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Test Drive: 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk

2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk
2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk in Billet Silver Metallic

2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk  

Class: Compact crossover

Miles Driven: 285

Fuel Used: 13.1 gallons

Real-world fuel economy: 22.0 mpg

Driving mix: 70% city, 30% highway

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB+
Power and PerformanceC
Fit and FinishB+
Fuel EconomyB-
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyB
Tall GuyB
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 22/30/25 (city, highway, combined)

Base price: $28,595 (not including $1095 destination charge)

Options on test car: Leather Interior Group ($1295), Command View sunroof ($1295), Navigation Group ($895), Popular Equipment Group ($395), power liftgate ($495)

Price as tested: $33,670


Quick Hits

The great: Comfortable ride, roomy cabin

The good: Cargo space, promise of off-road prowess

The not so good: Fuel economy, price in Trailhawk trim

More 2017 Jeep Compass price and availability information


John Biel

We’ve got good news and bad news. We’ll go ahead and guess that you’re one of those “tell me the bad news first and get it over with” types, so here goes:

When Consumer Guide® had the all-new 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk to test for a week, editors didn’t have the chance to try out the things that make the most off-road-prepared new-generation Compass distinct from its other three family members.

The Compass Trailhawk rides very nicely for an SUV that’s geared toward off-road use. A power liftgate adds $595.

The good news is CG’s Rick Cotta did get to drive it well off the beaten path at the media preview, and pronounced the Trailhawk eminently capable. (A click on the link to Rick’s First Spin report will tell you more about that.)

Should the idea of a redesigned compact sport-utility vehicle from perhaps the most trusted name in off-road transit stir you to visit a Jeep showroom, note that there may be two kinds of 2017 Compass on offer when you arrive. The last of the previous generation is also being sold as a ’17. The one that is the subject of this review is built on a stretched version of the platform that serves the Fiat-built subcompact Jeep Renegade.

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For a compact SUV, the Compass is decently spacious for average-sized adults in both the front and back seats. The overall ambiance is more sturdy than posh in Trailhawk trim, but both materials quality and fit/finish looked good.

While there are front-wheel-drive Compasses available, you would expect the Trailhawk to be a 4×4, and you would be right. All four-wheel-drive models feature the electronic Selec-Terrain system that tailors engine, driveline, traction and stability controls for operation in snow, sand, or mud. However, the Trailhawk also gets a “rock” setting, hill-descent control, and low-range gearing to help it creep in situations where “easy does it” is the way to go when off road.

The Trailhawk comes only with a 9-speed automatic transmission. It is joined to a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which is carried over from the outgoing model but with a slight power boost to 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. The engine is fairly peppy and generally quiet. It’s a little harder to be as enthusiastic about the transmission, however. It can be slow to kick down for highway passing, and this driver sensed some oddly timed shifts even in less-demanding driving situations.

The rear cargo area offers 27.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, and 59.8 cubic feet with the seat backs folded.

The EPA projects that the Trailhawk should get 22 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the open road. This driver put 177 miles on the test truck, 48 percent of that in city-type driving, and averaged 23.4 mpg. Note that automatic-transmission Compasses incorporate a start/stop system to save fuel when idling. It seemed a little slow to restart for this reviewer’s tastes.

Trailhawks rest on an off-road suspension and tires, the latter mounted on 17-inch alloy wheels. Their higher ground clearance (.3 of an inch more than on other 4-wheeler Compasses) and specific bumpers that permit more generous approach and departure angles aid off-road driving. Tow hooks and front and rear skid plates are also part of the package. Given all that, the Trailhawk still acquitted itself well in surface-street and highway driving, with a stable ride, easy handling, and good maneuverability. There is some lean in cornering.

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The Trailhawk adds some blacked-out trim, front and rear tow hooks finished in bright red, “Trail Rated” front-fender badges, and 17-inch polished black-pocket aluminum wheels as standard equipment.

Red interior accents—seat, steering-wheel, shifter-boot, and armrest stitching; instrument-cluster, shifter, and speaker moldings; and passenger-side console cargo net—lend a sporting air to the Trailhawk cabin. There’s nothing ostentatious about this model’s interior, however. Leather-trimmed seats with premium-cloth inserts and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are standard (though full-leather seats and a heated wheel can be ordered).

A mix of dials and function buttons set the standard dual-zone climate system. They rest below the touchscreen for the Uconnect infotainment system. Audio settings are easy to program. The Trailhawk comes standard with a large 8.4-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability. A 7-inch color vehicle-information display set between the main driving gauges (and controlled by steering-wheel thumb buttons) shows up well.

A large glove box, a modest covered console box, the aforementioned net pouch, and a pair of open cup holders serve front-seat passengers. A block with a USB port, auxiliary-jack input, and 12-volt power outlet is found ahead of the shifter. Rear passengers have pouches on the backs of the front seats and cup holders in the pull-down central armrest. Storage pockets are found in all four of the doors.

Jeep designers have been having a lot of fun recently with the brand’s robust heritage…over the last few years, they’ve sprinkled in several small “Easter egg” graphics on new or redesigned Jeep models. The Compass wears small renditions of the iconic vintage-Jeep “face” on its headlights and the bottom of its liftgate, and, for some reason, a tiny Loch Ness monster silhouette on the lower edge of its rear window.

Interior room is good for adults in both rows. This 5’-10.5” tester sat in back without having to sit knees-up. However, headroom isn’t as generous in back as it is in front. Two adults will fit in back—trying to squeeze a third into the middle, even for a short hop, probably won’t be comfortable. Entries and exits are easy, even with the Trailhawk’s slightly higher stance, but driver vision suffers somewhat due to thick roof pillars. The over-the-shoulder view to the rear corners is especially limited.

Cargo capacity is good for a compact SUV, even with the second-row seats up. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, and while they fold flat, they do so at about one inch below the level of the cargo floor. The back of the front passenger seat also folds forward to make room for especially long loads. A little bit of organized space exists under the floor in the area around the spare tire.

The Trailhawk starts at $28,595, which puts it only $400 behind the Limited that puts more emphasis on plush. In addition to already-mentioned items, the Trailhawk comes with things like a rearview camera, Bluetooth streaming capability, a 115-volt power outlet, and remote keyless entry with proximity entry. Driver-assistance technologies like collision warning/mitigation, brake-assist, lane-keeping alert, and rear cross-traffic alert are available in extra-cost packages. So are some additional luxuries like navigation, heated front seats, and an eight-way power driver’s seat. Indeed, CG’s test vehicle had an as-equipped price of $33,670.

The good news is if you like the Compass but don’t really need a full-out off-road vehicle, you can get one for a lot less than that.

The Compass manages to pack decent space for both passengers and cargo inside its relatively tidy exterior proportions.

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