Jeep Compass Trailhawk

Jeep seeks a new heading with the redesigned Compass

The all-new Jeep Compass is a dramatic improvement over the previous model, both in terms of styling, feature availability and off-road capabilities. The new styling clearly reflects the design DNA of Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, and it is a much-needed breath of fresh air for this model.

Compact SUVs are one of the hottest segments in the market, and the Compass slots in between the subcompact Renegade and the compact Cherokee. The chassis is a stretched version of the “small wide 4X4” platform that is used for the Renegade but the wheelbase is 103.8 inches. Overall length is 173 inches, seven more than the Renegade but ten less than the Cherokee. Surprisingly, when the back seat is folded, the Compass cargo space is slightly larger than the Cherokee.

Base prices start at $20,995 for front-wheel drive and $22,495 for all-wheel drive. The Trailhawk starts at $28,595, and the Limited begins at $28,995. The Trailhawk test car from Jeep’s press fleet had a sticker price of $34,860.

The new model is truly a global vehicle since it will be manufactured in Brazil, China, Mexico and India for consumers in more than 100 countries around the world, according to Jeep’s press materials. The U.S. model is equipped with the Tigershark 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower. It is mated to a nine-speed automatic in all-wheel-drive models and a six-speed automatic in front-wheel-drive models. A six-speed manual is also offered on select models.

The Tigershark engine delivers decent performance, but it is a bit noisy at high rpm. Acceleration is adequate but not scintillating. Car and Driver magazine reports that it takes a none-too-rapid 8.9 seconds to go from zero to 60 miles per hour. The nine-speed automatic transmission has been tweaked a bit but is still a little slow on upshifts.

Two all-wheel-drive systems are available and both have a knob on the console that lets the driver choose Snow, Sand, Mud or Auto settings. Jeep Active Drive primarily drives the front wheels until slippage occurs, at which time the rear axle is engaged. In certain situations, the system disconnects the rear axle for better fuel economy.

The Compass Trailhawk uses Active Drive Low. It has a lower final drive ratio that enables it to crawl with a 20:1 first gear, and its terrain selector also has rock mode as well as 4WD Lock and 4WD Low plus hill-descent control.

The Trailhawk sits higher than the regular model and has 8.5 inches of ground clearance plus it rides on 17-inch wheels with knobby tires.

Inside the nicely styled exterior is an interior that has a youthful look. The test car had red accent piping and red stitching on the leather seats. The surface textures of the instrument panel and doors were unimpressive, particularly for a vehicle in this price segment.

There’s a large LED screen in the center of the dash and it was easy to use for controlling the navigation, audio and heating/cooling. It was good to have individual knobs for some audio functions. The steering wheel had integrated controls for audio, voice and cruise.

Apple CarPlay is standard as is Android Auto.

Available safety equipment includes a blind-spot monitor, hill-start control, hill-descent control, stability control, trailer-sway damping and a rear-view camera with cross-traffic alert.

The redesigned Compass has the rugged look of a Jeep, is reasonably priced and is sure to bring lots of traffic to Jeep showrooms. The Trailhawk is capable of moderate off-road use, and that should set it apart from several competing SUVs because most of those are intended for pavement or occasional use on improved roads.

2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk

Engine: 2.4-liter, 180-hp 4-cylinder

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Four-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 103.8 inches

Curb weight: 3,633 pounds

Base price: $28,595

As driven: $34,860

MPG rating: 22 in the city, 30 on the highway