IN A NEW DIRECTION: Jeep’s handsome, revitalized 2018 Compass Limited 4×4 compact crossover points the way to still-greater sales success

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It carries the same name, but it’s a new Jeep.

Actually, the second-generation 2018 Jeep Compass made its debut for the 2017 model year, and not a moment too soon. The previous version was nearly a decade old, and despite occasional updates, it was well past its time. That it continued to sell well right up to its replacement is a testament to the popularity of small crossovers, even ones as out of date and low-rent as the old Compass.

The wait for Gen 2 has paid off, however, as the new Compass is improved in every way – almost.

It’s certainly a better-looking machine, with stylistic nods to its brethren in the Jeep corral, the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.

The attractive cabin is decked out with far nicer materials than its predecessor, although there’s still a fair amount of hard plastics on doors, dash and console. Our Limited model upped the ante with power-adjustable, heated, leather-trimmed seating; a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; automatic climate control; and a panoply of techy toys including satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth Streaming Audio. The Compass features FiatChysler’s excellent, easy-to-use Uconnect touchscreen system to control it all.

The Compass provides a peacefully quiet highway ride, and maintains a moderately flat, secure nature through tight corners.

The Compass’ biggest letdown is its drivetrain. Power is provided by a 2.4-liter, inline four-cylinder engine churning out a fairly generous 180 horsepower, but it feels rather underpowered. Part of the problem is its recalcitrant nine-speed automatic transmission that never seems quite sure which gear it should be in.

Off road, the little Jeep largely lives up to its lineage, with a Selec-Terrain system providing various settings for varying surfaces.

Prices climb quickly when adding safety and security features such as blind-spot and cross-path detection, lane departure warning and brake assist, items that come standard on several of the Compass’ competitors.

Still, it’s a tough little CUV, and one that carries a Jeep badge. And that badge carries a lot of charisma – and history – with it.

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