2017 Jeep Compass – Road Test

Posted on Jul 1, 2017 by

Quick Review

GoodGood The off-road leader in a non off-roading segment
BadBadFrom past experience, the lacklustre 2.4-litre engine
SpecsSpecs2.4-litre four-cylinder, nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, 180 horsepower, 237Nm
PricePriceAED80,000 - AED90,000
RatingEditors RatingThree Star
2017 Jeep Compass
  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 3.5 stars
  • Very Good
AEDAED80,000 - AED90,000
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  • 2017 Compass
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  • Last modified: July 3, 2017

Review Summary:

A competitive player in a cutthroat segment, that should appeal to the dreamers rather than the doers, which is actually what Jeep hopes for... The new 2017 Compass is vastly improved compared to its predecessor and isn't even worth comparing, but needs to fight off tough rivals from Kia, , Ford, et al.

2017 review: The ‘baby’ Jeep has real off-road abilities and will likely be well priced, but it does have its share of problems

The Jeep faithful are some of the most brand-committed consumers out there, right on level with Apple junkies and those freaks who go into sweats if the place doesn’t have Pepsi over Coke. You get them the other way around too.

It’s the Wrangler that’s won Jeep so many enthusiasts: a trusted, simple, iconic display of function over form. The Wrangler’s idolisation was earned in blood, mud, and sand, even if everyone knows most owners don’t off-road their off-roaders.

Under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles umbrella (the Italian and American companies merged in 2014) Jeep is all too well aware of the crossover mania spreading around the world. The SUV specialist needs to keep treading off the off-road stuff and stay on the school run, in the mall parking lot, stuck in traffic on Shaikh Zayed Road. The big money’s in crossovers nowadays – in recent years Jeep’s grown from 350,000 units a year, and those were mostly proper off-roaders, to 1.4 million vehicle sales a year today thanks to crossovers, and the company says there’s more to be had. According to EMEA Jeep boss Dante Dilli at the 2017 Compass launch in Portugal, the region’s compact crossover market will soon be worth 2.7 million cars a year.

And that’s where the new Compass comes in, right after the old Compass that blasphemously entered the scene in 2007 wearing a traditional seven-slat Jeep grille on top of front-wheel-drive derived Dodge Caliber underpinnings. You’ve got to feel for us – it was a tough call for journalists to make back then. Which was worse, the Dodge or the Jeep?

Jeep wasn’t laughing at the joke though – the company’s shifted over a million crossovers up to date if you include both Compass and Patriot sales.

The latest Compass is all-new, which means it’s the existing Jeep Renegade/Fiat 500X stretched out a bit here and there to fit neatly in between the Renegade and Cherokee. Having said that the styling of this crossover is also a mix between the Renegade and Cherokee although the styling team (all done in the company’s Detroit studio with a little bit of input from Jeep’s global markets) took it easy with the trendy slant eyes that put off so many on the Cherokee.

The car’s designer, Chris Piscitelli, was present at the global launch event in Portugal and laid down his reasoning: “We look at the whole landscape, not just one piece of the puzzle. So Wrangler? Very function-based. And for that customer, the Wrangler is what they want. So to us, with something like a Compass, as designers we have to consider its multiple uses. As much as we want to make something that is absolutely crazy… The off-road guy in me says, ‘Yea, let’s make it brutal, yeah, removable doors, everything comes off!’

“Not every car can be like that, so with that I think we struck a pretty good balance with the Compass – it’s something that looks good, and it’s visually appealing, but also for those that want to get deeper into its off-road capabilities, it does speak to those folks as well.”

Inside the 2017 Compass things look good, too, with nice use of soft-touch materials on all crucial touch points and above-average room for rear passengers. Chris and the team went with lots of trapezoidal bezels, and satin finishes, and in the centre stack you’ll find an intuitive 8.4-inch touchscreen to play with. Standard kit gets you a 7.0-inch display. The important bit is in the centre console in the shape of a knob – Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system lets drivers change modes on the fly with Auto mode for daily duties and off-road modes including a rock-crawl function if you choose the Trailhawk trim level that we’re testing here.

The Compass Trailhawk is easily the most off-road capable crossover in the segment, with rivals such as the and merely pretending. With a 2.5cm taller ride height than other Compass models (you can also get the luxury-orientated Limited or the base Sport), and skid plates front and rear made of actual 3.0mm thick steel, the Trailhawk can handle up to

30 degree approach angles, with a 24.4 degree break over angle and 33.6 degree departure angle. That’s actually comparable to or even better than something like a Toyota Prado. All-terrain types fitted on 17-inch wheels suit the tough stuff, too.

Tested on a short half-an-hour dirt-trail course outside Lisbon with one or two scary obstacles in the way, the Compass Trailhawk handled things admirably not just for a crossover but also many bigger SUVs.

On the road in the all-new Compass things are less good, because there’s nothing all-new about the 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that’s the only available power plant in the Middle East, while other markets get Fiat’s more modern turbocharged units. The 2.4-litre makes 184 horsepower high up so you need to rev it, and 237Nm of maximum torque.

Jeep didn’t have a Tigershark 2.4-litre engined Compass Trailhawk for us to test though, so we motored around Portugal in a diesel that’s completely irrelevant to Middle East buyers. The nine-speed gearbox however performed well, and there were no glitches of old to report with this transmission that started life on the wrong foot, with customers moaning about jerkiness and slow shifts.

“That was a slight issue at the very beginning of the Cherokee launch,” said Dilli. “It was around 2014, or even earlier, 2013, but that was fixed a long time ago. We optimise continuously. On the Renegade we didn’t have any particular complaints.”

On the road where the Compass will spend most of its time, the steering wheel lets through a few too many vibrations and the rear axle has a tendency to act irregularly over bumps, so you sometimes get the feeling it has a solid axle back there instead of an independent suspension set-up. Throw the Compass into a corner though and this crossover has no problems treading safely and quickly through the turns. It’s hardly entertaining, but the four-wheel drive system distributes power on the go putting torque to whichever wheels need it most. When left in Auto mode, the car will pull along powering just the (cover your ears, Jeep diehards) front-wheels but it takes a fraction of a second for the rear axle to get on board.

Jeep knows that neither thrilling road dynamics nor off-road prowess really sell crossovers, but the brand is tied to its traditions and has the obligation to engineer-in all-terrain ability into every model. This compromises on-road behaviour, but Jeep buyers don’t care. Dilli says it himself: “One hundred per cent of Jeep owners take their cars off road.

“It’s just that most of them do it in their minds,” he adds.

Verdict: Jeep has what looks like a winner on its hands, even if only for the fact that market demand currently outstrips supply. The people want their crossovers. Just like all the other players in this cutthroat segment Jeep has loaded the 2017 Compass up with equipment to match the Koreans (it’s a little easier when you mine your own iron ore, manufacture the stamping presses that churn out your cars, and then ship them across the world in ships that you built…). As such the Compass gets loads of driver safety and assistance systems like collision warning and lane departure warnings, parking aids, adaptive cruise control and so on.

The competition sells at around the AED80,000 mark, but Jeep doesn’t have confirmed pricing yet, at least not until the Dubai motor show this November where the new Compass will make its regional premiere. Dilli says we can expect something between AED80,000 and AED90,000, “for a very well equipped 4×4 version…”

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