2023 Jeep Compass Trailhawk review (video)

Mitchell Jones

Commanding a small but respectable piece of the small SUV sales pie, the Jeep Compass Trailhawk is a premium-priced player in the segment, trading on the off-road legacy of the storied American carmaker.

According to December 2022 VFACTS, the Jeep Compass enjoyed a 36.6 per cent bump in sales last year, with 1862 units moved compared with 1363 in 2021. Market share rose from 1.1 per cent to 1.5, no doubt helped by a mid-cycle facelift the Indian-made model received in 2021.

The current generation model has been with us since 2017, using the same FCA ‘Small Wide’ platform as the recently announced Alfa Romeo Tonale (and its Dodge Hornet twin). Since the deletion of the Italian-made and ill-fated Jeep Renegade, the Compass is now the smallest model that Jeep offers in Australia.

We borrowed the keys to the top-of-the-range Jeep Compass Trailhawk model, offering some adventure and off-road themed additions, to see what it’s like to live with, and if the off-roading credentials of this small crossover are boosted appreciably.

2023 Jeep Compass Trailhawk – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Output: 125kW@3750rpm / 350Nm@1750rpm
Transmission: Nine-speed auto
Drive type: Four-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 17×6.5, 225/60
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1621kg
Power-to-weight: 12.96:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 6.9L/100km
Economy during test: 8.0L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 60L/Diesel[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Power efficiency: 18.11kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.58 seconds*
0-100km/h: 11.34 seconds*
60-110km/h: 8.92 seconds*
1/4 mile: 17.86 seconds at 125.3km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.614g*
100-0km/h braking: 3.44 seconds at 44.02 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.039g*
Decibel at idle: 53*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 81*
Priced from: $59,100[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2023 Jeep Compass Trailhawk – THE PACKAGE

The $59,100 Trailhawk (excluding on-roads) specification boosts the off-road ability and attitude of the Compass considerably, with bonnet blackout, red war paint, and front and rear tow hooks. It’s an angry little dude that looks like it wants to maul a sandy mountain.

It is the only turbo-diesel model in the range, borrowing a 2.0-litre Multijet from Fiat’s catalogue. It is tied to a nine-speed automatic. Trailhawk also uniquely scores Falken highway terrain tyres wrapped around 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, a shorter rear diff ratio, uprated 180A alternator, lots of underbody protection, a full-size spare tyre and reversible boot floor. A 360-degree camera and Jeep’s ‘Active Drive Low’ assist for negotiating rougher terrain are also included.

Options include a panoramic sunroof, vented and heated front seats, heated steering wheel and an Alpine nine-speaker stereo. Our vehicle was only equipped with some of these options.

At 4398mm long, 1819mm wide and 1657mm tall, on a wheelbase of 2636mm, the Compass is well-sized for the small SUV segment and offers an above average degree of head and leg room in both rows for this class. Boot space varies between 438 and 1963L, all the more impressive when you consider it has a full-size spare tyre rather than a measly space saver.

Being a Jeep – and a “Trail Rated” flagship Jeep at that – we can’t overlook the car’s off-roading credentials touted by the manufacturer. Stats include an approach angle of 30.3 degrees, a 33.6-degree departure angle, break-over angle of 24.4 degrees, 225mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 480mm. The 1621kg small SUV is based on a front-drive monocoque with four-wheel independent suspension, so it is never going to be a Wrangler when it comes to rock-hopping.

Nevertheless, Jeep has clearly worked very hard to give this model as much genuine off-roading prowess as it can without compromising its road manners, given the limitations of the platform. An example of this is the 20:1 crawling ratio when ‘Low’ is selected, which is not linked to a transfer case but the ultra-short first gear of the nine-speed auto.

If you want to tow, then you can pull up to 1500kg braked or 750kg unbraked behind the Compass. So that adage of ‘needing a bigger boat’ doesn’t necessarily apply here.

Internally, the Compass Trailhawk has a multi-tiered dash, with a full TFT instrument cluster, a 10.1-inch infotainment screen with Jeep’s U-Connect 5 operating system, and red stitching and piano black centre console. It looks rather upmarket and feels well put together. We like the volume and climate control knobs being easy to access and the buttons behind the steering wheel for volume and media controls. Other highlights include a wireless phone charger and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Compass Trailhawk is backed by a five-year/100,000km warranty, as well as five years roadside assistance and capped-price servicing for the first five services ($399).

2023 Jeep Compass Trailhawk – THE DRIVE

As far as the driving experience goes, the Compass has a sound basis in the FCA Small Wide platform, imbuing it with good rigidity, body roll characteristics and bump absorption. It is ironic that this platform started out with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, was then widened for Jeep and Dodge products and is now finding its way under the soon-to-be-launched Alfa Romeo Tonale.

The electronic power steering has a decent feel and weight around town, but feels oddly bereft of feedback during mid-corner bumps and switchbacks. While the vehicle does have a good amount of lateral grip for an off-road focused model, we did notice the rear tyres start to squeal when punted into tight corners. Dynamically, it is good news but things start to unravel somewhat on the drivetrain front.

The Fiat-sourced 2.0-litre Multijet develops 125kW at 3750rpm and 350Nm at a handy 1750rpm. On paper, this should make for a relaxed and effortless driving experience, but an indecisive nine-speed automatic spoils the party. Multiple gear changes at urban speeds do no favours to an already rough and uncultured-sounding diesel.

Along country roads and freeways, the combo feels more at home and able to capitalise on its multiple overdriven gear ratios and decent torque reserves. Combined with confidence-inspiring high speed stability, this is possibly where the Alfa Romeo DNA comes in.

While quoted at 6.9L/100km, we managed an average of 8.0L/100km, which is reasonable but not impressive for this kind of engine. It tends to stay consistent around this number though, regardless of how it is driven. Touring range is theoretically 870km, or 750km under our testing conditions.

It’s unfortunate that Australia won’t be seeing the 2.0-litre turbocharged ‘Hurricane’ engine that has been announced in the USA. With 149kW and 300Nm, these aren’t blistering outputs for an engine of its size, but the smoothness and wider rev-range would probably make for a more agreeable companion in the city.

The Compass enjoys a five-star ANCAP rating thanks to an impressive array of ADAS systems. However, some of these seem overzealous and obtrusive. A good example of this is the hair trigger forward collision warning, with four lots of three beeps lingering long after the perceived threat has vanished.

Venturing off-road, the Trailhawk factor proves handy most of the time, especially with ‘4WD Lock’ activated. The Compass has a variety of modes for different surfaces, as well as ‘4WD Low’ (first gear, no transfer case as mentioned above). Nevertheless, the upgrades mean this is ‘Trail Rated’ in Jeep parlance, which refers to extra ground clearance, water fording and climbing ability compared with its more road-oriented stablemates.

It is a soft-roading crossover at its core with a harder edge, but the extra features do give it more capability than any other monocoque small SUV we can think of.

2023 Jeep Compass Trailhawk – THE VIDEO

2023 Jeep Compass Trailhawk – THE VERDICT

The 2023 Jeep Compass Trailhawk is a well-made, user-friendly compact SUV that offers a pleasant enough driving experience with genuine off-road ability. That Jeep has managed to pull this off without any significant trade-off in road manners is commendable.

It’s just a shame the diesel engine and nine-speed automatic let things down a bit, plus it isn’t cheap. These aren’t enough to recommend against the vehicle as a whole, though. If you commute a long way to work and want to expand your weekend activities then it is something worth considering.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Big interior and positive design
– Trailhawk adds attitude and capability
– Sharp Uconnect touch-screen
– Lots of functionality, very practical
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Noisy diesel
– Nine-speed auto hunts around and seems generally confused
– Expensive for this class[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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