LA Auto Show: 2017 Jeep Compass: First Look

Did you recently buy a Jeep Renegade? I hope you kept the receipt. The new Jeep Compass is the small SUV-for-brand-whores you really wanted.

Jeep unveiled the new-for-2017 Compass with a splash (no, really, they drove one through a puddle on the stage of the press conference) at the Los Angeles Auto Show yesterday afternoon, and it actually looks good.

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My primary complaint with the Renegade is that it wasn’t really a Jeep, but actually a rebadged Fiat Panda with lots of branding thrown at it. With great power comes great responsibility, and a brand as powerful as “Jeep” shouldn’t just be thrown at every platform you get your hands on. I digress, but only because it seems Jeep was actually paying attention to what I was thinking…

The Compass has an available, class-exclusive, full-time four-wheel-drive system called “Active Drive” which can send up to 100 percent of torque to any wheel at any time. These decisions are handled by the computer, and can be influenced by selecting one of four drive modes. This is complimented by a 20:1 crawl ratio “Active Drive Low,” available on the “Trailhawk” trim. This system is mated to the Tigershark 2.4l four-banger, which comes attached to either a nine-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual transmission for those who like to row their own. Those who foolishly opted against owning a “real” Jeep and selected the 4X2 version have to make do with the six-speed automatic. Of course, the Jeep will be available with up to FIVE engine choices in other markets, including two diesel options. While I think the 1.4 and 2.0 gasoline options would see an incredibly low take rate, I would have been happy to see the larger of the two diesels (1.6 or 2.0l Multijet) as an option on certain trims.

Jeep Compass

In the US market, the Compass will be available in four trim levels – the “base” Sport, mid-range Latitude, and the off-road focused Trailhawk and more swanky Limited sharing the top step. The Trailhawk is the only one I’d consider. A Sport with the 4X4 would probably do the trick for most people if you didn’t need all the fancy gadgets and trim bits, but it can’t be had with the tow package. Lets be honest though, how much towing are you really going to do? The Compass’ off-road credentials are apparent with the meaty 17 inch off-road tires, along with a substantial skid plate and some flashy tow hooks. Jeep claims it can ford up to 19 inches of water, although I can’t imagine their target buyer going anywhere with puddles that deep. All this is a significant off-road cred improvement over the old Jeep Compass. Our own Justin Hughes drove one for a month. He hated it, except on rally stages.

2017 Jeep Compass Limited interior
Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Thankfully, the interior is far more restrained than that of the Cherokee and Renegade. It actually looks vaguely pleasant, if not slightly boring. The “aggressive” fenders and black roof give the Compass a rugged yet sophisticated look, which is exactly what the target buyer wants. As much as I dislike this entire segment, I can’t help but think that this is the best looking of the bunch.

This is great and all, but the fact of the matter is Jeep (and its other FCA stablemates) score pretty low on reliability and quality among most major car award outlets, such as Consumer Reports and JD Power. With that in mind, I’m not sure I’d ever buy one. On the other hand, much of Jeep’s lineup was new last year, so I hope this year sees some reliability improvements.

It’ll never be a Wrangler, but on paper I think this may be the closest thing we get to a Wrangler you can live with every day.