Jeep Finds its Bearings with New Compass SUV

American unveiling set for L.A. Auto Show.

by on Sep.27, 2016

A "baby" Grand Cherokee? Jeep pulls the wraps off the all-new Compass SUV.

Jeep is heading off in a new direction with the launch of the all-new 2017 Compass model.

Though the name is a carryover, the compact SUV that made its debut in Pernambuco, Brazil on Monday night gets a new platform and an entirely new look that more closely echoes the styling of the Jeep brand flagship, the Grand Cherokee. As part of the transition, Fiat Chrysler’s SUV brand will abandon the near-twin Jeep Patriot when the new model starts rolling into showrooms early next year.

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The debut comes months later than originally expected. FCA had first planned to roll out the new Jeep Compass at the New York Auto Show last March, but decided to use it to help highlight the new plant it has opened in Brazil.

As part of a grand global expansion, Jeep is setting up manufacturing operations in a variety of new markets, including Italy, China and Mexico, as well as Brazil. The U.S. version of the new Jeep Compass will come from just south of the border.

The new Jeep Compass uses a stretch version of the Renegade's small-wide platform.

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Jeep officials didn’t have much to say about the new Compass in Brazil. They’re holding details for the American debut at the upcoming L.A. Auto Show. But they did note that there will be 17 different powertrain options available as the new SUV rolls into more than 100 global markets.

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Speculation for the U.S. version centers around either – or both – a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, or a naturally aspirated four-banger. To maximize fuel economy, Jeep is expected to rely on the same nine-speed ZF-designed automatic transmission used in other current models, including the big Grand Cherokee.

The new Jeep Compass borrows the same “Small-Wide” architecture first introduced on the smaller Renegade model. It’s been stretched a bit, but is likely to echo the approach of the Renegade, with front-wheel-drive as standard, and all-wheel-drive as an option.

A “Trail-Rated” package is all but a certainty, meanwhile, in keeping with Jeep’s desire to show that any of its offerings are rugged enough to handle serious off-road duties.

The face of the new Jeep compact looks like a downsized Grand Cherokee, with the familiar seven-slot grille framed by twin headlamps that are, in turn, accented by LED running lights. The roofline appears to gently slope rearward, a subtle nod to the popular Range Rover Evoq, it appears.

The new Jeep Compass will square off against competitors like the Toyota RAV-4 and Honda CR-V.

The new Compass will target a very tough market segment long dominated by Japanese alternatives, such as the Toyota RAV-4 and Honda CR-V. The two existing Jeep models have never lived up to expectations, capturing a mere 7% of that compact ute segment. The good news for Jeep is that this is no longer a niche but one of the fastest growing segments in the market – and not just in the U.S. Compact ute sales are booming everywhere from Beijing to Berlin.

Following the L.A. Auto Show debut, Jeep will continue a global rollout that will see the new Compass model begin to roll into U.S. showrooms by early next spring.

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