By now none of us is a stranger to a Jeep SUV crossover. Renegades have taken over our streets, and the Grand Cherokee is as much of a luxury model as ever. So where does the Compass fit in? What was once the ugly duckling of the Jeep lineup has had a 90's movie-worthy makeover on its exterior. And its engineering makes this an off-road-ready SUV. With a variety of trims available to satisfy buyers who are not quite at the level of the Grand Cherokee but want to project a vibe that's a little more grown-up than the Renegade, the Compass hits the sweet spot as an almost-mature SUV for drivers who want fun with some classic style.
How does it fit into the canon of Jeep SUVs?
Larger than the Renegade but with less power than the Cherokee, the Compass sits very nicely in between the two. To shorten the gap in between models a little more, the Compass comes in four different trims, the Sport starting at $20,995, the Latitude at $24,295, the Limited $28,340 and the Trailhawk at $28,695. From the outside, the front end of the Compass looks like a Grand Cherokee lite; it has a more urbane profile than the Renegade, whose snub-nosed front looks like a tweener version of a jeep off the set of MASH. In particular, the Trailhawk model negotiates the middle child syndrome especially well, with slimmer bumpers, a 20:1 simulated crawl ratio, more ground clearance, and rugged, all-terrain tires. However, with four trims on offer, there really is something for everyone who wants the buoyancy of a Renegade with the styling of a Grand Cherokee.
Is it more stylish than the Compass of old?
The old Compass was a sort of terrible compromise between a car and a jeep, and in the end, wound up looking like a hatchback that had been mounted on a compact car platform and then ushered out of the factory with a giant JEEP emblazoned on its front grille. Needless to say, its looks were often the source of its rather lackluster reputation. However, the 2018 Compass changes all that. It's taken a lot of styling cues from its big siblings: the grinning teeth of the seven-slot grille straight from the Wrangler, the bulbous curves of the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. The Compass takes these cues and then tweaks them just enough to give it a personality all its own, and lots black and metal trims make this a car to covet, rather than one to settle for when the others are all sold out.
What about the inside?
In this new generation of the Compass, Jeep has done a good job of creating slimmer lines without compromising on space, taking many of their cues from the successful design of the Renegade's interior. Indeed, they expand on it with three more inches of legroom than their little sister, which may sound small but make a big difference on longer drives. There is plenty of head space for the front row and if you skip the optional sunroof, ample in the second row. Where you will comfortably seat two passengers, though it is designed for three. The seats are comfortable enough, for shorter journeys and the driver gets a height adjustment seat as standard with a passenger height adjustment seat available for upgrade. With the back seats folded down, you'll get 27-inches in cargo space, which is in line with its competitors.
What's the powertrain like?
Updated for this model, the 2018 compass has a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine, producing 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque that registers 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, about average for a car of this class. On paper, this should be enough power for a car this size, but in practice, it tends to struggle when full of passengers and/or cargo. Luckily, it handles superbly in the corners and maintains a smooth and comfortable ride. The Renegade has gained a reputation for being surprisingly good off the road and the Compass exceeds that: for the price point, you won't find a better off-roader on the market. The Compass is available with two different four-wheel-drive models, each with four drive modes, Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud. The Trailhawk steps it up even further with rock traction control, hill descent control and on/off road tires. All in all, this is a more than an adequate car for city folk and gives them the option to do some serious driving off road if they ever feel so inclined. And with cars of this class, isn't it all about having the possibility, even if you never use it?
Is there more to know about each of the trims?
The $21,000 Compact sport is the base model and comes standard with front-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission, a 16-inch wheelbase, all coupled with independent suspension for smooth on-road driving. This is a generally great combo, but if you're looking for a 4WD, you can upgrade the Sport for an additional $1500. The tech is basic but definitely enough for the money with a six-speaker audio system, 2 USB ports (one front, one rear), Bluetooth connectivity and a 5-inch touchscreen powered by the Uconnect system. From the Latitude trim up you get Beats audio, a sunroof, navigation, a blind spot monitor, a 7.0-inch touchscreen and a safety bundle that includes automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning.
This all sounds a little basic, what if i want more?
If you are prepared to drop $28,000+, things start to get interesting. The Jeep Compass Limited upgrades your infotainment system significantly with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The interior gets swankier as well with leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, automatic climate control, and 115 Volt household style socket. If cruising around warming your hands and listening to Lionel Richie is not your thing, the Compass Trailhawk comes in at a little over $28,500 and includes 19-inch wheels and suspension built more for off-roading. Hardcore offroaders should be aware that this isn't a heavy duty monster, so it may not satisfy your every whim and offroad desire, but for those who like to have the option, this is a great bet. In addition, the four-wheel drive, nine-speed automatic transmission Trailhawk comes with skid plates and two tow hooks, because you never know when you'll have to help out one of your friends who mistakenly thought they could keep up with you!