What it is: The Compass is one of Jeep’s compact SUVs and it received a major overhaul and is all new for 2017. The previous generation was forgettable and the new version is somewhat remarkable. Capitalizing on the Grand Cherokee’s handsome looks, it looks almost identical, just at 70 percent of the size. I received several positive comments on the appearance from my friends that were unsolicited, so this is certainly a distinguishing feature.

My test model was the base version, the Sport with FWD, which has a base price of $22,090 with destination. Jeep’s strategy is certainly attempting to capitalize on the compact crossover/compact SUV craze as the Compass is their third model with the Compass being priced in the middle. The Renegade starts at $17,995 and the Cherokee starts at $23,695, so the Compass slots right in between.

I was immediately impressed with how well equipped the Compass was equipped, even at the base level trim: a 5-inch touchscreen with backup camera, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, push buttom start, and a sound system that sounded good.

There are a few options: a six-speed automatic transmission is $1,500 (a nine-speed is available on higher trims), technology group (satellite radio and parking sensors) is $495, and the sport appearance group (16-inch wheels, tinted windows, and black roof rails) for $595. All three seemed to be a good value. Other options include 4WD for $1,500. The Latitude trim adds $3,300 and the Trailhawk or Limited trims are about $8,000 extra. There’s only one engine choice, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder that is a little anemic in this application. Jeep does have a new 3.2-liter V6 available, but you would have to move up to the Cherokee to get it.

On the road, the Compass was great. It was quiet, it was smooth, and the fuel-sipping four-cylinder returns 31 MPG on the highway. This would be a great road trip car with plenty of room for bags and four adults. It’s easy to live with day to day and has a great price tag.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Jeep will let you load up on options even with a manual transmission selected. I wouldn’t expect to see any of these at dealerships, but you can get a mid-level Latitude trim and add basically everything except for navigation. This includes a panoramic sunroof, premium Beats Audio system, 7-inch touchscreen, tow group package, HID headlights, power lift gate, and more. It’s nice to see, so thank you, Jeep!

MPG: 25 combined/22 city/31 highway

Price: $20,995 base price. $24,680 as tested with destination.
Upsides: Handsome looks. Great gas mileage. Off-road capability.

Downsides: Could use more power.

Wrap-up: I think the Compass is a hit and it’ll resonate well with all sorts of buyers, certainly anyone looking for a manual compact SUV, but also anyone looking for a compact SUV with some actual off-road ability. The Grand Cherokee starts almost a full $10,000 above the Compass, but if you don’t need the power/towing capability/cargo area that it provides, then why not save a ton and check out the Compass?

 

 

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Wilson Calvert
Author: Wilson CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist / Director of Operations
I am a long-time Houstonian and am obsessed with cars, soccer, traveling, bourbon and airplanes. I write a regular car review column for The Tribune and travel articles a few times per year.