The Trailhawk is also treated to a handful of cosmetic bits that even further the character of the Compass.
The Jeep Compass has been with us for quite some time now. The early years of the Compass dating back almost a decade proved to be somewhat dodgy, with some traits that made it a sub-par competitor in that segment. It was loud, lazy, and felt cheap inside and out. With production starting back in 2006 for the 2007 model year, and a facelift in 2011, this first generation Compass made it all the way to 2017 without much attention.
The 2011 facelift in question shaped the Compass into a junior version of the Grand Cherokee (reviewed here), though while the looks were improved, the overall passion of the Grand Cherokee was still lacking. This year marks a new beginning for this little crossover, with the all-new second generation 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk tested here breaking fresh ground with the hopes of winning over some new buyers.
Jeep’s Compass acts as a middle ground between the Renegade and the Cherokee (reviewed here). That said, it has many resemblances from the rest of the Jeep lineup. While its size is comparable to the Renegade, the profile can easily be mistaken with that of the Cherokee, while the front fascia mimics that of the Grand Cherokee. This mashup of different models has done the Compass a boatload of favours, as the looks have been substantially improved, inside and out, from the previous model.
The new Compass is available in four different trim levels. For our test, we opted for the new Trailhawk iteration, though the other trims include the Sport, North, and Limited. The Sport starts off at $24,900, a substantial jump from the old Compass where a sub-$20,000 price point was attainable. The Trailhawk is the second most-expensive model, with a base price of $32,895. While a substantial jump for someone looking to hop into a cost-efficient SUV, the Trailhawk does offer some bits and piece not seen on the rest of the Compass lineup.
For instance, one might notice the Trail Rated badge located on the both front fenders, indicating this little truck’s ability to tackle the path less travelled. It features a 20:1 crawl ratio, hill descent control and a “Rock” setting on the Selec-Terrain knob, along with Snow, Sand, and Mud. It also features an Auto setting which allows the car to automatically adapt to changing driving conditions. The Rock setting proves to be quite nifty, as it uses the brakes to simulate a locking differential to help control the Compass over uneven terrain.
The Trailhawk is immediately distinguishable from the rest by its beefy body. It sits slightly higher than the other models and sports rough plastic bumpers, rocker panels, and wheel arches to help protect against bumps and scrapes. Let’s not forget the series of skid plates protecting the undercarriage either. The very red and very noticeable tow hooks protrude from the bumpers as both a fashion statement, and practical use in the unfortunate situation if things were to get sticky. Two of these hooks are found up front, while one sticks out around back on the driver’s side.
The Trailhawk is also treated to a handful of cosmetic bits that even further the character of the Compass, including an exclusive matte finish decal on the hood, and 17” mid-gloss black polished aluminum wheels. Even the name of the paint, “Rhino”, gives off that rugged impression. Keep an eye out in the photo gallery for some subtle easter eggs as well; we’ll divulge the secrets towards the end of this review.
Inside the cabin, passengers are treated to an interior space that feels very well made. Whereas the last-generation left many wanting more, this new Compass brings a whole fresh basket of goodies to the table. Apple CarPlay is finally made available for the first time ever in a Jeep. Great news for potential Compass owners, as this may take a few more years to reach the other Jeeps in the family.
The familiar UConnect system also receives an upgrade, new for 2017, making it more responsive than the previous version which was already segment-leading. Our tester, equipped with the Navigation Group ($700), offers the larger 8.4” touchscreen display. It’s important to note that for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to become accessible, buyers must opt for at least the 7” touchscreen, not available in the Sport trim.
While this new Compass offers many new facets to be excited about, it does not come without a few shortcomings. The cabin is much nicer than the previous generation, though the ergonomics are less than ideal. For instance, taller folks will find that the tall design of the headrest will dig into the bottom of their neck. The controls on the centre stack are placed far too low for easy access, even though functionality of the controls is relatively simple. Cargo space proves to be the smallest in this segment. With 59.8 cubic feet of space, that’s 8 cubic feet less than the Ford Escape (reviewed here) which is roughly the same size as the Compass.
Then there is the powertrain. Under the hood, we find the 2.4L Tigershark four-cylinder engine that generates 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. or torque, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. This four-cylinder struggles to get going, which is mostly in-part due to the transmission it’s attached to. The ZF-sourced nine-speed has trouble figuring out which gear to be in, resulting in prolonged, whining acceleration almost reminiscent of a CVT.
Fuel ratings from Jeep sit at 10.8L/100km city and 7.8L/100km, with a combined average rating of 9.5L/100km. Our real-world testing figures fall right in line, at 10L/100km on the dot. A full tank of regular fuel will achieve a range of roughly 450 to 500 kilometres, depending on how heavy your foot is.
The ride itself is also not exactly what one would expect from a Jeep either. The suspension is very cushiony and body roll is very noticeable when taking a corner at speed. Steering feels a little heavier than what needs to be but it isn’t a deal breaker at all. The cabin remains relatively quiet at cruising speed, so the Compass isn’t uncomfortable for long periods of time.
As mentioned earlier on in this review, a base Compass Trailhawk begins at $32,895, which itself is pricey for a little SUV. After the packages are applied, our as tested Compass Trailhawk boasts a price of $41,500. Sure, you get the panoramic sunroof ($1,595) and heated seats, however the Compass itself is and always has been the subject of a niche market. This new Compass is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for this Jeep.
While there are some faults, overall the 2017 Compass Trailhawk is an attractive little SUV. As for those little Easter Eggs hinted at earlier, Jeep hid a little lizard beveled into the plastic trim under the windshield wipers, as well as a dragon-looking creature into the trunk window, only visible from the interior. It’s all about character with the Compass, and that it certainly has.