Sorely in need of a competitive product in the compact crossover market, Jeep unveiled the redesigned 2017 Compass with updated styling and underpinnings at the Los Angeles Auto Show Thursday.
The new Compass will replace both its outgoing Compass as well as the similar Patriot.
Sitting on the same “small wide 4×4 architecture” platform that serves as the base for both the Fiat 500X and Jeep Cherokee, the 2017 Compass will be sold in the U.S. with only one engine. Under the hood lies a 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder boasting 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque.
Jeep, a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said the 2017 Compass will be capable of reaching 30 miles per gallon, though official fuel economy figures are not yet available. The outgoing Compass achieved 30 mpg only with a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter engine — which was widely panned by critics — and a manual transmission.
Transmissions on the 2017 Compass include a six-speed automatic on 4×2 models, a class-exclusive nine-speed automatic on 4×4 models, and a six-speed manual available on both. The continuously variable transmission, or CVT, used in the previous Compass has been shelved.
These and other changes in the 2017 Compass represent a clear departure from the outgoing model. Though sales had been on the rise in 2016 over the previous year, in October they tumbled by 8.5 percent compared with October 2015, according to Autodata Corp, an industry research firm.
Through the first ten months of 2016, the Compass sold more than 79,000 units while the Patriot sold over 105,00. Combining the two into the 2017 Compass could provide Jeep with a stronger, more recognizable foothold in the Sport Wagon / Crossover segment, which has increased in sales by 7.2 percent and has driven several models to figures well over the 200,000 mark — especially those like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, noted for their fuel economy, inviting ride and versatility on the road.
The lack of a competitive player has undoubtedly hurt Jeep; in October, its sales dipped by 6.6 percent compared with October 2015, and by 9.8 percent compared to September figures.
That may explain why Jeep seems to have paid particular attention to ride quality in the 2017 Compass, equipping all models with frequency damping shock absorbers on the front and rear struts from suspension giant Koni. The upper body structure and frame were engineered as a single unit to increase stiffness, and the 2017 Compass uses more than 65 percent high-strength steel to improve rigidity and reduce weight.
That doesn’t mean Jeep has forgotten about off-road capability. Buyers can choose from full-time 4×4 in the Jeep Active Drive package, or full-time 4×4 with a 20:1 crawl ratio in the Jeep Active Drive Low package.
The 2017 Compass will be available in four trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk. Easily recognizable by its aggressive stance, black hood stripe and bright red tow hooks, the Compass Trailhawk sits nearly one inch higher in ride height, and boasts skid plates, 17-inch off-road tires, Hill-Descent Control and 2,000 lbs. of towing capability. In addition to the four selectable drive modes — Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud — in all Compass trims, the Compass Trailhawk also has Rock. Jeep Active Drive Low is standard, and unique front and rear fascias contribute to increased approach and departure angles.
The 2017 Jeep Compass is expected to arrive on dealership lots in early 2017.