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2017 Jeep Compass Plugs a Gap

Consumer Reports logo Consumer Reports 2017-04-17
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There’s a new 2017 Compass for sale at your local Jeep dealer. There’s also an old 2017 Compass for sale there, too. That’s right: Jeep is selling two completely different models called the 2017 Compass. We’ll help you sort them out.

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For the outgoing, “old” Compass, our list of cons far outweighs the pros. It is mediocre at best, and that Compass scored too low for us to recommend due to being cramped, slow, thirsty, and blatantly cheap inside.

The redesigned, “new” 2017 Compass shares much of its underpinnings with its smaller sibling, the Jeep Renegade. It attempts to employ a rugged "Jeep" look by drawing heavily from the design of the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee, namely in the grille and with its softly squared-off edges. The Compass is positioned above the Renegade and below the compact Cherokee, with an attempt to lure buyers from popular Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s. But with the bones coming more from the disappointing Renegade than from the Grand Cherokee, it might be a challenge.  

The new Compass is equipped with Chrysler’s 180-hp, 2.4-liter engine, the same one we have tested in the Jeep Renegade. We found that powertrain combination to be rather slow-witted and a bit rough. Though improved over the Renegade, it’s still neither smooth nor responsive.

Two front-wheel-drive trims are available: Sport and Latitude. Four 4WD trims are also offered, including the Limited and the Trailhawk version that we rented. Despite having the low-range mode selector for Rock, Mud, and Sand in the menu—the “Trail Rated” badge—the Compass’s red tow hooks and beefier tires are mostly for show, and not for climbing boulders.

A manual transmission is standard on the Compass, with the nine-speed automatic on the 4WD trims and the six-speed on the FWD trims requiring an additional $1,500 outlay. We found the automatic to be slow, rough, and unrefined, paired with a transmission that’s neither smooth nor responsive but which is definitely a step up from the previous generation.

Handling is decent, but the steering isn’t particularly quick. The ride is comfortable enough, provided the road isn’t too challenging with dips and undulations.

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Inside, the cabin is relatively quiet, but the attempt to move upscale with dark leather-trimmed surfaces in our borrowed Trailhawk creates a somber atmosphere. Other trims are dressed in more joyful tones. The driving position is adequate, giving drivers a typical SUV view of the road. Unfortunately, the rear seat is a bit too low and too flat for a good posture.

A power driver’s seat has four-way lumbar adjustments to aid comfort. The heated front seats and steering wheel combine as an inexpensive option amid the Compass offerings.

The UConnect infotainment system is available in 8.4-, 7-, or 5-inch configurations, but beware: Opting for the smaller screen means giving up Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. Controls are simple enough to use. The touch screen is clear and easy to reach, and responds quickly.

All advanced safety features are optional, and they come at a price. Blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic warning, forward-collision warning, and auto emergency braking are available on every trim level except the base Sport. Consumer Reports believes that these important features should be standard.

Pricing starts at $22,090 including desination, but to get desirable features like a power seat, satellite radio, and blind-spot warning, a midtrim Latitude with 4WD will brush against the $30,000 mark, putting it in the neighborhood of more capable, fun-to-drive competitors, such as the Ford Escape and Subaru Forester.

We will be buying our own non-Trailhawk 2017 Jeep Compass soon and look forward to see whether we warm up to this new Jeep.

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