Is Jeep heading in the right direction?
You might be surprised to find you have to check off an option box to get 4-wheel-drive on Jeep’s Compass.
The compact Compass SUV is built on a front-wheel-drive platform — the first of its kind in Jeep’s storied history. But that doesn’t mean the Compass is cut from an entirely different cloth. Indeed, it still has the rugged Jeep persona and hardy looks. Now, they’re wrapped in a more modern and user-friendly package.
Engineers started with the same underpinnings as the Dodge Caliber. With a 2635 mm (103.7 in.) wheelbase, the Compass is one of the smallest vehicles in Jeep’s lineup, but the hatchback design allows for ample seating and storage space.
Though it’s really a pavement runner (it’s not Trail Rated), the Compass still has lots of ground clearance plus ample approach and departure angles to cope with steep driveways and some cautious back road workouts.
Under the hood is a new fuel-efficient, 4-cylinder engine delivering 172 hp. This is mated to a standard 5-speed manual gearbox or an available continuously variable transmission (CVT) that can be ordered with the ‘Autostick’ shift-it-yourself option. The CVT offers a fuel economy improvement of six to eight per cent compared to a traditional 4-speed automatic, and the 2.4-litre engine improves fuel efficiency by five per cent compared to the motor it replaces.
The styling is distinctly Jeep, with round headlights, seven-slot grille, square taillights and a strong beltline.
Inside, a high seating position provides good sight lines. The centre stack is designed like an open laptop and the shifter falls to hand like a mouse, allowing for easy and seamless operation. Cubbies and storage areas of all shapes and sizes are scattered throughout the interior, including a long storage well above the glove box, which is handy for various odds and ends.
The 643-litre rear cargo area features traditional Jeep tie-downs and a textured plastic floor cover that is easy to clean and prevents items from sliding around. With the 60/40 split rear seats folded, there’s 1519 litres of storage space. Speakers that fold down from the lift-gate are part of the optional 458-watt premium sound system.
Perhaps the best feature is an extensive list of safety equipment. All models come with standard electronic stability control, traction control and Electronic Roll Mitigation. Dual front airbags, plus front and rear side-curtains are also included.
On paved curves and gravel hairpin turns the Compass proved well mannered, quiet and comfortable. The steering and brakes worked well, while the independent suspension did a good job smoothing out road warts. When put to the test, with the 4-wheel-drive system’s centre coupling locked, the SUV plowed through thick sand and water with ease.
Three models are available in Canada: Compass Sport for $17,995; North, $20,255; and Limited for $22,355. Four-wheel-drive is a $2,000 option on all versions. Jeep expects the mid-range North trim with standard air conditioning, power windows and remote keyless entry to be the top-selling model.
Jeep Compass Limited