I have talked a lot about the crowded, maybe even bloated, subcompact crossover segment. It’s hard to stand out in a crowd unless you do something off the scripted page – or at least try. When it comes to off-road-ready vehicles, there are those that can and those that look like they could – but cannot. The Jeep Compass can do it all.
The 2023 Jeep Compass has taken a step up and is now a solid contender in the group that actually can get off the pavement – get back on it – and get you home in comfort. Compass can be had in several different trims: Sport, Latitude, Latitude LUX, Limited and Trailhawk. Each with its own distinct equipment level and capability.
Built on the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, this year’s Compass adds a few more inches of length and interior space, placing it between the subcompact Renegade and compact Cherokee. The 2023 Compass offers a new engine and transmission designed to improve performance and fuel economy, as well as standard all-wheel drive, and a fully retuned suspension.
Thankfully, the exterior of the Compass looks a lot more like its elegant Grand Cherokee sibling, flush with distinct exterior style and personality. The profile of the Compass has two standout features: the extra well height above the tires; and the bold slope of the roofline, which gives it a much more elegant and streamlined feel, from the top of the raked windshield moving back to the liftgate.
My tester featured hip blacked-out rims and similar black trim that framed and elevated the impact of the Laser Blue Pearl Coat paint. Other than the signature Jeep grille, there’s not a lot different up front. I’d suggest that’s a good thing as smaller vehicles trying to do too much can easily “busy up” the smallish real estate. Compass features wrap headlights on the corners and a black cowl that can feature cool red tow hooks if you prefer a little off-road attitude.
The biggest news for me on the 2023 Compass has to be the additional performance prowess and new drivetrain. My biggest gripe over the years with Compass always came down to the engine and transmission working in tandem (they didn’t do it well for notable results).
The Compass’ engine is also featured in the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, though it has no plug-in hybrid option. Why is that of note? Because the Wrangler is the poster child for capability and a lot has to do with that powerplant. Put it into the Compass and you have something to talk about.
It features a more powerful 2.0-liter turbo that delivers an extra 20 horsepower and 46 lb-ft of torque over the previous 2.4-L engine. In a less-is-more move, Jeep reduced the gear count in the transmission to eight speeds instead of nine, recalibrating the 8-speed to better fit the Compass’ standard AWD.
Another notable improvement for the 2023 Compass and its 2.0-L turbo is how it is bolted to fluid-filled engine mounts, helping isolate the vibrations that made previous models annoying. A significant retuning of the suspension, dampers, springs and bushings were all changed, further helping to accommodate the new powertrain while improving ride and handling.
The Compass’ cabin is comfortable, and it provides all the essential tech elements to keep it on par with the competition. I appreciate that the 10.1-inch infotainment display and wireless Apple CarPlay are now standard across the range. There’s also a lot to be said for the less-is-more approach to the center console controls and dash treatment.
Seating in the Latitude is comfortable and supportive with both featuring power adjustments. Rear seating has plenty of head and leg room as well as a 60/40 split for storage. Storage in the rear is on par with others in the segment and plentiful with the 2nd row folded flat.
The controls for audio are available on the steering wheel. Settings for drive conditions are available on the center console: Standard, Snow and Auto. The Standard and Snow are for pavement and weather challenges, and the Auto setting basically adjusts on the fly to whatever you encounter.
Create your Compass
Latitude buyers can opt for the Convenience Group ($2,575) that adds an 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch full-color driver information display, front wiper de-icers, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, a hands-free foot-activated power liftgate, and remote start.
The Driver Assistance Group ($2,375) adds adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree Surround View camera, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, LED fog lights, and a wireless charge pad.
Additional options include a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, a 9-speaker Alpine audio system, and the Altitude Package that pairs gloss-black exterior styling elements with 18-inch gloss-black alloy wheels.
The 2023 Jeep Compass offers several trims with broad appeal, a relatively refined interior, and a new engine/transmission designed to improve performance and fuel economy. This elevates it to compete with the top vehicles in the segment.
With a base price of $32,395 and adding Convenience and Driver Assistance groups, and the $1,595 destination charge, my 2023 Jeep Compass Latitude landed at $33,890. This is a bargain compared to many in the crowded field and it stands out in more ways than most. It’s not the best, but it may be one of the best values if you want AWD.
• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations and vehicles.