow us to point you towards the little badge on the flank that says “Trail Rated”. This comes with the Trailhawk package, and it’s more than just a piece of plastic.
Jeep holds every Trail Rated vehicle to specific standards in ground clearance, articulation, maneuverability and toughness, and they say the Compass was built from the ground up to be the most capable compact SUV ever.
With 8.5 inches of ground clearance, an advanced 4X4 system with settings including Rock, Snow, Sand, Mud and Auto, plus 4WD low, 4WD lock and hill-descent, you feel that no matter where you go, you’re Trailhawk will see you there and back. That’s a tremendous amount of confidence when you’re behind the wheel, even if you’re just hitting light rain or a few flurries on your commute.
Another reason we love the Trailhawk model is the long travel suspension that gives you a creamy-smooth ride, even in bumpy stuff, while the steering has a nicely-weighted feel that’s precise and reinforces that go-anywhere, no-sweat vibe.
That said, if you never plan on going off road, or your locale doesn’t include poor weather, we might recommend opting for a 2WD Compass model. The 4WD system adds weight, and like the Nissan Rogue Sport we tested recently, it’s enough to make it feel pokey at times.
Under the Jeep’s hood is a 2.4-liter, 180 hp, four cylinder, connected to a 9-speed automatic. With the nine cogs, around town acceleration is fine, but you have to work it hard to get up to freeway speeds. Still with our lead-footing, we averaged 23 mpg, pretty impressive for a heavy 4WD vehicle.
Will the price make me head for the hills?
Nope. The Compass en-compasses (sorry..) a wide range of trims, so you can build one to your liking. One of our favorites is the entry-level Sport model. You get the same 2.4-liter, Tigershark engine like our tester, cool-looking black 16-inch steel wheels, 5-inch touchscreen, back up camera, remote entry and push button start. A tough-looking small SUV starting at just $20,995. You build from there with the Latitude model, $24,295, and the luxurious Limited model at $27,595.
Add $1,500 for 4WD.
The Trailhawk starts at $28,695 and includes 4-wheel drive, plus Active Drive Low and Selec-Terrain Traction Management System, off-road suspension, hill descent control, skid plates and Ruby Red tow hooks. Everest awaits.
Our tester was ready for more than Everest, with an arm’s-length list of options, including Advanced Safety and Lighting Group, which includes Lane Departure and Full Speed Forward Collision Warning ($895), Safety and Security Group which adds Blind Spot Warning, Cross Path Detection and Park Assist ($795), Leather Interior Group ($1,295), Navigation Group ($895), Preferred Equipment Group with Remote Engine Start and Auto-dimming Rearview Mirror ($395), Power liftgate ($495) Cold Weather Group ($395) and Dual Panoramic Sunroof ($1,295). Add in $1,095 for Destination Charge and our tester came in at $35,950.
When you consider that a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk starts at $30,995, and your most basic Grand Cherokee at $30,995, it might pay to be judicious with the options.
To help sway you, Jeep Wave Equipped is standard on all Compass Trailhawks, which includes 24/7 support through a dedicated number with live chat, oil changes and tire rotations, first-day rental allowance and $1,000 of trip interruption coverage, VIP treatment at a series of nationwide events featuring Jeep Brand vehicles, and up to $500 savings in member discounts. Cool.
With its Jeep-ness, awesome capabilities, and sleek design, the new Jeep Compass is pointed exactly where you want to go.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.