Turbocharged in the Right Direction

Turbocharged in the Right Direction
jeep compass Full Overview

Jeep’s Compass has spent years clawing its way beyond the woeful reputation of the 2007 original, a bug-eyed small SUV that was neither Jeepy nor good enough generally to accrue much praise. The Compass took a big step forward in its second generation, which arrived for 2017 with mini-Grand Cherokee looks and a nicer cabin; updates for 2022 further improved on the compact Jeep’s interior and safety features. Just one year later, for 2023, Jeep’s tweener small ute, which still slots above the Renegade and below the Cherokee, picks up more wind in its sails thanks to a spunky new turbo engine and more comfortable suspension tuning.

Improved Grunt, Refinement, and Efficiency 

Gone is one of the Compass’s weakest links, the 177-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that was standard across the lineup last year. It’s replaced by the same turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 found throughout Jeep’s lineup, namely in the Wrangler and Cherokee models, and upgrades the Compass’s output by 23 hp and a healthy 49 lb-ft of torque. Moreover, peak torque is reached sooner, at 1,750 rpm instead of 3,900 rpm in the non-turbo 2.4-liter mill.   

Helping make the most of the power boost is a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which takes the place of last year’s nine-speed automatic. This transmission hasn’t been used in any other Jeep yet, and in our drive through the Malibu canyons its operation slipped pleasantly into the background. We didn’t sense any of the same harshness or confused gear selection we encountered with the 2022’s nine-speed. It also seems far less prone to choosing too high a gear, as the nine-speed often did (and which would absolutely kneecap the weaker 2.4-liter engine); this improvement in gear selection is therefore amplified by the turbo’s extra power. Hey, give a better engine the right ratio to work with…

The new 2023 Jeep® Compass High Altitude 4×4 is powered by a standard 2.0-liter direct injection turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine that delivers best-in-class standard 200 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque paired with a standard eight-speed transmission. Jeep Active Drive 4×4 system standard on all Compass models.

With more torque swimming lower in the rev range and the fresh transmission, power delivery and acceleration are more polished and satisfying. This is still a mainstream small SUV, though, so consider the turbo Jeep willing if not quite robust. 

Although we have yet to test the Compass with its new heart, our guts tell us it’ll be quicker—yet another easily cleared bar set by the prior model. The 2022 Compass went from zero to 60 mph in the mid-to-low nine-second range. With the turbo engine, we venture a few more tenths should fall from that sprint, putting it into more class-average territory.

Improved fuel economy is also part of the new package. All-wheel drive versions are EPA-estimated to deliver 2 more mpg than before, though its figures generally lag toward the back of the small SUV class. What about the two-wheel-drive Compass? It’s as gone as the 2.4-liter engine; every 2023 Compass comes standard with AWD. 

A Calmer, More Precise Ride 

Jeep additionally worked to up the Compass’ handling game for 2023. Aiming for a sportier on-road ride, engineers re-tuned the springs, added frequency selective dampers, and fiddled with the steering rack. The team also went with a stouter rear stabilizer bar. Not only does this stifle the old version’s fore-aft pitching during braking and acceleration, it addresses the stiff ride, too. We sampled top-spec High Altitude and heart-of-the-lineup Latitude versions and found the ride is more comfortable, noise and vibration intrusion is minimal, and the steering—while light—is direct. The Compass doesn’t exactly offer sports car reflexes (the compact is still somewhat heavy at 3,600 pounds), but a smooth ride is more of a priority here, and the Jeep performs better in this regard, even on nicer models’ larger wheels.

And maybe most impressive is how much off-roading you can do in a Compass. This is one area the second-generation Compass already excelled in, at least in the off-road-focused Trailhawk models. We steered a 2023 Trailhawk off the beaten path along rutted, rocky trails and over steep grades and the little Jeep never missed a beat, thanks to its additional ground clearance; improved approach, breakover, and departure angles; hill-descent control; all-terrain tires; skid plates; and the brand’s Active Drive Low Mode, a low-speed traction system. But it’s hard not to be impressed by all that capability from one of the brand’s smallest offerings, even if the 2023 model doesn’t specifically boost that capability outside of the more powerful turbo engine.

Stirring the Pot

So is the 2023 Compass a make-good for releasing a 2022 version that wasn’t fully baked? Not at all. It’s more an example of another automaker still working to get back up to speed after pandemic-related supply chain delays set everyone back a step or two. It seems the better engine and transmission were always destined for the Compass, and though they didn’t make it in time for the 2022 refresh, they’re here now. 

We appreciate that Jeep followed through with the planned upgrades and gave consumers a Compass that’s closer to the brand’s sweet spot. It has more capability to do stuff, including Jeep stuff, and with its new transmission and reworked suspension, it’s also more composed in those pursuits. The powertrain’s improved fuel efficiency is just icing on the cake. This Compass was already headed in the right direction after last year’s welcome introduction of a classier dashboard and fresher tech, only now it scoots in that direction (and others!) a little quicker and smoother with its mechanical upgrades. 

Looks good! More details?

2023 Jeep Compass Specifications
BASE PRICE $31,590-$39,935 
LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.0L/200-hp/220-lb-ft turbo DOHC I-4
TRANSMISSION  8-speed auto
CURB WEIGHT 3,650 lb (mfr) 
WHEELBASE 103.8 in
L x W x H 173.4 x 73.8 x 64.6 in
0-60 MPH 8.9-9.3 sec (MT est) 
EPA RANGE, COMB 365 miles