THE ALL-NEW 2017 Jeep Compass just squeezes into the 15.4-inch gap between Jeep’s wee Renegade and its mid-size Cherokee. Built on the same “small-wide 4×4 architecture” that underpins the bugeyed Renegade, the Compass’s wheelbase grows 2.6 inches, the new ute casting a shadow 6.4 inches longer than its smaller sibling.
The additional space between the Compass’s axles affords a decidedly refined ride and, when whipped, the little Jeep doesn’t embarrass itself dynamically. Over the pockmarked and twisting back roads just outside Hollister, California, the Compass felt secure and composed as a result of its limited body roll and appropriately weighted, if aloof, steering. While brake dive was minimal, the brake pedal proved touchy. This ute is, however, quieter and better finished inside than its box-shaped little brother, and it drives smaller than the Cherokee because, well, it is.
Upping the wheelbase and increasing the length give the Compass both a roomier back seat and a larger cargo hold than the Renegade’s. With 38.3 inches of legroom, and up to 60 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the split rear seatback folded, the Compass delivers 3.2 additional inches of leg-stretching space and 9 more cubic feet of storage room relative to the Renegade.
Available in Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited trims, all Compasses are motivated by a 2.4-liter inline-four with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard on Sport and all-wheel-drive Latitude models, and two automatic transmissions are available: a six-speed on frontdrive Compasses and a nine-speed on all-wheel-drive models, the latter of which Jeep supplied for our drive. Thanks to the engine’s weak top end and the transmission’s hesitancy to downshift the Compass won’t rupture any spleens during a freeway pass, but the powertrain is a fine enough companion at lower paces. Relatively short lower gears in the available nine-speed automatic redeem the tweener SUV around town, while the Trailhawk’s 20.4:1 overall first-gear ratio, knobby Falken WildPeak H/T tires, and offroad–tuned stability control enabled surprising off-road ability.
With a usable 8.5 inches of ground clearance (0.3 inch more than other all-wheeldrive Compass trims), the Trailhawk wears more-rugged bodywork that furnishes an impressive 30-degree approach angle, a 24-degree breakover angle, and a 34-degree departure angle. Skid plates and two tow hooks protruding from the front bumper— mean this Jeep is still a Jeep.
Ultimately, the new Compass is little more than a Renegade that’s spent time at finishing school. Still, its attractive looks, comfortable accommodations, and refined on-road manners arguably make it the pick of Jeep’s small-crossover-SUV litter.
2017 JEEP COMPASS
VEHICLE TYPE: frontengine, front- or allwheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
BASE PRICE: $21,000– $23,000 (est)
ENGINE TYPE: SOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection
DISPLACEMENT: 144 cu in, 2360 cc
POWER: 180 hp @ 6400 rpm
TORQUE: 175 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode, 9-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
WHEELBASE: 103.8 in
LENGTH: 173.0 in
WIDTH: 73.8 in
HEIGHT: 64.6 in
PASSENGER VOLUME: 100 cu ft
CARGO VOLUME: 27 cu ft
CURB WEIGHT: 3200–3650 lb
PERFORMANCE ZERO TO 60 MPH: 9.3–9.8 sec
ZERO TO 100 MPH: 30.0–30.5 sec 1/4-MILE: 17.1–17.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 110 mph
FUEL ECONOMY EPA COMBINED/CITY/ HWY: 22–25/20–23/ 25–30 mpg