Fiat Chrysler unveils 2017 Jeep Compass SUV

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will rely on the name Compass to guide Jeep’s all-new compact sport utility vehicle in the right direction.

The 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk premiered in Brazil on Monday night. The new Compass will replace the current Compass and the Patriot.

The 2017 Jeep Compass made its global debut Monday in Pernambuco, Brazil, where production of the vehicle has started. It also will be produced in plants in China and Mexico (for the U.S. market).

The name of the vehicle was expected to be Compass or Patriot — both names of the current compact Jeep SUVs. The all-new Compass will replace both vehicles when it arrives in the United States in the first quarter of 2017.

Few details were released about the SUV prior to its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. Additional U.S.-specific details are expected to be released then.

It will be powered by 17 powertrain options for consumers in more than 100 countries around the world, the company said. No details were given for U.S. options.

The new front end of the Compass takes design cues from the brand’s top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee, including similar LED daytime lights, headlights and wide, rectangular seven-slotted grille. The slots are surrounded by a black background that’s similar to the smaller Jeep Renegade as well as some Jeep Grand Cherokee models.

The interior of the next-gen Jeep Compass.

“Having something that looks like a smaller Grand Cherokee is probably a good way to go,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst and director of pricing and industry analysis. “They’ve had tremendous success with that vehicle.”

A sleek, black roof that stretches to the rear window appears to be a new design cue. It looks similar to competitors such as the Range Rover Evoque.

Even though the Compass and Patriot hadn’t been fully redesigned in a decade, combined sales of the two have topped 100,000 every year since 2011 — and grown each year since 2012 — according to data from automotive shopping and research website

“It’s an important segment to be in,” Caldwell said. “It’s going to be tough to challenge the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 though.”

The two Jeep compact SUVs have represented about 7 percent of the compact SUV segment for the past five years. Their share remains far below domestic rivals Chevrolet and Ford as well as the segment-leading Honda CR-V.

Jeep likely looks to grow its position in the marketplace with the new Compass, despite new competitors in recent years.

“Jeep is obviously right to reset in the segment,” said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Akshay Anand. “I think the Cherokee and Renegade have obviously done awesome for them. This is going to slot in between them.”

Anand said the 2017 Compass is far more of a modern design compared to its predecessors. He added it should do well, as public preference continues to move away from passenger cars to small utility vehicles.

“Jeep is obviously one of the brands when it comes to SUVs,” he said. “The reality is I think this will do well just because it’s a new Jeep.”

The next-generation Jeep Compass, which premiered in Brazil on Monday night, will replace both the current Compass and the Patriot.

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Twitter: @MikeWayland