All-new 2017 Jeep Compass

Jeep Skills

"The new Compass squeezes itself in between the Renegade and Cherokee."

"The new Compass has a clear-cut headway on the old generation by miles!"

"At first glance, I thought it's a "downsized" Grand Cherokee," said Ershad.

"It's the Jeep's off-road credentials that can set Compass up in the competition."

"Key attributes are the new looks, great off-road credentials, Cherokee-like feel inside and decent handling."

It's no secret that the auto industry is on a rough patch in terms of worldwide sales and so you'd expect some big decisions by the execs. Eventually a new product is born OR some from the lineup bid farewell. The compact SUV segment has picked up big time and automakers can barely resist the urge. Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape and Volkswagen Tiguan are key players in this highly competitive segment. Jeep was already in the league with the boxy twins: Compass and Patriot, but made no big impact. Here's where things ought to get set right…

Jeep is a brand very synonymous with SUVs or a 4x4 off-roader. Cherokee is their best seller, which accounts for around 350,000 units sold out of the total 1.4 million units worldwide last year. Followed by that is the Wrangler. Renegade was a nice addition and now we have the second-generation Jeep Compass. I was invited to the beautiful city of Lisbon to drive the new Compass. It was a fair mix of ride in the city and the coastal road facing the Atlantic Ocean - all the way to Sintra National Park where we get to test the off-road skills of the Compass.

With the new Compass, Jeep is targeting the compact SUV segment (the models that I referred to earlier), except the Japanese RAV4 and CR-V (as they are a bit bigger in size).

Mini Grand Cherokee: At first glance I thought it's a "downsized" Grand Cherokee. The new Compass squeezes itself in between the Renegade and Cherokee. Middle East will see its first Compass at the Dubai International Motor Show in November. It'll be a 4x4 variant and the 4x2 models will join in early 2018. Customers get a choice of four trim levels, namely: Sport, Longitude, Limited (the top-of-the-range) and Trailhawk (Trail Rated 4x4).  

The new Compass is handsome and it is built on the same "small-wide 4x4 architecture" seen in the Renegade and Cherokee. With a wheelbase and overall length of 103.8 and 173 inches, respectively, the new Compass sits in between the two models. With the advanced steel unibody structure, Jeep has tried offering torsional stiffness for better body control and confidence. Front fascia is very distinctly JEEP - a seven-slot grille set in gloss black integrating the signature LED headlamps. Sharp lines on the bonnet, trapezoidal wheel arches and the way roof drops down towards the rear, adds to the tough yet futuristic character. To cope up with odd terrains, the Compass offers a good 208 mm of rear-wheel articulation and 216 mm ground clearance.

Trailhawk: During the briefing session, we were told that the Trailhawk will feature an increased ride height of 2.5 cm, protective skid plates under the body and unique front and rear fasciae that deliver a 30 degree approach, 24.4-degree breakover and 33.6-degree departure angles. Trailhawk has also got 17-inch off-road tires and a red rear tow hook.

How is it inside?
The rear passenger area lays out plenty of leg- and headroom along with decent cargo space (multi-level rear cargo floor). The added length (compared with the Renegade) benefits the rear passengers, with more legroom. There's only a little space between the front seats; just enough for a folding armrest. The same resonates in the back seats, so the third occupant may have a tight affair. Interior cues were pretty much Cherokee type, with a trapezoidal infotainment and air vent section of the dash surrounded by a chrome inlay bezel. It was a sunny day, so it was just perfect to open the panoramic, two-panel sunroof. There were "Easter Eggs" throughout, including the seven-slot grille or Jeep Wrangler outline, and molded plastic gecko at the base of the windshield, to name a few.

For techies
The center stack houses a 7-inch (or 8.4-inch) touchscreen "Uconnect system" display along with other functional knobs and buttons for gearshifter, terrain controls, electronic parking brake, climate/volume control and connectivity ports. Compass is the first one to get the next-gen UConnect system. For hands-free phone, navigation and texting, we've got new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For the driver, there's a 7-inch LED driver information display (DID) with a wide range of customization options controlled by the buttons on the steering wheel. For good music, Jeep offers Beats Audio featuring nine speakers. The touchscreen was clear and responded well. The best part was to view Jeep Skills onscreen. It's basically an application with graphics and off-road-specific indexes displayed to monitor the car's performance on trails - pretty cool!

Safety and security - 70 rounds
Compass is out with a list of 70 active and passive safety and security features. The figure sounds bizarre but let me take you through some of them. Standard features include Forward Collision Warning-Plus and LaneSense Departure Warning-Plus. Adaptive Cruise Control and Blind-spot Monitoring are optional. ParkView rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines and Rear Cross Path detection help in parking maneuvers. Trailhawk has a standard feature of Hill-descent Control for smooth hill descent in rough landscapes without the driver needing to touch the brake pedal.

The engine
For the Middle East, Compass comes with the 2.4-liter Tigershark petrol engine with MultiAir2, delivering 184 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 237 Nm of torque. There's a choice of two gearboxes - nine-speed automatic or six-speed manual (for the 4x2 models). A quick note on MultiAir - it's a technology developed by FCA's powertrain division. It was in Alfa Romeo Mito's 1.4-liter engine and later in Jeep's Renegade and Cherokee. The technology enhances peak engine power (up to 10%), torque at low rpms (up to 15%) and better fuel efficiency (cut by 10%). The whole setup enables the electro-hydraulic valve management system to directly control the intake air and improve the engine dynamic response.

And I drove?
All said, I didn't drive the 2.4-liter version, as it wasn't available at the launch. I got my hands on the 2.0-liter diesel (172 hp) and a 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo. Even so, it was a nice opportunity to get a feel of it.

Ride quality and handling
Compass uses a fully independent suspension system that comprises of MacPherson front-suspension design to offer up to 17 cm of articulation and better cornering. At the rear, we've got high mounted strut-type shock absorbers and coil springs that offer up to 20 cm of rear-wheel articulation. They have also used a split-type shock absorber mounting that transmits road vibrations to the body structure through two different routes for better efficiency without disturbance. Further road holding and handling is managed by frequency selective damping (FSD) front and rear strut system.

On-road manners
For open highways, I got a fully loaded "Limited" edition Compass that runs on an 18-inch alloy set. The ride was smooth and comfy without much road noise. The transmission up-shifts smoothly and at appropriate times, which is great for compact SUVs. The steering had a good feel to it with solid feedback. Away from the highway as we approached the Sintra National Park, Compass proved to be a worthy rival for twists and turns - very well composed.

Go off-road
I took a Trailhawk for the off-road course. All the key settings and modes are controlled through a rotary knob and three buttons located just in front of the gearshift stick. The buttons are 4WD Lock, 4WD Low and hill-descent control. The car is equipped with 4 Selec-Terrain settings, while the Trailhawk gets an extra "Rock" mode. Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud are the standard modes. In the Auto mode, the system runs an algorithm based on the terrain type and traction required, disconnecting and adjusting the clutch performances (namely Jeep Active Drive) allowing me to run around like a pro. There's an extra feature called Jeep Active Drive Low, which basically adds a low range through a final drive ratio and links a 20:1 crawl ratio for rigorous off-road drills. Although I could've done the drill with the Auto mode (which, by the way, was doing a good job taking on rough and rocky patches in the national park), it was insisted I try out the ROCK mode.

And then the ROCK
It's a simple exercise. Activate 4WD Lock and then 4WD Low followed by selecting the Rock mode. A combination of actions follow then - brakes take off locking differentials and the traction control computers do everything to let the car crawl over the rough terrain without a snag. I was only holding on to the steering wheel with barely anything to control. Jeep Skills shown in the display tells us the story in detail: what power's applied, brakes, pedal pressure, g-force, steering angle and a lot more. Though it was a pre-planned track course, I got a nice, tall obstacle to pass through to demonstrate its wheel articulation - a fine act to show how it's different from the rest of the segment. In fact, it's the Jeep's off-road credentials that can set Compass up in the competition.

The new Compass has a clear-cut headway on the old generation by miles. It actually fills a void in Jeep's lower segment, sized just right. Key attributes are the new looks, great off-road credentials, Cherokee-like feel inside and decent handling. Buyers have a choice of premium "Limited" edition for a Grand Cherokee type feel or a Wrangler mode in the "Trailhawk" version. Jeep is targeting the young audience with a small family, and it makes a lot of sense in the Gulf region where expats have all the above traits on their checklist before making a decision. I enjoyed the perky 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo (which isn't coming to our region), but there's no harm in believing the 2.4-liter block should do well.  

Pros: Grand Cherokee looks, composed ride, decent room inside, Trailhawk's off-road credentials are best in the segment
Cons: Bit of niggle in downshifts
Rivals: Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, Volkswagen Tiguan, Chevrolet Equinox
one word: recalculating
4 stars

2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with MultiAir2, 184 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 237 Nm @ 3,900 rpm
Choice of 4x4 and 4x2, 9-speed auto (4x4 models) or 6-speed manual (4x2 models)
0-100 km/h: 9.4-9.9 sec, top speed: 177 km/h, fuel consumption: 9.4-10.2 L/100 km
Weight: 1,655 kg

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