Looking for a compact crossover? Jeep has you covered. At the small and affordable end is Renegade and at the top of the segment there's Cherokee. Smack-dab in the middle is Compass. First introduced in 2017 as a slightly smaller spinoff of the Cherokee, Compass quickly found sales success as the "right size" compact. Like most in the class, it's a 5-passenger wagon with front- or all-wheel drive. For 2022, Jeep gives Compass a freshening with new styling front and rear, an updated interior and additional tech and safety features. Competitors include The Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue Sport, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Trim levels include Sport, Latitude, Latitude Lux, Limited and off-road themed Trailhawk. All get a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 177 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive models get a 6-speed automatic while all-wheel-drive versions get a 9-speed automatic. Towing is not recommended on front-drive models, limited to 2,000 pounds on all-wheel drive models.
As part of an interior redesign for 2022 Jeep adds a 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 center stack display and an available 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. Other additions include heated rear seats, new suspension tuning and Highway Assist, a semi-autonomous driving system. Newly standard on all models is full-speed forward-collision warning with brake assist, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. Prices range from $29,000 to $38,000.
Though Compass is new inside and out, its powertrain is mostly unchanged -- and that's a bit unfortunate. That means all trims get a modestly powerful 4-cylinder engine that is aimed as cost savings and fuel economy. When pressed, the engine makes more noise than power, turning in a meager 0-60 MPH time of about 9.5 seconds. Making matters worse is transmission performance. While the 6-speed transmission on front-drive models shifts smoothly enough, the 9-speed unit on all-wheel drive models is constantly shuffling between gears creating more noise than acceleration. To be fair, most players in this class have milquetoast performance with the base engine, many have up level engines that provide more spritely acceleration.
From an off-roading standpoint, Compass has a leg up on most of its direct competition thanks to its Trailhawk trim. To the standard all-wheel-drive system Trailhawk adds a low-range gear, hill-descent control, 1-inch factory lift, steel skid plates, front and rear tow hooks, 1-inch aluminum wheels and all-season tires. It even has unique front and rear fascias that give Trailhawk 30-degree approach and 34-degree departure angles. All told, Trailhawk as 8.6 inches of ground clearance and can ford water up to 19 inches deep.
Front-drive Compass models are EPA rated at 22 MPG city and 31 MPG highway. Those numbers are in line with others in the class, but you'd expect better given the modest performance limits of the powertrain. That said, it's easy to match the EPA's numbers in typical suburban driving. With a light touch on the throttle, you can even manage 30 MPG overall on the highway. The engine runs fine on regular-grade gasoline and all models have a 13.5-gallon gas tank.
Thanks to new suspension tuning and upgrades to the electrically boosted steering, the '22 Compass feels more at home on twisty roads than the previous model. The compact crossover is more agile than its tall, boxy profile would suggest, and responds ably to inputs from the nicely weighted steering wheel. Of course, there is some lean during quick changes of direction, but overall, the Compass feels well-controlled, solidly planted, and capable on the road.
Another plus is the comfortable and compliant ride. Regardless of trim, Compass has an absorbent suspension that quashes most heavy impacts and does an excellent job of maintaining a smooth and even ride over bumpy roads. There's almost no head toss and secondary motions are kept well in check. There's a fair amount of brake dive in hard stops, but that's expected in this class.
Interior noise levels are class appropriate, but the thrashy engine and unhappy 9-speed automatic are constantly intrusive. Thankfully, the highway ride is reasonably calm.
When Jeep unveiled the '22 Compass at the Chicago Auto Show last July, most journalist gushed over the redesigned interior. Gone were the acres of hard plastic and illogically placed buttons. The new sweeping design is significantly more functional and makes the most of technology upgrades with the inclusion of a 10.1-inch infotainment screen and 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster.
The nicely appointed front seats are long on looks but come up a bit short of long-trip comfort. They are fine around town, but after an hour or two on the highway, you'll be wishing there was a bit more padding in the seat cushion. Front-seat head and leg room are good. Visibility is excellent, thanks to the tall greenhouse, large windows, and thin roof pillars.
Rear-seat comfort isn't quite what you might expect for a compact crossover, but it's better than a typical subcompact. That means there's enough room for two regular-size adults -- provided the front seats aren't scooted all the way back. The door openings are also a bit narrow, meaning it can be difficult to climb in and out in tight parking spaces.
The new cabin benefits from additional creature comforts and greatly improved storage -- something the Compass needed badly. Newly available features include heated rear seats and a hands-free, foot-activated power liftgate. Also, the Latitude Lux trim gets wireless charging and a dual-pane panoramic moonroof.
Since Compass falls into the space between a subcompact and compact, it generally come up short in overall cargo space. Rear seats up, there's about 27 cubic feet of cargo space, well short of the class-leading Honda CR-V's 40 cubic feet. Overall capacity is just 60 cubic feet while most in the class offer more than 75 cubic feet. At least the opening is large, and the load floor is low and flat.
Easily the biggest enhancement on the tech side is the inclusion of Stellantis' next-generation Uconnect 5 touchscreen system. It is a significant upgrade over the previous version, adding over-the-air updates and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. This system sits head-and-shoulders above others in the class. But, like any new tech toy, it is not without faults. At times, the system locks up and requires a reboot. Likely something Jeep will get worked out with software upgrades, but something worth noting.
Bottom Line -- Playing in perhaps the most competitive segment, Compass needed a freshening to keep it relevant. Jeep was smart to spend money where customers see it most -- on the inside and with additional safety and technology features. Engine performance aside, Compass is actually fun to drive and provides the value and features that buyers expect at a price that's competitive. The Trailhawk's off-road chops are unique in the segment and the Compass' overall size makes it a good choice for buyers looking to step up from a subcompact crossover without breaking the bank.