Jeep took a little bit of risk carrying the Compass name over to its newest vehicle, a crossover that slots in between the subcompact Renegade and the compact Cherokee.
The first-generation Compass, produced from 2007 until 2016, was not a favorite of hard core Jeep fans. For starters, unlike all other models at the time, it was not designed for serious off-road driving. Instead, it was one of Jeep's earliest crossovers, along with Patriot and the closely-related Dodge Caliber. All came standard with front-wheel-drive and an optional all-wheel drive better designed for slick roads than deeply rutted trails.
But consumers were and still are flocking to car-like crossovers because they are more comfortable to drive and get better mileage than truck-based sport utility vehicles. Jeep was smart enough to realize that most AWD owners never go off road, but instead want better traction in the rainy and snowy weather, like we get here in the Pacific Northwest.
Jeep upgraded the Compass (and Patriot) to include a trail-rated package in its last years anyway, offering the kind of skid plates and multiple traction settings available on its larger Grand Cherokee on less expensive vehicles.
Now Jeep has applied the Compass name to an all-new vehicles that is more like the rest of the lineup. Not surprisingly, all but the traditional Wrangler are crossovers these days. But, unlike the early versions of the Compact, they are crossovers that were available with trail-rated packages in their first years, so hard core Jeep owners have been more accepting of them.
The new Compass also reflects Jeep's much higher construction standards these days. It feels solid and is much quieter than the early versions of the Compass. The interior, which was upgraded part way through the production cycle of the original Compass, is even better than the final version was — well fitted with quality materials and a responsive infotainment system. The back seat was especially room for a smaller vehcile, too,
Our test Compass was a trail-rated Trailhawk version, which came with everything needed to go exploring in the deep woods. A dial on the center console adjusted the traction control from automatic through sand, dirt and snow. There was a low setting and the center differential could be fully locked for maximum traction. A Hill Descent setting was included, along with tow hooks in case the going got a little too tough.
Most of our driving was on pavement, of course, and there the Compass provided a comfortable ride, even over broken pavement. The biggest complaints were a little bit of engine noise under heavy accelaration and the nine-speed automatic transmission that seemed to hunt for gears every so often. It provided much better of the line performance than a Continuously Variable Transmission, however.
So there's no need for anyone to think the all-new Compass is a comprise. If you live in drier climates and never go off road, the front-wheel-drive version will suit you fine. If you worry about rain and snow, the all-wheel-drive models will ease your mind. And if you are a hard core Jeep fan, check out the trail-rated Trailhawk version. You won't be disappointed.
2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4X4
Base price: $28,695
Price as tested: $34,310
Type: Compact crossover
Engine: 2.4-liter inline 4 (180 hp, 175 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic with manual shift mode
EPA estimated mileage: 22/30
Overall length: 170.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,500 pounds (est.)
Final assembly: Toluca, Mexico
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