Car Reviews

2017 Jeep Compass First Look: Stakes are High for This Jeep Compact Crossover

Ready to point the way in 100-plus countries

Ready to point the way in 100-plus countries

Compact crossover sales are booming globally, up about 15 percent in 2015 to a shade under 2 million units here in the U.S., with 5-plus-million buyers queuing up around the globe each year. Jeep’s twin offerings in this class, the yin Compass and yang Patriot, are way overdue for replacement, and a single model dubbed Compass will attempt to lure both boys and girls starting late this year or early the next as a 2017 model. It will be based on FCA’s new “small-wide 4×4” Renegade architecture, stretched almost 8 inches in length on a 2.4-inch longer wheelbase (it ends up about 2 inches shorter in length than a Patriot, but about the same width and height). The Renegade quickly grabbed the sales lead in the subcompact CUV segment and the Compass will be expected to greatly improve FCA’s compact CUV ranking from the elderly Com-Patriot twins’ current sixth-place.

Because Jeep is regarded as an aspirational brand globally, and C-segment utes are regarded as big luxuries in most other countries, the Jeep Compass has been styled not to look cheerful like the Renegade, but sleeker and more upscale, with design cues lifted from the Cherokee (which is almost exactly 8 inches longer still), and ample chrome bedazzling available on top models. Big-boy features like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure assist, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, a power liftgate, a two-panel sunroof, an electric parking brake, available high-def screens for the instrument cluster (up to 7.0 inches) and infotainment (up to 8.4 inches), and a full Uconnect telematics package are offered. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Beats Audio also join the options list.

Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and Limited trim levels will be sold with four interior design themes: Urbex, for urban explorers (dark with tan and “light diesel” accents), Trailhawk (black with red accents), Sand Surfing (sand color with black accents), and Alpine (ski gray with black and red accents). The fourth-gen Uconnect system includes Apple Car Play, Android Auto, and a choice of 5.0-, 7.0-, or 8.4-inch pinch/zoomable touchscreens. Another cool feature is the rear cargo-area floor panel, which can be positioned level with the bumper and folded rear seatbacks, or at one of two lower positions that expand cargo capacity when there’s no flat tire or compact spare tire underneath (the spare will likely be optional).

Motivation will come from a 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 engine with auto start/stop that’s good for 180 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque bolted to a six-speed automatic in front-drive models, or a nine-speed automatic with Jeep’s fully disconnecting “Active Drive” or “Active Drive Low” all-wheel-drive systems. A six-speed manual will also be available with either drivetrain. Towing capacity is capped at 2,000 pounds. The light, stiff unibody is comprised of 65 percent high-strength steel and the four-wheel strut suspension design is shared with the Renegade, but with unique springs, dampers, and bushings to suit the larger, more luxe Compass.

Trailhawk variants will get the usual treatment: a 1-inch suspension lift good for 19 inches of deep-water fording, a shorter axle ratio to provide a 20:1 creeper overall first gear ratio, tow hooks, unique 17-inch wheels with knobbier tires, and fascias designed to improve the approach and departure angles for extreme off-roading. All global markets will get the Trailhawk, perhaps with one of the other four engines offered where gas costs more. All Compass 4x4s get the Jeep Selec-Terrain system, with up to five modes (Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud modes, plus Rock mode on Trailhawks)

If Jeep achieves its goal of doubling global sales to 2 million plus by the next decade, it’ll be the Renegade and the Compass that get most of the credit (Compass will be sold in more than 100 countries around the world, with production coming from Brazil, China, Mexico, and India). We look forward to assessing this new compact ute’s chances at boosting those sales. Stay tuned.