- Genuinely attractive new dashboard, intuitive infotainment, comfortable seats.
- Powertrain conspires against your desire to accelerate, firm ride, expensive.
When the current-generation Jeep Compass appeared in 2017, it was a so-so subcompact SUV elevated by the outright awfulness of the original Compass it replaced and the availability of the off-road-capable Trailhawk model. Even today, no other small crossover can scamper as far off-pavement as the lifted, knobby-tired Compass Trailhawk, though Ford’s Bronco Sport comes close. But going on five years since the previous Compass was put to pasture, the memory of that tragically bad SUV is fading fast—robbing the new Compass of an easily cleared bar and leaving it to compete on its merits in one of the industry’s most competitive vehicle segments.
Do the Insides Really Count?
Jeep’s midcycle refresh of the Compass for 2022 offered the perfect opportunity for our first check-in with the SUV in years, and without its predecessor’s stinky afterglow. This year’s update could have targeted the Compass’ “wheezy powertrain, lackluster on-road performance, and cheap interior,” as we put it when the details became public last year, but it ended up mostly tackling just one of those pain points: the interior. Even then, Jeep only really messed with the Compass’ dashboard and center console, dressing it up with a new look, its latest Uconnect 5 touchscreen, the latest Grand Cherokee SUV’s steering wheel, and a newly optional digital gauge cluster. The SUV’s nose and wheel designs also received some minor attention.
The interior effect is transformative, not least because the dashboard is what most occupants will spend their time looking at while inside a Compass. Thinner air vents look classier, and the fresh steering wheel and new central display neatly hide the fact this SUV has been on sale for half a decade. Nothing’s been done to the door panels aside from some slightly nicer trim here and there. Higher trim levels such as the range-topping High Altitude model we tested (as well as a Limited-spec version we also drove during this evaluation) sport interesting colorways and are loaded with luxury features, from the heated front and rear seats and steering wheel to the 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 display and stitched leather-like material on the dashboard. Lesser Compasses still get an 8.4-inch version of this screen and splashes of stitched upholstery on the dashboard.
Everything works well, with the models equipped with the new digital gauge cluster utilizing the same basic control layout found in the new midsize Grand Cherokee, where buttons on the left steering-wheel spoke control the cluster and those on the right handle infotainment and driver assist functions. We appreciate the large audio volume and tuning knobs, though the two awkwardly straddle HVAC buttons in a smallish panel stuffed below the high-mounted touchscreen. Another bugaboo? The text used in the digital display suffers from tiny fonts whether you choose to call up animated analog speedometer and tachometer gauges (which appear as two half-dollar-sized circles) or go with the simplified digital readout. In either case, a lot of the display area goes unused unless you’re actively fiddling in on-screen menus, which appear in the voids only to recede when you’re finished.
So What About the Rest of the Compass?
It’s worth reminding everyone where the Compass falls, size-wise, in today’s small SUV arena. Depending on your perspective, the Compass is either a small compact—e.g., a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, or Ford Escape competitor—or a slightly plus-sized subcompact crossover, ready to elbow the smaller Honda HR-Vs, Kia Souls, and Nissan Rogue Sports of the world out of the way. Dimensionally, the Compass splits the averages of those two size classes, and the existence of Jeep’s smaller Renegade (a true subcompact) and the larger Cherokee (a full-on compact SUV), only further muddies the waters; we categorize it as a subcompact.
We bring up the size conundrum so we can point out that the Compass is rather tall and also stubby in length, with a short 103.8-inch wheelbase. Those dimensions give the small Jeep a perky appearance and a satisfyingly high-up seating position, but the wheelbase lends the Compass a choppy ride with pronounced fore-aft pitching sensations when slowing to a stop. Given how people drive these days, you’re bound to be cut off by some angsty post-pandemic American; when that happens in the Compass and you stab the brakes, the Jeep will dip its nose noticeably before bucking back when you release the grabbers. Larger compact SUVs generally don’t suffer this behavior; it’s closer in line with similarly laid-out subcompacts.
Other than your fellow Americans’ aggro driving habits of late, you will definitely be cut off when wheeling a Compass around because it is s-l-o-w slow. Every Compass is powered by a 177-hp 2.4-liter I-4 engine attached to a ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission; between the Jeep’s porky 3,623-pound curb weight (as tested) and the automatic’s steadfast aversion to working with the driver in any way to deliver the appropriate gear, you’ll spend a lot of time stomping on the gas trying to keep up with traffic.
The transmission tuning is such that if a higher gear can be selected, the Compass is probably already in it. We found the Compass would actually lose speed on barely perceptible grades at freeway speeds without pressing quite hard on the accelerator, its overwhelmed engine stuck trying to turn a too-high gear ratio. The transmission treats this request like a teenager being asked to clean their room, only caving with more pressure after a delay. Once in a decently low gear, the engine can whisk the Compass around almost normally; it’s just too bad extracting that desired behavior feels like pulling teeth.
Even pulling away from a stop, the driver must maintain firm pressure on the gas pedal lest the transmission attempt an upshift the moment the pedal lifts off the carpet. In our testing, the Compass High Altitude, which only comes with all-wheel drive, thrashed its way to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds, falling between a pair of Compasses we tested in 2017, which required 9.4 and 10.5 seconds to do the same.
Typically, when we complain about a transmission’s behavior in a review, it’s in the context of that gearbox not playing along with a sporty or aggressive driving manner. We usually add the caveat that “when driven normally,” everything’s mostly copacetic, and move on. The thing is, the 2022 Jeep Compass’ transmission tuning isn’t the victim of our misplaced dynamic priorities—it’s genuinely worse when driven sedately, as most small SUV buyers will drive one, because doing so all but guarantees the poor engine is fighting through the wrong gear ratio, lending the Jeep a notably sluggish sensation.
The Jeep Compass’ other dynamic traits aren’t quite as backwater, but they’re nothing to write home about, either. Our High Altitude test model’s 19-inch tires held on for just 0.80 g of grip on the skidpad, not much better than the taller, live-axle Wrangler SUV. Those nosedive stops will happen in 133 feet from 60 mph, another unimpressive showing. At least the steering feels accurate, and provided there isn’t too much of a crosswind, the Compass’ sense of straight-ahead at highway speeds is solid. Cabin and wind noise is muted for the class, too.
Does the New Cabin Move the Needle?
Make no mistake, the 2022 Jeep Compass is better than the 2021 Compass (which, in case you forgot, was a huge step beyond the 2016-and-older Compass). We only wish Jeep targeted a few more of the SUV’s shortcomings, starting with the firm ride and lethargic powertrain. Value takes something of a step backward, too, as the Compass now starts at $28,985 in entry-level Sport trim with front-wheel drive. That’s pricey for a one-size-up compact SUV, let alone an average subcompact entry, even when you consider the improved in-car tech and newly standard blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision warning. (A Toyota RAV4, for example, starts at $27,740, while a Honda CR-V’s opening ask is an even lower $27,625.) The 2022 Jeep Compass High Altitude we tested starts at $37,185 and was optioned to $39,075—you could pick up a BMW X1 for less, and should.
In this climate of dealer markups and price inflation, customers might not notice how egregious the Compass’ pricing really is, and therefore we doubt the SUV’s popularity will wane any time soon. People seem to like the Jeep’s mini-Grand-Cherokee looks, and the upgraded interior finally catches up to the exterior in aping that larger midsize SUV. That’s good, but it’s too bad the rest of the package doesn’t do more to mimic the excellent Grand Cherokee, because doing so would help elevate it against newer, better, and less expensive subcompact competitors.
Looks good! More details?
|2022 Jeep Compass 4×4 (High Altitude) Specifications|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$39,075|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.4L port-injected SOHC 16-valve I-4|
|POWER (SAE NET)||177 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||172 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,623 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||173.4 x 73.8 x 64.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||17.3 sec @ 80.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||133 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.2 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||22/30/25 mpg|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||338 miles|