2023 Jeep Compass gets a new turbo engine

It’s hard to place the 2023 Jeep Compass into a neat silo with other small SUVs. It has comparable interior space to those we refer to as midcompact SUVs. It now comes standard with an engine that blows the doors off most in that segment and is comparable to the engine upgrades offered by a select few in the compact SUV segment above. Its base price is similar to the compacts as well but, with options, can greatly exceed them. Ditto the Ford Bronco Sport, which is probably the Compass’ closest competitor given its dimensions and off-road image (and off-road capability for some trim levels).

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Video Transcript

JAMES RISWICK: I'm driving the 2023 Jeep Compass. Now, last year the Compass received a welcome interior overhaul with better materials, more interesting design, and a 10.1-inch Uconnect touchscreen on all of the trim levels. This year it gets a much-needed powertrain upgrade. Now before, the only engine available was a 2.4-liter, naturally aspirated inline four known as the Tigershark. It was an appropriately named engine because it was better suited for marine use as an anchor.

Well, now it's been tossed to sea along with the equally unloved nine-speed automatic and the availability of a front-wheel-drive Jeep Compass. Ugh. "Bpp."

Now every single Compass comes with the same powertrain, a 2-liter turbocharged inline four good for 200 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Makes a huge difference, not just in terms of power-- it's 0 to 60 time has dropped by 1.5 seconds, and you absolutely feel it around town and in the mountains like this, the power upgrade-- but it's also a lot more refined, which can also be attributed to the much better eight-speed automatic. Now, it has lost a cog to be sure. However, the refinement improvement-- it's a smarter transmission. Believe me, it is better for it. And again, standard all-wheel drive. Jeep calls it four-wheel drive, but, you know, whatever.

All told, new interior, much better powertrain with more power than most compact SUVs offer equals a far more compelling choice. The problem is it's expensive. This High Altitude model, it is very well equipped, but it's about $43,000. A Trailhawk model I was driving earlier costs about $47,000. That's a lot more than top of the line Honda CR-V or the off-road-oriented Toyota RAV4 TRD Pro or Adventure or the Subaru Forester Wilderness.

Now, I will say that this definitely has a powertrain advantage over the Toyota and the Subaru, but those are significantly bigger, more functional, and practical vehicles. The back seat in this is considerably smaller in terms of legroom, headroom, and width. The cargo space is really a drop from those compact SUVs to the point that this is really more like a mid compact model, as we call them, say, like a Honda HR-V. I sat back to back in the back seats of this Compass and an H-RV. They're very similar. If anything, this is a little tighter.

So although this is definitely more compelling for 2023, is it more competitive? I don't think so.