It's a new day and all-new, next-generation effort for Jeep's 2017 compact Compass crossover.
Compass finds itself at the right place at the right time as compact crossover sales across the board are churning. Decent cargo-carrying volume and friendly mileage estimates create an inviting combination.
All are eyeing to catch two early entries and perennial segment sales leaders; Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. There's plenty of room at the party as 'Cute Ute' sales are predicted to grow by 20 percent globally by 2020.
Compact crossovers, like Compass, ride on car-based platforms. Large Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) utilize heavier, bulkier and bouncier body-on-frame architecture allowing for rugged off-pavement travel. Jeep's iconic compact Wrangler borrows heavily from this architecture, designed for off-road rock-n-roll.
While Wrangler's off-road chops are well appreciated, Compass is all-too-happy to integrate some of Jeep's off-road know-how into a uni-body, crossover platform providing one of the most capable crossovers for those appreciating the lighter side off-roading.
Prior to the 2017 model year, both Compass and Jeep's Patriot shared the compact crossover spotlight. For 2017, Jeep quietly retires Patriot, allowing Compass to now enjoy center stage as a solo act. Parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) expects big returns from its newly redesigned compact crossover.
This 2017, second-generation Compass rides on a Fiat-based platform. Previous generations shared underpinnings with the Dodge Caliber, a five-door crossover/hatchback which ended production five years ago. Jeep's first-generation Compass debuted in the 2007 model year.
Size wise, Compass slots between the subcompact Renegade and Cherokee, which straddles a smallish mid-size or sizable compact measurements.
A global vehicle now sold in more than 100 countries, assembly takes place at four production plants worldwide. Vehicles sold in the U.S. call Toluca, Mexico its production home. The first generation home was in nearby Belvedere Illinois. While losing Compass (and the discontinued Patriot) production, Belvedere gains Jeep Cherokee assembly.
Jeeps iconic seven bar grille highlights the front. No circular headlights though, as wrap-arounds-style headlight housing extends to side fenders. It's not as narrow, however, as the recently redesigned Jeep Cherokee. A black plastic-composite material trims circular wheel wells and lower edges of the vehicle, adding a layer of protection against unintended stone dings.
Improving convenience and shaving a bit of cost off the vehicle; a cap-less fuel lead. After unlocking the square-ish fuel door via a ceiling caddy button above the rear-view mirror, a self-sealing plate allows the gasoline nozzle to move in and out of lead piping. The diminutive 13.5-gallon fuel tank accepts regular, 87-octane fuel. Highway fuel economy now reaches 30 miles per gallon.
The sole 2017 powertrain for Compasses sold in North America: a serviceable 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated (non-turbo-charged) four-cylinder generating 180 horsepower. The first-generation Compass offered two four-cylinder powertrains. A choice of front wheel (4 x 2) drive or four-wheel 4 x 4 returns.
Three available transmissions include: an all-new and class-exclusive nine-speed automatic (available in 4 x 4 models), six-speed automatic (available in front-drive 4 x 2 editions) and base six-speed manual. The continually variable transmission (CVT) offered last year is history. Trim levels include Sport, Latitude, Limited and off-road specific Trailhawk, identical to trims available in the subcompact 2017 Jeep Renegade. Limited and Trailhawk trims are 4 x 4 exclusive.
Trailhawk includes bright red tow hooks front and back. It differs from other trims with a one-inch higher ground clearance, protective underside skid platting, 17-inch off-road tires and can wade in 19 inches of water.
Four trim levels along with 4 x 2 or 4 x 4 drive choices and host of stand-alone and option packages create a multitude of available builds. Base 4 x 2 Sport models check in at $22,090.
Our Compass Trailhawk 4 x 4 tester came with a $28,595 starting price. Stand-along extras included: $1,295 dual-pane sunroof, $195 windshield deicer, $395 remote start system and $495 power lift gate.
Packages included: $795 Safety and Security (rear park assist, cross-path detection), $1,295 Leather Interior Group (leather-trimmed bucket seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel) and $895 Navigation group (larger 8.5-inch center touch screen, one-year satellite radio subscription). The bottom line reached $35,055 after $1,095 destination charge.
Electronic push start comes standard, attached to the lower right portion of the manually tilt-and-telescoping steering column rather than the instrument panel.
As with most FCA products, the well designed, user-friendly 'Uconnect' audio system (now in its fourth edition) incorporates large screen icons teamed with 'words,' easing confusion and mis-identification. Large tactile dials handle audio volume and station selections.
Creative tactile engineering allows finger tips to also adjust volume (right-side) and station presets (left side) from long, toggle-like switches located on the backside of the steering wheel, a natural resting position for fingers. The three-spoke steering wheel's front includes large cruise control options at 3 o'clock and digital instrument panel window display selections at 9 o'clock.
Uconnect's center piece, an 8.5-inch in-dash multi-function screen includes optional Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto, allowing many apps and phone functions to operate through the in-car screen.
Flanking the digital window portion of the three-dimensional-like instrument panel are two analog gauges (left-side tachometer and right-side speedometer). A half-moon fuel gauge situates to the right of the speedometer gauge while a half-moon temperature gauge skirts the outskirts of the tachometer circle.
Shoppers can select one of two available 4 x 4 systems: 'Jeep Active Drive,' a full-time all-wheel drive requiring little driver intervention (standard in Sport, Limited and Latitude 4 x 4s), or 'Jeep Active Drive Low,' a class-exclusive full-time 4 x 4 system with a 20:1 crawl ratio standard solely in Trailhawk editions.
Both are capable of sending 100 percent available torque to any one wheel when slippage gets detected. Both include Jeep's 'Select-Terrain' system, a circular manually-operated dial for choosing Auto, Sand, Snow, and Mud settings. Trailhawk trims include a Rock mode selection within its Select-Terrain. The dial resides at the bottom of the center dash, to the left of auxiliary and iPod plug in ports and a 12-volt power outlet.
In back, seatbacks fold down with a 60/40 split, allowing extra cargo-carrying opportunities. With the back row folded, a usable 59.8 cubic feet of cargo-carrying ability awaits. Both the hatch bottom and first-row floor include removable water resistant mats in Trailhawk trims, easily cleanable via a spray hose if the outdoors creeps inside.
Three riders may ride in comfort with seats prone, if pre-teen or smaller. Two adults travel in optimal comfort. Headroom front and back rates better than average. All four side doors swing open wide, allowing ample room to easily maneuver into place. The optional power hatchback closes via a button on the inside left panel. With the hatch open, those 6-feet three-inches or shorter have ample head clearance.
During our road test during September's record-breaking heat week, use of the air conditioner at full blower-speed invited the 'engine stop-start' (ESS) technology to immediately restart up, once coming to a stop at an intersection, resulting in a cough-like buckle noticeable to shot gun passengers as well as a hard-of-hearing, aging K9. This reaction is not unique to Compass, as many start/stop technologies encounter this effect, but Compass' reaction was very pronounced.2017 Jeep Compass
Price as tested: $35,055
Engine: 2.4-liter, four cylinder
Overall Length: 173 inches
Wheelbase: 103.8 inches
Overall Width: 73.8 inches
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Powertrain Warranty: Five years, 60,000 miles
Assembly: Toluca, Mexico