More than a few Jeeps are quite capable off-road, but the reality is that most will rack up miles on pavement of one kind or another, a place where ride quality trumps approach angle.
With that in mind, we wanted to see how well Jeep's newest compact SUV, the redesigned 2017 Compass, would do on a weekend road trip from Chicago to Detroit and back. We were curious as to what kind of gas mileage we'd get, but we also wondered how comfortable the Compass would be on a longer highway trip.
Our test car was a 2017 Compass Latitude 4x4 with an as-tested price of $31,210, including a $1,095 destination charge. (Note that Jeep also sells the prior-generation Compass for the 2017 model year.) All redesigned Compasses are powered by a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder Used Engine . A six-speed manual or six- and nine-speed automatics are offered; our Compass had the nine-speed.
This drivetrain gets an EPA-estimated 22/30/25 mpg city/highway/combined, and the trip-computer average was right on the highway estimate for both the eastbound trip to Detroit (30.6 mpg) and the westbound trip back (30.1 mpg). Gas pump calculations revealed a greater difference between the trip east (32.1 mpg) and the return leg (29.5 mpg).
Jeep's nine-speed automatic has been a source of frustration in the Cherokee SUV, but the Compass' nine-speed transmission shifts smoothly. Even so, the automatic can't make up for the weak Used Engine attached to it, and the transmission also hampers performance at times.
The Compass' modest power has been a frequent criticism of Cars.com editors, and this problem gets worse on the highway. It takes everything the four-cylinder has to reach highway speeds, and even then, it doesn't feel quick. The slow-to-kickdown automatic transmission also makes you wait a second or two before you get the Used Engine 's reserve power, which is minimal at that. I suspect it would be even worse with a full load of people and luggage, which I didn't have.
Once you reach cruising speed, the Compass becomes a better road-trip companion. The comfort-oriented suspension handles bumps well. The SUV feels stable and tracks nicely, and even though the front bucket seats are on the small side, they were comfortable for the entire trip.
The compact SUV segment is booming as more shoppers choose SUVs instead of cars, and in many areas — like styling, interior quality and technology — the Compass rates well. However, its gutless drivetrain will be a deal-breaker for some shoppers despite decent gas mileage.
Trip Details: Our trip from Chicago to Detroit and back the weekend of July 15 covered a total of 592 miles, most of which were on the highway. Apart from road construction-related backups, traffic was mostly light. It was warm, with temperatures in the high 60s to low 80s. I drove with the windows up, air conditioning on and cruise control off. The Compass' fuel-saving auto stop-start system, which reduces Used Engine idling, was on, which is the default.