Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 4, 2017
The new Compass was all too promising. As the replacement of the outgoing Compass and Patriot, Jeep’s new compact crossover was poised to attract the masses with off-road ready appeal, charming looks, and an attractive price tag. It had a healthy four-cylinder engine, a 9-speed transmission, a proven 4x4 system, and multiple modes for every possible terrain: snow, sand, mud, and rock.
But when these separate ingredients were thrown into the pot together, the final product fell apart. What came out of the tunnel was a Jeep without a soul, one with buggy software, an unrefined powertrain, and lack of rear headroom.
For clarity, we spent a week with the 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk, the off-road variant of the Compass lineup. This meant 17-inch off-road tires, a full-time 4x4 system with 20:1 crawl ratio, around 25 mm of increased ride height, unique front and rear bumpers to aid in better approach, breakover, and departure angles during off-roading, an anti-glare hood decal, black grill surround, red interior accents, a black roof, all-season floor mats, skid plates, Hill Descent Control, leather-faced seats, stiffer off-road suspension, and signature red tow hooks (two up front and one in the rear).
Don’t get me wrong. The Compass is the best looking Jeep to come out of FCA in years. It’s strikingly handsome and well-proportioned with a familiar 7-slot grill. The stance is similar to the bigger Cherokee but more compact and taut. I find it more attractive than the rivaling Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-3. There are no more awkward ZDX-style door-sill handles like on the outgoing Compass, and even the “Rhino” paint colour suits this rugged Compass quite appropriately, like a charging rhinoceros with red tow-hook fangs.
The interior puts functionality above all else, and isn’t as pretty as the sheetmetal. The center layout is wonderful, with a single USB slot, auxiliary port, and DC outlet within easy reach. The design is uncluttered, but the off-road dial perched at the center console does take up some heavy real estate. It would have otherwise been a good storage cubby. Instead there’s but two cupholders, a center glovebox, and a tiny insert right under the dials, shallow enough to only swallow a pair of small keys.
The graphics on the infotainment screen are excellent. I still find it one of the easiest to use on the market, easier than the Qashqai’s, HR-V’s, and just a hair easier than the CX-3’s. There is no rotary dial here, just a simple and easy touchscreen with large and customizable menu buttons. Opting for the 8.4-inch UConnect system allows you to utilize Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well. Unfortunately, there were more than a handful of times that the system would freeze and completely shut off by itself mid-operation. It would restart momentarily, but was a recurring annoyance.
The amount of head- and leg-room for front passengers is quite good. Though that changes if you’re relegated to the back seats. While legroom is great - I can sit behind my six-foot self with about 30 mm of legroom to spare - headroom is lacking. I end up having to slouch and hunch my back just so that my head doesn’t knock on the headliner every time the Compass hits a bump. That dual-pane panoramic roof, though nice and expansive and makes the second row feel more airy, really cuts into the available headroom.
Perhaps it’s just the Trailhawk trim with wide off-road tires and tuned suspension, but the ride is incredibly firm and non compliant. The chassis jiggles on every bump and isn’t as composed as the Qashqai or even the CX-3. The seats did not assist in comforting my spine either - the seatback is too short. That means the top of my spine rests on the headrest instead of my actual head, making for an awkward hunch in seating position. The pedals in the footwell are also recessed and far from the seat, meaning short-legged drivers may have to sit closer to the wheel than they’re used to.
Yes, the Trailhawk’s off-road credentials should be noted, but I really wonder how many of these owners (this includes Cherokee and Grand Cherokee variants) really swing that 4x4 dial, or simply leave it in Auto for the computers to sort it out themselves? How many of them really venture off the beaten path into mud pits or shallow rivers?
Be that as it may, the Trailhawk does feel capable. What it lacks in refinement it makes up for in rugged feel and the confidence to trek up any sort of terrain. The added ground clearance from the Trailhawk helps, and instills more driving courage than its rivals.
The powertrain is another sour note to talk about. Under the hood of all Compass models is a 2.4-litre four cylinder that delivers 180 hp and 175 lb-ft through a 9-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive models get a 6-speed automatic, with a 6-speed manual available for select front- and all-wheel drive models.
While the naturally aspirated engine feels healthy and competitive, it’s the transmission that poses as the weakest link. The 9-speed doesn’t seem to have improved since my time with the Cherokee that had the same unit. It’s slow to accelerate and slow to select the appropriate gears. At least it’s smooth, but I’d probably take the CVT in the Qashqai or HR-V over this any day of the week.
Floor the gas pedal at 60 km/h and it takes a solid two seconds to respond. I have tried it many times, each with the same appalling response time. There seems to be a delay in clutch engagement as well. It’s a weird feeling to hit the gas and for a brief millisecond, not sense any response from the powertrain. It’s not turbo lag where you can actually hear and feel it spooling. Here, there’s just no signal of life. It’s not very fuel efficient either even with the disconnecting rear axle on 4x4 models. We averaged 12.3 L/100km over our week with an equal mix of city and highway driving.
The start/stop system also gave us some problems. I was waiting at a green-light for a left-turn through a busy intersection, when the start/stop kicked in and shut the engine off since I was idling, waiting for traffic to pass. The light turned yellow, the lanes were clear, so I hit the gas pedal. Nothing happened. Turns out the engine had never turned back on and was cut off completely. I didn’t notice it at first, so I mashed the pedal to no avail. I ended up having to select Park, and restart the engine, and rid myself of the multiple honks that followed.
In the end, my time with the Jeep Compass had a lot going for it. It’s handsome looks really stole my heart but it lacked soul and refinement. I don’t think 99% of customers would need the Trailhawk trim, as it isn’t for someone looking for a daily driver in the city. It’s better suited for the cottage go-er or rural customer who needs to brave weather extremities.
The Trailhawk is also quite pricey at $32,895, and that’s before options. Our tester rang out at $39,605, and I’d argue that a cheaper Subaru Crosstrek ($24,995) would be nearly as capable in murky conditions as the Trailhawk. City dwellers will find the base Compass more suitable, which starts at $24,900.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to look past the Compass’ significant faults. The laggy powertrain, buggy software, and lack of rear headroom keeps this handsome but soulless crossover from getting full marks.
型号 Model: 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk
顏色 Paint Type: Rhino
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $32,895
試車售價 Price as Tested: $39,605
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,636
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,394 / 1,874 / 1,641
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,648
引擎 Engine: 2.4-litre MultiAir inline-four
最大馬力 Horsepower: 180 hp @ 6,400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 175 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 9-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4X4
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.8 / 7.8 / 9.5
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.3
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 215/65R17 BSW off-road tires