- What’s Good: Compass ain’t ugly anymore. Trailhawk trim adds real Trail Rated abilities to this compact crossover.
- What’s Bad: Needs power option, touchy brakes, seat headrest placement for taller drivers.
The wipers dragged the drizzle off the windshield as the Jeep Compass paused in its tracks.
I eased off the brakes, edged forward and peered through the rain at the obstacle looming just below the horizon of the Trailhawk’s matte black off-road hood decal.
Hmm, what to do now?
I muttered something off colour, finally coming to a decision and a full stop.
I got out of the Jeep, shoulders hunched against the rain, and moved the stupid shopping buggy out of the way.
Okay, mall maneuvering may seem a trite test for one of the best off-road warriors in the compact class.
But let’s admit that plaza parking lots are more likely environs for most crossover customers rather than bush-bashing backroad trails.
That same conclusion drove development of a somewhat generic Jeep compact crossover back in 2007, although a subsequent second generation Compass that debuted three short years ago dropped the frumpy styling of the original for a sleeker, more athletic, sort of “Grand Cherokee Junior” design.
And the latest Compass also renewed traditional Jeep values with stronger off-road abilities that culminate in this Trailhawk model.
The 2019 Compass lineup ($23,808-$36,969) sits directly between the smaller Jeep Renegade ($20,745-$33,695) and bigger brother Jeep Cherokee ($27,021-$36,969).
All Compass models in Canada harness a 2.4-liter MultiAir Tigershark four-cylinder engine making 180 hp and 175 lb/ft or torque.
It’s an adequate, slightly nasal four-banger featuring start-stop and putting power to the pavement via six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions in base 4X2 models.
Or, as tested here, with a nine-speed automatic that comes standard in all 4X4 versions. Trailhawk fuel economy is rated at 10.8/7.8L/100km (city/hwy) and I averaged 9.7L/100km (comb), well within range of what I expected from this, the heaviest, sturdiest trim level in the Compass lineup.
A Selec-Terrain system offers Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud driving modes on all 4×4 models, with Trailhawks adding a Rock mode to the mix for more serious off-road adventures.
And although I might have been wimping out on this particular urban occasion, I had put the 2019 Compass Trailhawk through its paces earlier in the year during more rigourous cross-country trials, rutting along wintry desert trails across the badlands outside of Moab, Utah.
Rock climbing, slithering up sandy slopes, bashing through ice-covered streams, the Trailhawk mastered every demanding challenge of that ride and drive exercise.
To earn Jeep’s coveted Trail Rated badge, the Trailhawk bumps up already competent Compass qualities with trim-specific upgrades that include:
∙ A standard Jeep Active Drive Low full-time 4X4 system with Hill Descent and a 20:1 crawl ratio.
∙ An increased ride height of almost one inch (25 mm) that, combined with unique front and rear fascias, allows for an improved 30-degree approach angle, 24-degree breakover angle and 34-degree departure angle.
∙ Up to 19 inches (480 mm) of water fording ability.
∙ Skid plate protection for the fuel tank, transmission, transfer case and front suspension.
∙ Unique off-road suspension, a tighter turning circle and a 4.334 final gear ratio.
∙ Unique and new-for-2019 17-inch alloy wheels mounting on/off-road tires.
∙ Neutral grey trim treatment instead of black or chrome on window surrounds, grille, mirrors and roof rails.
∙ A full-size spare instead of inflator tire kits.
∙ A black “Jeep” badge on the hood, along with red-accented “Trail Rated” and “Trailhawk” badges.
∙ Anodized red tow hooks (two front, one rear).
∙ Anodized Ruby Red trim inside on speaker bezels, shifter boot accent ring and cluster trim ring.
∙ Luxury leather trimmed black Ombre Mesh Cloth insert bucket seats with Ruby Red accent stitching and embroidered Trailhawk logo.
All that content doesn’t leave much to complain about in this Compass, outside of finicky auto-express windows and contoured seats with oddly oversized headrests.
The cabin is well laid out and comfortable enough for its compact size with easy access through almost 90-degree opening doors and with an acceptable 800/1,700 litres of cargo room.
The Trailhawk comes equipped with content expected from its upper trim level positioning. Uconnect infotainment and a full suite of amenities blended with the upgrades listed above makes for a distinguished and dynamically improved Compass package ready to tackle all-weather, all-road or off-road driving demands.
The Jeep Compass is still relatively new to the market so it carries over relatively unchanged for 2019, save for some new colours, a few new adjustments to other trim packages and the new wheel upgrades for our tested Trailhawk model.
With brisk sales in more than 100 countries, this global performer will probably undergo a minor facelift in a year or two with maybe a more major revision slated for 2025.
In the meantime, evolutions will help the Compass keep pace with a varied and very crowded crossover segment.