The Jeep Compass, for many of its 17 model years, was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Jeep lineup---it couldn't get no respect. At least some of the blame had to go to its mom, Cerebrus, who dressed it funny for its first few years at school. Beyond that, it was the only car-based Jeep and many considered it unworthy of the name.
Fiat's ownership of Jeep saw the automotive equivalent of an adoptive parent ordering contact lenses, orthodontia, charm school and a good tailor. Lately, the Compass, while still not a Trail Rated badass Jeep, has been hard to find much fault with until it's put head-to-head against the dozen and a half other vehicles (Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-50, Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage and a bunch more) it competes with.
2022's visual refresh was about as much as current owner Stellantis could do shy of a clean-sheet redesign, so this year, the attention goes to the engine bay.
Effective now, all Jeep Compasses will be fitted with the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder that's in the new Dodge Hornet---just dialed down a bit to 200 horsepower. Actually, dialed down quite a bit. In the Hornet, it makes 268. But 200 is a 20 horsepower boost from last year's Compass. The EPA fuel economy estimate is 24 mpg city/32 highway. A major plus for the Cherokee is the decision to equip it with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Several competing vehicles use CVTs. Jeep has also decided to dispense with front-wheel drive. All Compasses will now be AWD. That's not enough to get the Compass a Trail Rated badge, but it will make it more competitive in its segment.
Rear cargo space is 27.2 cubic feet with the rear seats in place, and 59.8 with them folded down, falling far short of the new '23 Honda CR-V, which delivers 39.3 with the rear seats up and 76.5 with them down.
And while not tight in the absolute sense, the Compass' 38.3 inches of rear legroom can't match the CR-V's 40.4.
The view from the front seat is very nice, though, with a new instrument panel part of last year's major refresh.
The new 2023 Jeep Compass starts at $29,995 including destination for the base Sport model. There are eight trim levels in all, and our tester was, as so often happens, the top-of-the-line. The Compass High Altitude's starting price is $37,090 (including destination) and that price does buy a significant amount of standard equipment---including leather-trimmed bucket seats, a 10-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control and a comprehensive active safety suite.
Our tester also had extra-cost options---the Billet Silver Metallic clear coat paint was $495, the High Altitude Package (body-color fascias and wheel flares, 19-inch aluminum painted wheels, a full suite of premium LED exterior lighting, a 10.25-inch full-color driver cluster, a 10.1-inch touchscreen with Alexa Built-in, integrated voice command, a premium Alpine sound system and a dual-pane panoramic sunroof) for $2,845 and the Elite Interior Group (Driver seat memory, power eight-way adjustable front passenger seat with 2-way lumbar adjust, ventilated front seats, second row USB Type A and Type C charge ports and a power foot-activated liftgate) for $1,645.
All told, the bottom line on the window sticker reads $42,075.
That puts the Compass in the same ballpark as fully-loaded competitors, and the changes are enough to make the Compass worth cross-shopping against them. But there's still a certain----Jeepiness?---missing from the equation. If it can find that, the Compass could be a small SUV that stands out from the crowd.