The 2017 Jeep Compass conquers the city and country alike

The Compass offers close-quarters handling and dirt-road composure.

2018 Jeep Compass
The 2018 Jeep Compass wears a dark green that almost acts as a camouflage. –George Kennedy

The 2017 Jeep Compass is a product of its time. Jeep is known for building capable SUVs, but the compact crossover is the fastest growing segment of the market. Jeep would be throwing away money if it didn’t offer a vehicle in this category. The Compass might not be as capable as a Wrangler, but for suburban and city dwellers, it does many things right.

The previous Compass was on a platform shared with the Dodge Caliber compact car, and suffered greatly for it. The new Compass shares a platform with the boxy Jeep Renegade, albeit with faster bodylines. The Compass looks like a scaled-down version of the upscale Jeep Grand Cherokee, and it benefits from that visual connection.

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Inside, the layout is utilitarian without being spartan. It’s essentially a more intimate version of the layout in the Jeep Cherokee, and Jeep is keeping things very much inline with its latest offering of SUVs.

The front seats are comfortable and provide an upright seating position. This commanding layout provides fantastic visibility, both forward and to the driver’s flanks. Even with the upright seating position, it still has great headroom and plenty of front legroom. The backseat is a bit tighter — an adult will not be able fit behind another adult, for example.

Our Latitude test model came with the available 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment screen, an upgrade over the base 5-inch display. The larger screen, with its tablet-like layout, is one of the best infotainment systems on the market.

The commanding cockpit of the Jeep Compass. —George Kennedy
Boston.com Dealer Specials:

The Compass comes with a 2.4-liter, inline four-cylinder engine making 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent through either a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, or available nine-speed automatic transmission.

Power is sent to the front wheels or one of two four-wheel drive systems. Active Drive operates in two-wheel-drive until the system senses need for more traction. The more Active Drive Low is standard on the Trailhawk, and as the name suggests, incorporates a low range and a rear locker, as well as a “Rock” terrain setting.

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This engine provides solid low-end acceleration, and will jump out of the gate when the light changes. Getting up to highway speed is a bit more of a challenge, as you’ll soon find the limits to this little engine with the pedal mashed. You’ll have to be more patient in the acceleration range of 50-70 miles per hour.

The Compass provides solid steering feel and sharp cornering. It is also level through turns. This combination of handling and low-speed acceleration make it an ideal vehicle for getting through the city at rush hour. It also handles bumps and small ruts, so it will gladly take on worn dirt roads or light trails.

The Compass is composed enough for city driving, but capable enough for dirt roads. —George Kennedy

EPA estimates for the Latitude 4×4 test model are 22 miles per gallon in the city, 30 on the highway, and 25 combined. In our week of combined city and highway driving, we observed an average fuel economy of 23.7 miles per gallon. To maintain that fuel efficiency, the Compass employs a stop/start system that’s quite herky-jerky compared with other systems. Luckily, a button at the shifter’s base will deactivate it.

The Compass is available with all the latest safety equipment, including forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and adaptive high beams.

Base MSRP for the 2017 Jeep Compass is $20,995 for the Sport model, $27,895 for the Limited, and $28,695 for the Trailhawk. Our Latitude 4×4 test model started at $24,295, but with options like the larger Uconnect screen with navigation, remote start, nine-speed automatic transmission, a power rear liftgate and other packages, the window price comes to $32,900.

Under the Hood:

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Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic transmission
Drivetrain: Four-wheel Drive
Power: 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque
Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined): 22 / 30 / 25
Also Consider: Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4

George Kennedy is a freelance automotive journalist and automotive expert. You can reach him aGeorge.h.kennedy.iii@gmail.com and on Twitter @GKenns101.