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2017 Jeep Compass Limited 4×4 Review: True North

by Paul Strauss
2017 Jeep Compass Limited 4×4 Review: True Northzoom in

    2017 Jeep Compass Limited 4x4

  • Engine: 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 180
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 175
  • Transmission: 9-speed automatic
  • Drive Configuration: 4WD
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 22/30/25
  • Curb Weight (lb): 3,327
  • Wheelbase (in): 103.7
  • Total Length (in): 173
  • Width (in): 80
  • Ground Clearance (in): 7.8
  • Base Price (USD): $28,995
  • Price as Tested (USD): $34,660

I usually wouldn’t review a vehicle for a past model year, but I’m making an exception here since I didn’t get a chance to live with the Jeep Compass until the final days of 2017, and the 2018 model is basically identical. That said, this review should be sufficient regardless of which model year you’re considering.

Freshly rebooted for the 2017 model year, the Jeep Compass is no longer the awkward looking vehicle it once was, and is now a comfortable, capable, and versatile compact SUV that fits right into the Jeep family. The new Compass borrows more than a few styling cues from its much bigger and pricier Grand Cherokee brethren. In fact, it basically looks like they stuck a Grand Cherokee in a shrink ray,¬†and that’s a good thing.

The Compass comes in four trim levels – the base Sport model, the mid-level Latitude, the rugged Trailhawk, and the well-equipped and stylish Limited, the variant reviewed here. I especially dig the two-tone black roof that comes standard on Limited and Trailhawk trims.

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The Compass shares core platform elements of the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X, but has a more sophisticated and universal appeal than either of those rides. The Compass is also bigger than the Renegade, measuring in at 173″ long compared to the Renegade’s 166.6.” That increased footprint results in a more spacious cabin – especially for back row occupants, who get more than 3″ of extra legroom compared to the Compass’ rugged kid brother.

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While the Compass isn’t nearly as playful as the Renegade in its styling, it does have a handful of fun easter eggs, like the Jeep 7-bar grille and Loch Ness monster on the liftgate.

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Here in the states, there’s just one core engine available – a 180 hp, 2.4-liter, naturally aspirated 4-cylinder. The Trailhawk and Limited models get eco stop/start capability as standard, while it’s an option on Sport and Latitude trims. Combined with a 9-speed transmission, this allows the heavier, more fully loaded models to achieve virtually the same mileage as the entry-level models.

The engine is nothing to get too excited about in terms of power and acceleration, but it’s on par with other similarly sized and priced compact SUVs. On the plus side, it seems that Jeep and ZF have worked out past kinks in their 9-speed automatic, and this version shifts smoothly and predictably. The aforementioned stop/start feature allows the Compass to turn in a respectable 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

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Where the Compass’ ride really shines is in its comfort and overall ride stability. As I navigated the pockmarked, potholed, and snow-covered streets of Chicago, the Compass floated over bumps with aplomb, smoothing things out nicely along the way. The power steering doesn’t try too hard to do the work for you either, with a nice and neutral feel that isn’t too light or too heavy. Body roll is also well controlled, and things feel well-sorted in when cornering.

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The Sport and Latitude Compass can be had in either front-wheel or 4-wheel drive configurations, while the Trailhawk and Limited are 4-wheel drive only. While I didn’t do any serious off-roading in this 4×4 Compass, it handled confidently on slick and slippery roads around the city and suburbs, which is more likely what average buyers will encounter anyhow.

It does offer as terrain selection system, as well as 4WD lock modes, which can be helpful for driving across challenging terrain like sand or mud. That said, if you’re really contemplating off-roading in a Compass, go for the Trailhawk, which gets a more robust traction control system, a 4-low setting, and dramatically better approach and departure angles, so you don’t tear it up on rocks and hills.

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Inside, the Compass Limited is very nice indeed, with comfy heated leather seats up front, and 8-way power adjustability. I’d love to see ventilated seats as an option though. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good in the hands, especially when its heat is activated on these cold winter days. The dash is well organized and the instrument cluster is clean and easy to read with its large digital information display in the middle. An 8.4″ infotainment display runs the excellent Uconnect 4 system, which is now compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. FCA, which owns Jeep, continues to lead the market with the most usable and smartly designed infotainment system available.

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A large panoramic sunroof floats above the cabin, bringing in lots of light, and its front panel can be opened or vented. Rear seat passengers are treated to plentiful legroom, with more than enough space for 6-footers like myself.

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That seat offers a 60/40 split folding capability, which takes the rear cargo area up from 27.2 cubic feet to 59.8 cubic feet when they’re both folded. This cargo capacity is comparable to small SUVs like the Mazda CX-5 and Honda HR-V, but falls well short of other direct competitors like the RAV4 and CR-V. A power liftgate is available for easing cargo access.

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When equipped with the Advanced Safety and Lighting group, the Compass gets advanced brake assist to help maximize braking force in emergencies, automatic high beams, bi-xenon HID headlamps with LED accents, LED taillamps, full-speed forward collision warn plus, which uses radar to detect an impending forward collision and alert drivers and apply braking as needed. There’s also a lane departure warning system, which gently tugs the steering wheel if you drift out of your lane. The Safety and Security group adds blind spot and cross path detection, rear parking sensors, and rain-sensing wipers. One feature that’s sadly not available at this point is adaptive cruise control, something available on the Compass’ key competitors.

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There’s a whole lot to like about the latest version of the Jeep Compass. It’s a good looking, sophisticated, and comfortable compact SUV that can be well equipped without breaking the bank. The smallish cargo area and lack of adaptive control are competitive disadvantages, but relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. I, for one, think the Jeep Compass is pointing in the right direction this time out.

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