The Jeep Compass was one of the brand’s first true crossover SUV’s, breaking ground and creating new paths from the very start. Some ten years since it first arrived on the scene, the all-new 2017 Jeep Compass replaces the original with all-new styling, a new chassis, and a new mission for the brand.

No longer is the Jeep Compass the entry level, but now fits in between two other crossover SUV’s, the Renegade and the Cherokee. It’s based on the Jeep Renegade chassis but stretched 2.6-inches and and about the same distance shorter than the larger Cherokee.

Styling is much more a premium affair than the last generation Compass, now smoother and more refined – hardly an ugly duckling. It pulls cues from the top-line Grand Cherokee in its facial design and gains a fashionable roofline treatment with an available two-tone paint scheme that is much pleasing to the eye.

The two tone interior has a pleasing feel and design with materials and comfort far and away better than the last generation Compass. If you have spent any time in other Jeep, Chrysler or Dodge products however you will find the design to be near identical in form and in hardware – not a bad thing if you like it.

The front seats offer a good range of adjustment for a variety of driver sizes, the seating position far more car-like than before. The dash flows well out in front of you which gives a sense of space but makes the hood invisible.

Comfort is aplenty front and rear where even there the space provided is plentiful and with a higher than average seating position. They fold down in the expected 60/40 split and a nearly flat load floor results.

Shared are engines and powertrains among the three, here in North America exclusively the venerable 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. In the Limited AWD tester we have here, it came with a nine-speed automatic transmission.

With front-wheel drive you can get a six-speed automatic and a six-speed manual is also available. Two all-wheel drive systems are available, the passive Jeep Active Drive system in ours and Active Drive II which is reserved for the more off-roady Trailhawk model.

17-Jeep-Compass-10The powertrain remains just as lethargic and lacking in spunk as we have found on other Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler vehicles which use it. While power is adequate, the engine and transmission combination is rarely eager to please and as we found can be quite thirsty even in such a compact SUV.

It’s rated at 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. In our week with it we struggled to achieve 20 mpg combined.

Handling is much akin to that of the smaller Jeep Renegade as it shares the same chassis albeit slightly longer and heavier. Here it gets Koni shocks and struts to help its handling poise. On our tester was also optioned larger 19-inch wheels with low profile tires.

This combination helped handling feel and agility around town and on windy mountain roads – elevating the handling experience over the previous generation Compass. Unfortunately we found quickly that on rough pavement, the suspension lacks isolation from ruts and put holes – sending them crashing into a creaky and less than solid structure.

17-Jeep-Compass-3On the washboard back trails of Arizona this character flaw only deepened with its low profile tires and street tuned chassis making the off-pavement stint a buckboard, rattling and shuddering theme park ride of disappointment.

This is a Jeep in name, but handles the dirt roads and trails with less poise than we have found even in some compact sedans. The suspension becomes loose, the steering column rattles and shakes, the structure comes alive with shuddering nervousness.

Priced at $34,260 with many options and packages the Compass has a vast array of competitors which at this price tag we feel offer better opportunities for value as well as off-road poise. In more basically outfitted form and closer to its $20,995 entry price it may be a more cohesive package.

In summation, the new Jeep Compass is a great improvement over its forebear but still could use some polish when it comes to refinements and chassis poise when compared to many of its current crop of peers.