2017 Jeep Compass Sport review

Craving some adventure? Don’t forget your Compass

Adventurous souls find their automotive mate in the 2017 Jeep Compass.
Adventurous souls find their automotive mate in the 2017 Jeep Compass.
Adventurous souls find their automotive mate in the 2017 Jeep Compass.

Highs

  • Comely exterior design
  • Oodles of convenience features
  • Long live UConnect infotainment
  • Manual transmission!
  • Plenty of passenger and cargo volume

Lows

  • Lackluster power at speed
  • Vague clutch engagement (6MT models)

Jeep sells a lot of SUVs – more than any other brand. One could argue its segment domination is simply because the company only makes SUVs, but considering how many CR-Vs and RAV4s Honda and Toyota peddle each year, the more likely explanation is that people just plain enjoy all Jeep’s flavors.

Stumbling on a gold mine of utility vehicle intrigue in the late 2000s, Jeep took immediate steps to improve its lineup. In short order, the Grand Cherokee and Cherokee (called ‘Liberty’ for a time) were redesigned, the Wrangler added a four-door version, and the Regenade subcompact was introduced.

Today, Jeep is putting the final remnants of its wonky years behind it. The boxy, cheap-feeling Patriot and the marginally less clunky Compass are headed for the door. Filling the gap is a completely redesigned Compass to slot between the Renegade and Cherokee. Market trends all but guarantee the new Compass’ success, but with so many new rivals, the extent of its prosperity will depend on its blend of convenience, style, and utility. Check out our 2017 Jeep Compass Sport Review below to see if the SUV-only brand hit the mark.

What’s new

The second generation Compass is an all-new package, albeit with several components borrowed from the Renegade. Riding on the Renegade (and Fiat 500X) platform, the Compass is longer and offers more cabin volume than both the last generation Compass and the Renegade. Its four-wheel independent suspension, 2.4-liter “Tigershark” four-cylinder powertrain, electric steering system, and brakes are also pulled from the Renegade parts bin. Like the first generation Compass, the new one shares styling traits with the Grand Cherokee – more so, oddly, than the Cherokee.

Trim levels and features

Jeep may not have put the first generation Compass out to pasture yet (old and new models are being sold side-by-side for the remainder of 2017), but confusing the two on a dealer isn’t an issue.

In every way, the redesigned Compass looks more premium and durable. From the beltline down, the compact SUV really does look like a shrunken Grand Cherokee, while a shark fin C-pillar and blacked out roof panel give the Compass some distinction above its hips. Defined wheel arches, integrated LED daytime running lights, and a handful of Easter eggs (including a plastic gecko low on the windshield and a Loch Ness Monster imprint at the bottom of the rear window) highlight the updated SUV’s exterior.

Apart from the Sport trim’s diminutive 16-inch wheels, which look a bit awkward within massive plastic wheel wells, the revamped Compass boasts tremendous curb appeal.

Jeep offers the 2017 Compass in four grades: Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited.

Starting at $20,995, Sport models some standard with a ParkView backup camera, power windows, remote keyless entry, push button ignition, a 5-inch UConnect infotainment system, a 3.5-inch TFT driver display, dual USB ports, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system.

The revamped Compass boasts tremendous curb appeal.

Upgrading to the $24,295 Latitude adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear seat air vents, automatic headlights, body color-matching roof rails, fog lamp bezels, and side mirrors, and a 7.0-inch UConnect system.

The Trailhawk ($28,695) is based on the Latitude and adds unique exterior styling bits like red tow hooks, 17-inch polished wheels, and a black hood graphic. Off-road upgrades include 0.3-inches of additional ground clearance, Falken Wildpeak H/T tires, underbody skid plates, and an Active Drive Low all-wheel drive system with a 4.33:1 final-drive ratio. Inside, the Trailhawk features leather seats with red contrast stitching.

Top of the Compass range is a Limited trim ($28,340) with an 8.4-inch UConnect system, 18- or optional 19-inch wheels, a two-tone black roof, perforated leather seats, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, rain-sensing wipers, remote start, Sirius XM radio, a 7-inch color TFT driver display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a heated steering wheel, auto dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, and heated, power front seats.

Apart from the four-drive only Trailhawk, all Compass models can add Jeep’s Active Drive AWD system.

Technology overview

While the Jeep Compass is available with top-notch tech features like Apple CarPlay, a Beats premium audio system, Sirius XM radio, a full-color 7-inch TFT driver display, an 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system, and a range of driver aids, our Sport 4×4 tester has a much more Spartan array of goodies.

Even without a roster of advanced gadgets, the Compass Sport’s 5-inch UConnect system is one heck of an “entry-level” feature. Though it lacks the real estate and advanced apps of the more sophisticated UConnect versions, the same snappy operation, user-friendly design, and clear visuals are found in a smaller screen. For added convenience, buttons on and behind the steering wheel give drivers quick access to the main multimedia functions.

Though the base system doesn’t include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, buyers can tack on the Tech Package ($895) to get these interfaces, a 7-inch UConnect system, a 7-inch color driver display, a one-year Sirius XM subscription, and parking sensors. All Compass trims also feature dual USB ports, avoiding the all-too-common battle for charger access between multiple passengers.

When it comes to tech, the Compass offers the best kit in its class.

Interior fit and finish

Inside, the Compass straddles the line between charming and practical. There isn’t a hard edge to be found in the cockpit – every trim piece, housing, or panel features a rounded edge that contrasts the rugged exterior design. It seems like a simple styling trick, but the amorphous shapes somehow make the cabin more inviting and intriguing to behold.

Inside, the Compass straddles the line between charming and practical.

We know we’re looking at FCA parts bin materials for the infotainment, e-brake, and climate controls, but there are worse places to rummage. Common touch points are surfaced with brushed metal, textured plastic, or chrome, while even the hard plastics have a quality feel to them. Our tester is equipped with the cold weather package ($695), which adds leather wrapping for the heated steering wheel, heating for the front seats, and all-weather floor mats. Not all leather is created equal, which makes it all the more surprising that Jeep’s steering wheel upgrade feels luxury-car smooth.

The non-power fabric seats lack some of the height and lumbar adjustment we’d prefer, but the bare comfort level is high. Unlike the tall, boxy Renegade, the Compass and its sloping roofline isn’t made to accommodate NBA players in the rear seats, but average adult noggins won’t rub on the headliner. Rear legroom is stellar, with 3.2 inches of additional space compared to the Renegade. Cargo volume is good for the segment, at 27 cubic feet, but versatility is excellent; in addition to the 60/40 split folding rear bench, the rear and front passenger seat fold completely flat to accommodate bigger items.

Driving performance and MPG

In our first tango with the 2017 Jeep Compass some months ago, we were impressed with its off-road performance and grit – especially the Trailhawk version and its “Active Drive Low” gearing. This time around, we trade dirt for tarmac and find the compact SUV wanting in the power department.

2017 Jeep Compass Sport Review
Miles Branman/Digital Trends
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

Under the hood of every Compass is a 2.4-liter MultiAir Tigershark, rated at 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. While Jeep only offers one engine, it gives customers a wide range of drivetrain and transmission options. On the table are front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive setups, paired with a choice of three gearboxes: a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, or a nine-speed automatic.

Despite its straight-line struggle, the Compass is remarkably composed off-center.

Having options is great, but no combination of transmission and drivetrain can mask the SUV’s lack of grunt at highway speeds. Mustering power to pass takes far too much time – a criticism we didn’t have of the lighter Renegade (which utilizes the same engine). At lower speeds, the Compass performs far better – no languishing off the line or wheezing to catch a yellow light.

The six-speed manual in our Sport 4×4 tester won’t win any innovation awards, but it does row through the gears confidently. A round, substantial shifter knob appears designed for gloved hands or the palms of large humans, but grooves in the side of the knob offer a solid grip for most adults. A feather-light clutch pedal doesn’t fatigue the driver in traffic, but the engagement point could be clearer.

Despite its straight-line struggle, the Compass is remarkably composed off-center. Emergency maneuvers and overcooked corners aren’t a problem for the little SUV. Body roll is held in check – especially compared to other FCA products on the same platform – braking is strong, and ride quality is excellent. For the vast majority of daily driver duties, the Compass is composed and willing. Maybe we can petition Mopar to design a tune for the SUV’s top-end trials.

Safety

The 2017 Jeep Compass received a four (out of five) star safety rating from the NHTSA. Standard passive safety features include advanced multistage front airbags, driver knee airbag, side curtain front and rear airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, electronic stability control, pre-tension seatbelts, and speed-sensitive power locks. All Jeep Compass models also include a rear backup camera with parking guide lines.

Optional driver assistance features include parking sensors, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and blind spot monitoring.

How DT would outfit this car

Our one major complaint with the Jeep Compass (lack of power) can’t be solved with a higher grade, which leaves us little incentive to choose a top-tier trim. Furthermore, Jeep’s optional packages make some of the best features available to lower level models. If it were our hard-earned money on the line, we’d outfit the Jeep Compass Sport 4×4.

Unlike our test car, we’d forgo the Sport Appearance package to maintain the base trim’s blacked out wheels. Since the Sport trim level doesn’t come available with Jeep’s nine-speed automatic, we’d swallow our minor criticism of the Compass’ six-speed manual and choose that transmission. In terms of optional extras, the cold weather and technology packages offer a lot of bang for the buck, so we’d check those boxes. Our final touches would be the Olive Green Pearl exterior and Sandstorm interior colors. Out the door, we’re looking at $25,230 plus $1,095 in destination fees.

Our Take

Jeep proves why it owns the SUV segment with each vehicle introduction and update. Weak links like the Patriot and first generation Compass have now been replaced by compelling models like the Renegade and redesigned Compass. Today’s Jeep lineup is every bit as adventurous as Jeeps of old, but with sophisticated features and handsome styling now standard. The 2017 Jeep Compass isn’t without fault, but it leaves an overwhelmingly positive impression nonetheless.

Is there a better alternative?

Jeep’s all-new Compass enters a viciously competitive segment, which includes the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, and Chevrolet Equinox. If you ever plan to venture further than a mild dirt road, the Compass hits high enough marks in every other category that it would be a good buy. However, if adventure isn’t in your plans, either the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5 is a better bet.

How long will it last?

As the first model year of a brand new generation, Jeep won’t lay a finger on the 2017 Compass for quite a while. In terms of reliability, Jeeps are largely good bets. There has been more than one recall for contemporary Jeep models, but the vast majority of production units perform well for many years. Jeep covers the 2017 Compass with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Should you get one?

There are two good reasons why you should get the new Compass: 1) it is a feature-rich, handsome compact SUV, and (2) it does off-road adventure better than any other segment competitor. Given the options in this vehicle class, however, only the second reason should be a deciding factor. In the simplest terms, if you crave adventure, get the Compass. If not, this definitely isn’t a bad choice, but not the best one.

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