2017 Jeep Compass North

2017 Jeep Compass North

Jeep gives the Compass a huge nudge back towards respectability

Words by: Adam Allen

The outgoing Compass was just…

Wretched? Repugnant? Depressing? You could use any of those adjectives to describe the first-generation Compass and you wouldn’t be wrong. Resembling a Jeep Wrangler that had been shrunk and left out in the sun too long, it wore a bleary-eyed visage and frumpy proportions that did a better job of eliciting pity rather than the brand’s ethos of adventure and fun. Even a facelift in 2011 didn’t do much to distract people from the inherent sadness that the Compass exuded. The interior was a mess of cheap plastics that weren’t put together very well, and the drivetrain made all kinds of unbecoming noises while straining to get the little rig up to speed. If it seems like we’re piling on a hapless model, its shortcomings become even more obvious when you compare them to the current version which had a recent stay in the Carpages Garage.

So the new one is better, right?

Let’s put it this way: the 2017 model is so much better than the one it replaces that we wonder if perhaps Jeep should have given it a new name; “Compass”, we worried, might have too much negative baggage associated with it. People tend to have short memories, and the Compass seems to be selling reasonably well despite its namesake. The version you see here is vastly superior to its predecessor in every single metric you’d use to judge a car.

Is it good enough to earn the coveted “Trail Rated” badge?

Like any Jeep worth its salt, the Compass fares much better than its competitors when the road turns from tarmac to gnarly terrain running the gamut from sand and mud to rocks and precarious elevation changes. Our tester was outfitted in North trim, so it lacked the hardware to really head off the beaten path. If you’re the type who embraces very remote, off-the-grid type of excursions, you’ll need to upgrade to the Trailhawk model. When you do, you’ll get a unique Selec-Trac four-wheel drive system, better approach and departure angles and a smattering of skid plates to help you traverse surprisingly difficult terrain. We don’t have the skills to drive off-road necessary to exploit these talents, but a conversation with a few other journos who’ve had the chance to push the Compass in the dirty bits swear by its capability.

OK, but I don’t head into the bush that much…is it still civilized enough to get me to the office every day?

No matter which trim level you specify, the Compass won’t jostle you around as much as its laser-focused Wrangler stablemate does. In fact, it is quite comfortable when heading from home to the office. The ride is composed and feels well buttoned down- don’t think you’ll be slicing and dicing your local off ramps, however- and the generous ground clearance takes the edge off all kinds of nasty ruts and potholes. Even the four-wheel drive system is calibrated for use in the concrete jungle. Instead of keeping a propshaft spinning the rear axle all the time, it can be decoupled from the rear differential to get rid of pesky drag which hurts fuel economy. The Compass operates using front-wheel drive until the sensors detect slippage, instantly sending drive torque rearward. While we couldn’t verify the effectiveness of the system because it was sunny and warm every day the Compass spent in the Carpages Garage, we do like where the Jeep engineer’s heads are at. Actually, the Jeep staffers who designed the interior deserve a wealth of credit for helping make the giant leap forward over its underachieving predecessor with its acres of cheap plastics and phoning-it-in build quality. The seats have progressed from park bench hardness to actual car seats and FCA’s 8.4-inch U-Connect infotainment are among the segments best; if the software folks can iron out some of the bugs in using the interface, it would make a strong case to be mentioned among the industry’s best. To sum up, the interior of the Compass is a pretty nice place to be, whether you’re driving on or off road.

What might go wrong?

As massive a step forward though it may be, there is still room for improvement. Let’s start with the stop/start system, which feels like it still might be in Beta testing. It shuts off the engine in puzzling situations (like right as you prepare to accelerate away from a traffic light) and fires it up seemingly at random, with a healthy shudder that will have you thumbing the system’s Off button poste haste. Couldn’t we make Off the default setting? For us, the other big disappointment stems from the drivetrain. The 2.4 litre Tigershark engine has a zesty name that made us believe it would live up to its 180 horsepower rating, yet that doesn’t seem to be the case. It also doesn’t sound too thrilled when you press the throttle deeply towards the firewall which is the only way to get any meaningful forward motion. The 9-speed automatic deserves some of the blame for this. Somehow, it feels as if the fluid viscosity flowing within its innards is on par with congealed porridge. It shifts lazily, is very reluctant to downshift and it just seems bent on blunting the engine’s power in every situation, ostensibly to get better fuel mileage. That calibration backfired on us- we could only muster 12.6L/100km, quite a bit worse than NRCan’s projection of 9.5L/100km combined.

Should I buy a Jeep Compass?

If you’re an owner of the old Compass and looking to make a change, the answer is a resounding yes- you’ve suffered enough and deserve a breath of fresh air, a promise this version will most assuredly deliver on. Improvements notwithstanding, the Compass is also something of a rarity in its class when you factor in its ability to go places other small crossovers can only dream about. The only thing that might hold you back from jumping into the driver’s seat is the lackadaisical transmission, but for most folks that shouldn’t register as a complaint anyhow. If Jeep can fix some of the small issues the currently dog the otherwise well-sorted Compass, it would certainly deserve mention as one of the segment’s best.

 

2017 Jeep Compass North – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $37,665
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 9-speed automatic
  • Engine:  2.4 litre inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  180 @ 6,400 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 175 @ 3,900 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,509 kg (3,327 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 12.6L/100km (19 mpg)