The Jeep Compass crossover was introduced a decade ago. An all-new Compass is being introduced as a 2017, while the old Compass continues to be sold down as a 2017 model. Confusing? Yes. This review covers the old Compass.
This is a dated product, essentially the same as the 2016 model, and it lags behind the Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota RAV4.
The base engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, makes the same 158 horsepower that it did 10 years ago, although it’s smoother than it was back then. The upgrade engine is a 2.4 liter that makes 172 horsepower. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, and a 6-speed automatic optional (more commonly equipped in showrooms), with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. A CVT is available, but we suggest you avoid it, as it’s among the worst of the continuously variable transmissions that make the drivetrain feel like it’s powered through a rubber band.
As for offroad, what Jeep is known for, there is a package called Freedom Drive II with skid plates, tow hooks, and all-terrain tires, but it only comes with the CVT. The CVT is programmed to simulate the low range of a two-speed transfer case. But if offroad is your thing, stick to a Wrangler, or possibly the Compass’s supposedly less pretty sister, the Patriot. Or another idea, get the Compass with the 5-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive. It will get you anywhere the Freedom Drive II will (hill start assist is standard). If wanted, you can always add the tires, skid plates, and even a modest lift kit.
Another thing that goes against the Compass is its three-star crash rating from the NHTSA. The IIHS hasn’t rated it. No collision avoidance technology is available. A rearview camera isn’t even available. Yet it’s intended for women?
Fuel mileage with the 5-speed and front-wheel drive is 23/30 miles per gallon City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined, according to EPA estimates. The more common 2.4-liter with 6-speed automatic is rated 21/27/23 mpg City/Highway/Combined (22 mpg Combined with all-wheel drive). The Freedom Drive II gets 21 mpg Combined, bringing it down to lame numbers for a four-cylinder engine.
Jeep Compass Sport ($19,795) includes fabric upholstery, air conditioning, Bluetooth with audio streaming, satellite radio, manually operated windows and door locks. All-wheel drive is available ($21,795).
Compass Sport SE ($22,185) adds heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 18-inch alloy wheels. The Compass 75th Anniversary Edition ($25,665) adds a power sunroof and appearance bits.
Compass Latitude ($24,340) adds power windows and door locks, automatic climate control, navigation, and a Boston Acoustics Radio. Compass High Altitude ($25,645) adds leather seats and more appearance bits.
All-wheels drive is available for all models. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Although the styling is influenced by Cherokee, it’s still a bit trapezoidal with rounded edges, a design that looks confused.
The dashboard isn’t as blocky as it used to be, and there are some soft-touch materials on the door panels, but the cabin doesn’t feel of very high quality even with leather upholstery. It’s not up to the speed of rivals like the Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, or Volkswagen Tiguan. The interior doesn’t match that of the smaller Jeep Renegade, a newer design.
Some of what makes the Compass feel dated is the low seating position; other SUVs seat the driver higher, for a better view of the road. However, a height-adjustable driver seat is available. The front seats are comfortable enough, but the rear bench is hard and flat, and the middle passenger’s knees will be battling with those of the luckier rear window passengers. There’s also a cupholder in the way of that middle passenger.
The laminated windshield glass helps subdue the noisy engine, but we can’t say much more for refinement.
The 5-speed manual transmission is fine, and brings the best fuel mileage. But the 6-speed automatic delivers surprising refinement, so it’s the way to go. Forget the CVT, as it forces the unrefined engine to run at high rpm in too many driving situations.
The outgoing Jeep Compass is primarily a price proposition. Neither its powertrain nor cabin are as good as its rivals. The all-new model may improve on that score.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.