By Cars.com EditorsAugust 31, 2017
About the video
The Jeep Compass takes the place of two models in Jeep's lineup. Although the new Compass is better in many ways than both vehicles it replaces, it's got some problems - including a major one that might just be a deal breaker for some shoppers.
(engine revving) (upbeat music) Jeep's lineup of SUVs has actually shrunk with the debut of the redesigned Compass, which replaces a prior generation compact SUV of the same name, and also the Jeep Patriot SUV.
Even though Jeep shoppers now have fewer models to choose from, the one that remains, this one, is better in most respects. It's one problem though, is a big one, and it could be a deal breaker for some shoppers. The previous Compass had already taken on styling cues from the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, and the redesigned model bears an even closer resemblance. The similarities are most evident up front where the Compass and Grand Cherokee both have the same kind of seven slot grille and headlight designs. There are also unique design touches like this band of chrome that sweeps along the roofline, as well as, unexpected touches like the Loch Ness Monster silhouette, one of Jeep so-called Easter egg design cues at the base of the rear window. All told though, I think it's a good looking little SUV. The cabin is all new and it's a big improvement over the old Compass's interior. There are soft touch surfaces where you want to have them, nice looking trim, and most of the controls have a refined feel. The one outlier though, are the power window switches. They have auto up-down operation, but they lack the typical detent used to initialize this feature, and what this means is that when you press the button to have the window go down, it'll go down all the way when you just want to crack the window a little bit, or it'll go all the way up when you just want to raise it a little bit. Now it might seem like a small thing, but it really is unnecessarily frustrating. The Compass is also one of the first models to get FCA's fourth-generation Uconnect Multimedia System, which packs more processing power, a higher resolution screen, and new capability like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. It remains one of the easiest to use system of its type. Not only because of its clear onscreen menus, but also because Jeep has wisely kept volume and tuning knobs just below the screen, rather than trying to put these controls in a touchscreen menu. All Compasses have a 180-horsepower, 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine, and four-wheel-drive versions like this one get a nine-speed automatic transmission. The drivetrain is rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 30 on the highway, and 25 miles per gallon in combined driving. And I took the Compass on a weekend trip from Chicago to Detroit and back, and put nearly 600 miles on it, and afterwards the trip computer read 30 miles per gallon, right at the highway estimate, and that was with mostly highway driving. That's decent gas mileage for a compact SUV, but unfortunately, you have to put up with extremely weak acceleration, and that was a common complaint of cars.com editors who drove it. It takes all that the four-cylinder has to get the SUV up to speed, and the slow to kick down automatic transmission makes you wait a second or two to tap into that minimal power reserve. Once you've reached a cruising speed, the Compass becomes a better road trip companion. The comfort-oriented suspension handles bumps well, it feels stable and tracks nicely on the highway, and even though the front seats are on the small side, they were comfortable for my entire trip. The compact SUV segment is booming as more and more shoppers choose SUVs over cars. And in many ways from its classy design to its easy to use technology, the Compass has what it takes to compete with the segment leaders, but a gutless drivetrain takes a lot of the shine off Jeep's new compact SUV.