Dominated by unattractive plastics throughout and containing about as many soft-touch surfaces as the inside of a Power Wheels Jeep, the interior design and material quality of the Jeep Compass have been sorely lacking. Jeep appears to have been aware because it rectifies those criticisms and more as part of a makeover effort that transforms the 2022 Compass into a snazzier compact SUV.
Back in 2017, the Compass was rebooted for its second generation. It’s an important model for Jeep’s global markets, while in the U.S., it aims at buyers who might find the chunky Renegade too small or kitschy and the bulbous Cherokee too big or pricey. The Compass was heralded as a handsome little brother to the mid-size Grand Cherokee, with a similarly styled interior that initially was seen as an upgrade over the offensive confines of its predecessor. However, the honeymoon was short-lived. As we spent more time inside, we began to grumble about its fit and finish and ergonomic foibles. That is, until now.
From Drab to Fab
Instead of an amorphous blob for a dashboard and awkwardly placed climate controls, the ’22 Compass treats front-seat passengers to a cohesive layout much like the redesigned 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The outboard air vents are now discreetly integrated into a continuous trim element, and the switchgear for the HVAC system is mounted higher and properly organized. A padded piece with stitching on its face and a metallic shelf-like structure underneath completes the upscale vibe. The richer aesthetic extends to the door panels, which have better design and material variations. The elevated center console adds defined edges and more useful cubby storage.
We’ve long appreciated the crisp resolution and quick responses of Uconnect infotainment systems, and the latest software (Uconnect 5) in the Compass is further improved with a faster processor and a fresh interface that’s devoid of cartoony graphics. The addition of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ensures speedy smartphone synchronization and keeps the Jeep’s tech up to date, as does the new 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster. The huge 10.1-inch touchscreen in our tester was part of the High Altitude package, a $2595 option reserved for the upper-tier Limited model, which starts at $33,790. The High Altitude package also spruces up the Compass’s appeal with 19-inch wheels, body-color lower moldings, enhanced lighting elements, black leather upholstery, a dual-pane sunroof, and a nine-speaker Alpine stereo.
Prettier but Still S-L-O-W
The Compass’s redesigned cabin finally qualifies as deluxe, but the fresh digs can’t disguise that its powertrain is a dud. Every Compass is still motivated by a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter inline-four. All-wheel-drive models (like ours) use a nine-speed automatic transmission; front-drivers have a six-speed unit. We weren’t able to track-test our ’22 example, but with engine output down slightly for 2022—from 180 to 177 horsepower and from 175 to 172 pound-feet of torque—there’s nothing to suggest it’ll be any quicker than a 2018 Compass 4×4 we tested. That Compass hit 60 mph in a languid 9.3 seconds. The Jeep was sluggish at highway speeds, too, taking 6.5 ticks to go from 50 to 70 mph. That’s longer than it takes some turbocharged rivals to reach 60 mph from a dead stop.
Except when just moseying around town, the Compass is a certified slowpoke. Any request for urgency requires heavy throttle inputs, and after pausing for the nine-speed to downshift, there’s a frenzied roar from the engine as it rushes toward its lofty, narrow powerband. Simply put, the Compass sounds coarse and lacks the effortless thrust of turbocharged alternatives. Fuel economy isn’t exactly impressive either, with both front- and all-wheel-drive models rated at 25 mpg combined—same as last year. Still, the Compass we drove stayed composed during cornering, had a firm brake pedal without much mush, and provided a mostly civil ride despite the thinner sidewalls that accompany its 19-inch wheels. However, things turned choppy on gravel roads.
Our 2022 Compass High Altitude carried an as-tested price of $38,175. That included $295 for Granite Crystal metallic paint and the $1495 Elite Interior package (ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, hands-free power liftgate, a 110-volt outlet). Even with its ritzier interior and improved tech, we’re not ready to call the Compass a great value or rank it among segment leaders. Instead, we’ll laud Jeep for addressing one of the model’s biggest flaws. Now it just needs to fix the other one: its subpar powertrain.
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