2022 Jeep Compass Test Drive Review
Improvements to the 2022 Jeep Compass make this small SUV more appealing than ever.
Jeep now considers itself a premium brand. That means it prices its vehicles a little higher than the equivalents offered by mainstream nameplates but still below the traditional luxury marques.
In exchange for this price premium, Jeep offers class-leading off-roading capabilities, a Jeep Wave benefits program, admission into “the club” of Jeep owners, and, with some of its models, high-end trim levels loaded with upscale materials, finishes, and features.
This year, Jeep improves the 2022 Compass in an effort to better qualify it as a premium entry. Based on a week spent in the ritzy Compass High Altitude, we think the SUV is better it was than before. But does it meet the expected standard? Not quite.
Look and Feel
Though the 2022 Jeep Compass gets exterior styling updates and new wheel designs, it still looks much like it has since its last redesign for 2017. That is, like a Grand Cherokee left in the dryer for too long. Our High Altitude test vehicle had appealing 19-inch multi-spoke wheels painted in a dark sparkly finish that essentially matched the paint, and it certainly looked like an upscale if small Jeep.
Inside the cabin is where the 2022 Compass proves far more convincing as a premium SUV —especially in High Altitude specification. A new dashboard design with updated digital instrumentation and infotainment systems, soft-touch surfaces, luxury-grade leather seats, and what must certainly be added sound deadening, all give the Compass High Altitude a big bump in sophistication.
The High Altitude is the most expensive version of the new 2022 Compass. The lineup starts with the base Jeep Compass Sport trim level. Buyers can then move up to the Latitude, Latitude Lux, Limited, Trailhawk, and High Altitude models. Prices range from $26,020 to $35,085, not including a $1,595 destination charge to ship the SUV to your local dealership from the Toluca, Mexico, factory that builds it.
Our Compass High Altitude test vehicle came with standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and the Elite Interior Group and Driver Assist Group 1 option packages. In other words, it had every possible upgrade, which produced an MSRP of $40,470, including destination.
Jeep equips every 2022 Compass with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Specs include 177 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 172 pound-feet of torque at 3,900 rpm. Jeep calls this its “Tigershark” engine, but might want to rename it the “Basking Shark” engine because it poses no accelerative threat to most other SUVs.
As we almost always think is best in a compact SUV weighing around 3,500 pounds, a turbocharger would do wonders for this Jeep. People who buy a Compass with intentions of heading to the mountains for weekend adventures would certainly appreciate a turbo engine because they perform better at altitude (or, in our test model’s case, High Altitude).
Not only is it missing forced induction, but the “Tigershark” is unpleasant to hear when it is revving hard, which is often because of the lofty power peak. At least Jeep pairs it with a nine-speed automatic transmission and not a groaning and droning continuously variable transmission (CVT). Compass models with front-wheel drive (FWD) have a six-speed automatic instead of the nine-speed unit.
Nevertheless, in an apparent attempt to maximize fuel efficiency, the transmission is reluctant to downshift and then in a big hurry to upshift in both urban and suburban driving situations. The result is a busy, unrewarding powertrain character.
Additionally, the automatic stop/start system is relatively slow to re-engage the engine. For example, when you accelerate after a traffic light turns green, you’re already pressing on the gas pedal when the engine re-starts. As a result, the drivetrain frequently exhibits hard engagement. Also, when accelerating from a rolling start, the Compass just feels disappointingly slow. Overall, the drivetrain is easily the least appealing thing about this Jeep.
Jeep Selec-Terrain is standard, offering Auto, Snow, and Sand/Mud driving modes. The Jeep Active Drive AWD system can send all of the engine power to the rear wheels when necessary and features a driveline disconnect system to maximize fuel economy when AWD is not in use. The EPA says our Compass High Altitude should’ve gotten 25 mpg in combined driving, but we averaged 23.8 mpg on our testing loop.
Since it has 8.1 inches of ground clearance, the Compass AWD should have no trouble with light off-roading excursions or snowstorms. If you’re planning to head deeper into the backcountry, you’ll want the Jeep Compass Trailhawk. With Trailhawk trim, the Compass is remarkably capable thanks to its different Active Drive Low AWD system with a low range and a 20:1 crawl ratio, hill descent control, skid plates, and 8.6 inches of ground clearance.
A set of 19-inch wheels bolted to any compact car or SUV will automatically do wonders for improving grip on pavement, and that is true for the Compass High Altitude. Tidy exterior dimensions also make the Compass feel nimble and maneuverable in a variety of driving situations.
Like most short-wheelbase SUVs, however, the Compass can feel bouncy and exhibit excessive lateral motion on uneven pavement. Also, in town speed humps are a challenge for the High Altitude’s suspension while sharper speed bumps reverberate through the architecture, revealing its dated status.
The Compass does seem quieter than before, and both the steering and braking escape critique or praise. Overall, though, the driving dynamics need improvement.
Form and Function
Oddly, Jeep offers three SUVs that are all about the same size. The Renegade and Cherokee share similar interior dimensions to the Compass, even if they’re priced and positioned for different segments.
If we classified these vehicles among their premium-brand counterparts, we’d say the Renegade is one of the larger small SUVs you can buy (see: Buick Encore GX), the Compass lands on the smaller end of the compact SUV spectrum (see: Mazda CX-5), and the Cherokee belongs among the larger compact SUVs on the market (see: Volkswagen Tiguan).
This means the Jeep Compass is spacious enough for four adults and their luggage but doesn’t leave much extra room for anything else. And with the upgrades for 2022, the Compass High Altitude is certainly more convincing in its role as a premium-brand SUV.
For example, both of the test vehicle’s front seats offered eight-way power adjustment with heating and ventilation, and our Compass included a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats. Some of these features are a part of the High Altitude’s Elite Interior Group option package, which also equips the Compass with premium leather upholstery and light-gray contrast stitching.
Occupants sit beneath a dual-pane panoramic sunroof surrounded by a black headliner, and they face a completely redesigned, soft-touch dashboard. The new Uconnect 5 infotainment screen resides high on the dash, and Jeep deftly integrated the air vents into the new design. The automaker also reworked the primary controls while the steering wheel and an optional digital instrument cluster are new for 2022. The result of these changes is a significant improvement in perceived quality and an elevated sense of sophistication.
A new center console with what Jeep claims is twice the amount of storage of the previous model divides the front seats, but the bin beneath the armrest remains quite tiny. Around the back, an available hands-free power liftgate provides access to the cargo area. The Compass can carry 27.2 cubic feet of cargo behind its rear seat and a maximum of 59.8 cubic feet when the back seat is folded down. These numbers actually exceed Jeep’s more expensive Cherokee model.
Jeep says the Compass’ new Uconnect 5 infotainment system is five times faster to load and respond to input than the previous-generation system. An 8.4-inch touchscreen display is standard, with a 10.1-inch touchscreen available as an upgrade, and a wide array of customization options are available.
Uconnect 5 supports the pairing of two devices to the Bluetooth connection and includes wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, an Amazon Alexa skill, satellite radio, and voice text-to-reply capability. Over-the-air updates will help to keep the system fresh during the Jeep’s service life.
Additionally, the Compass is available with a navigation system, connected services, a WiFi hotspot, Alexa Built-In, and a wireless device charging pad. Compass buyers can also upgrade to a nine-speaker Alpine premium sound system.
The voice recognition system is fast and accurate, and it even allowed us to adjust the cabin temperature by voice. However, a request for the closest hospital did not filter for veterinary services, surgical centers, or other facilities that are not what you want when you need to get yourself or someone in the Jeep to an emergency room, pronto. It also took some extra effort to get directions using an address.
Overall, Unconnect 5 impresses. But it’s not as easy to use as the best technology in the industry.
Jeep also improved the Compass’ safety features for 2022. Every version now comes with forward-collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance systems, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Additionally, the Compass will add Highway Assist later in the model year. This will pair the existing adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assistance systems for highway driving. A parallel and perpendicular parking assistance system and 360-degree surround-view camera system are also available.
Highway Assist wasn't available at the time of our test drive, but we found the more basic adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems mostly worked as advertised. However, we did find that the lane-keep assist was too obvious and insistent at lower speeds, and the gutless engine had trouble smoothly accelerating with the adaptive cruise control engaged.
We also got some false positives from the forward-collision warning system on a winding mountain road (likely due to guard rails) and in one instance the Jeep braked too early and too hard in response to vehicles well ahead pulling onto the shoulder of the Pacific Coast Highway.
As this review is written, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have published safety ratings for the updated 2022 Compass. However, the NHTSA has carried over the previous three-star rollover resistance rating and, based on the 2021 Compass' IIHS scores, Jeep needs to improve headlight performance as well.
If, like Jeep, you consider the Compass a premium compact crossover SUV, then the pricing structure makes a modicum of sense. Because our test vehicle had High Altitude trim, it is easier to agree with the company’s market positioning because of that trim level’s fully-loaded nature.
Undoubtedly, the 2022 Jeep Compass is an improved SUV. From its added refinement to its upgraded and updated tech, it doesn’t come across as obviously cheap like the previous models. Plus, the Compass qualifies for the Jeep Wave program, which includes three years of free scheduled maintenance and other ownership perks.
However, despite the added layer or two of sophistication here, the Compass still can’t quite match the standard-bearer among compact premium crossovers—the Mazda CX-5. Making the Jeep’s mission even harder is that for less money than our High Altitude test vehicle the Mazda offers significantly more power from a turbocharged engine. Plus, the Mazda is more enjoyable to drive, even if its infotainment system is a pain-in-the-you-know-what.
Still, the call to Jeep ownership is strong, and not everyone needs, wants, or can afford a rough-and-tumble Wrangler or the sophisticated new Grand Cherokee. At least Jeep buyers on a budget will undoubtedly find the 2022 Compass far more appealing than those which came before it.
What's your take on the 2022 Jeep Compass?
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