The Jeep Compass is a compact crossover utility vehicle from Fiat Chrysler’s rugged-image Jeep brand. Now in its second generation, the Compass is built on a stretched version of the same platform underpinning the subcompact Jeep Renegade, as well as the Fiat 500X.
The Jeep Compass in its current guise first burst onto the scene for the 2017 model year, replacing both the first-generation Compass, and the also-compact Jeep Patriot – a model that was basically a restyled, rebadged version of the same utility vehicle. While the Compass has matured significantly since its initial introduction, growing more sophisticated and more capable over the past decade, it’s still more-or-less aimed at first-time Jeep buyers – or at least those who don’t necessarily spend their weekends hitting the trails.
An exception to that is the Jeep Compass Trailhawk, which – as its name suggests – is aimed at compact crossover buyers who are looking for a dose of off-road acumen. While the rest of the lineup is available in either front- or four-wheel-drive, the Trailhawk is 4WD only.
The Jeep Compass is somewhat overshadowed by its slightly larger compact crossover cousin, the Cherokee, but it’s still an important model line within the Jeep product range. As more and more new vehicle buyers come to forsake cars, opting instead for the extra space and elevated ride offered by most SUV offerings, automakers are left trying to plug every conceivable gap within their utility vehicle lineups. This means that the Compass can effectively split the (relatively small) difference between the smaller Renegade and the larger Cherokee and still sell.
The Jeep Compass is one of a shrinking number of current production vehicles that can be had with a manual transmission. In fact, it’s standard equipment on the base Sport trim level, although two automatic gearboxes are available as options; which one you get depends on whether FWD or 4WD is selected. The base vehicle is a bit spartan in other ways, as well, shipping with standard black-painted steel wheels, and very little standard active safety equipment.
But of course, most buyers won’t opt for the Sport, and at the top of the trim hierarchy is available all the high-tech equipment we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from similar new vehicle models: remote start, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and the like.
The current-generation Jeep Compass is built for the U.S. market in Toluca, Mexico. Production previously took place in Belvidere, Illinois.
Pros/ Sleek, handsome exterior / Good comfort / Great fuel economy
Cons/Mediocre interior quality / Vexing 9-speed automatic
Bottom Line/If it's looks and efficiency you're after, the Jeep Compass is well worth consideration. Just plug your nose if you have to take the 9-speed auto.
Table of contents
Jeep Compass Fuel Economy
Fuel economy is one of the Jeep Compass’s strong suits. For 2020, the compact crossover is EPA-rated at 25 mpg across the board on the combined cycle, whether front- or four-wheel-drive, with one exception; the FWD Compass is rated at 26 mpg when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. That manual is available on both FWD and 4WD models, but only on certain trims.
Achieving the same fuel economy between front- and four-wheel-drive automatic models is a bit of a trick – one made possible by the ZF-sourced nine-speed installed into 4WD models. (FWD automatic models get a six-speed slushbox instead.) No matter the drivetrain, just one engine is available in the North American market: a 2.4L MultiAir four-cylinder with peak ratings of 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.
Jeep Compass Safety Rating
The 2019 Jeep Compass earned top marks in every single Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashworthiness testing category, including the difficult small overlap frontal crash tests on both the driver’s and passenger’s sides. Its optional frontal collision prevention system was rated Superior.
So why, then, isn’t the 2019 Jeep Compass an IIHS Top Safety Pick? Its headlights. Top Safety Picks must have available at least one Good- or Acceptable-rated headlight option, and none of the Compass’s three available headlight configurations managed to test better than Marginal. Because of its highly rated crashworthiness and frontal collision prevention system, had the 2019 Compass fared better in the headlight testing category, it would have qualified as an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus.
Jeep Compass Features
The Jeep Compass is positioned below the ever-popular Jeep Cherokee compact crossover in the lineup, so predictably, there is a bit less emphasis on premium features toward the base end of the trim hierarchy. But that’s not to say there isn’t a nice breadth of content available; the upmarket Limited model comes standard with a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8.4-inch infotainment screen, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power eight-way driver’s seat, leather upholstery, and some swanky 18-inch polished aluminum wheels.
Options on the Limited include nine-speaker premium audio, a huge dual-pane panoramic moonroof, and a host of active safety features including frontal collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and rear park assist. The Jeep Compass doesn’t go nearly as far as other auto brands with its standard active safety equipment; many of the aforementioned features are standard on other models, and in many cases you don’t have to spring for the most expensive trim to get them. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re cross-shopping Compass against something else in the segment.
Jeep Compass Pricing
In the United States market, the 2020 Jeep Compass has a starting MSRP of $22,105 before destination, and for that, you get a FWD Sport model with a six-speed manual transmission and no optional extras. At the high end of the trim hierarchy, the starting MSRP can push past the $30,000 mark for a Jeep Compass Limited with the High Altitude package, topping out at nearly $38,000 if all the boxes are ticked. That’s roughly one-and-a-quarter times the base MSRP – a lot for such a small crossover, especially considering that all models make use of the same humble little 2.4L four-cylinder engine.
Jeep Compass Competitors
The Jeep Compass is an affordable compact crossover whose primary competitors are the Ford Escape, Honda CRV, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Crosstrek, and Toyota Rav4 – similarly sized vehicles with comparable standard powertrains and available AWD. It fits right in with those other vehicles, offering similar power and available features, but customers hoping for a good mix of standard active safety features at the base trim level might be better suited by one of the Compass’s competitors.
If, on the other hand, a buyer is simply looking to get into a small crossover at the lowest price possible, the Jeep Compass is an excellent option. Only the Subaru Crosstrek starts lower, and depending on how one feels about continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), the transmission might make the difference. The Subaru is also significantly smaller, offering less overall storage space, and its 2.0L four-cylinder engine produces much less power.
2019 Jeep Compass Review
By Craig Cole | Aug 15, 2019
If there’s a better way to get the feel for and discover the idiosyncrasies of a particular vehicle than plopping down in the left-front seat and going for a long-haul drive, I’m not aware of it.
A pavement-pounding 1,100-mile road trip can provide you with a wealth of knowledge about the steed you’re piloting, that plus a sore backside and an unhealthy craving for gas-station coffee. Just such a journey has given me a few strong opinions of Jeep’s Compass, the off-road brand’s fine-looking small crossover.
Why take this trail-ready utility on such a lengthy trip? Well, every year in late spring the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) hosts a blockbuster drive event at Road America. Nestled amongst the gently rolling hills and bucolic pasturelands of Eastern Wisconsin, this high-speed four-mile track is unquestionably one of the premiere racing circuits in the United States. Too bad it’s nowhere near my home in Southeastern Michigan, hence the trek across America’s heartland.
Jeep’s “Baby Grand”
Size-wise, the Compass is something of a ‘tweener. In certain measurements it’s slightly smaller than a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or Chevrolet Equinox, but it’s also a touch larger than rival companies’ subcompact utility offerings, products like the HR-V, C-HR and Trax.
Fortunately, this splitting-the-difference marketplace positioning does nothing to detract from the Compass’ overall appearance. Exterior styling is one of its most-appealing aspects. Unlike the robotic-looking Honda HR-V, that oddly proportioned Chevrolet Trax or Toyota’s weird-looking C-HR, this is an incredibly handsome little hauler that’s the spittin’ image of its larger corporate sibling, the ever-comely Jeep Grand Cherokee. From its iconic seven-slot grille that slightly curves in plan-view along its nose to those squared-off wheel openings to that perky rear-end, the Compass is a looker from just about every angle.
What About the Interior?
Unfortunately, things aren’t quite as well done inside. This vehicle’s cabin is perfectly decent, with plenty of soft plastics in all the places you’d expect them, it’s just many of the materials look pretty workaday, though, admittedly, they’re not really any worse than what you get in competing models.
A few elements do detract from overall cabin ambiance. The steering column-mounted control stalks are remarkably frail, feeling like they might snap off in you hand if, for instance, you engage the windshield wipers with too much enthusiasm. Also, the plastic shroud that houses the start button is embarrassingly low rent. The Compass also has an acute lack of storage space in the center console, an issue that quickly became apparent on my long-haul drive. With refreshments holstered in its duet of cupholders there’s almost no space to put anything like a wallet or phone.
Fortunately, there are laudable elements to this Jeep’s interior. The front bucket seats didn’t immediately seem all that comfortable, but they proved to be tremendous on this road trip, supportive and properly ergonomic, which translates to few aches or pains even after hours of sustained driving.
The Compass provides decent backseat room, too, enough for even those that are relatively long of leg. An elevated lower cushion provides a theater-style seating position and better outward visibility for passengers in coach.
As usual, FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system is snappy to use and simple to decipher. A 7-inch touchscreen is standard, but the up-level Compass tested here was fitted with the more generous 8.4-incher. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are baked right in for added user-friendliness.
Versatility and Mechanicals
The Jeep Compass does an admirable job hauling people. It’s also quite adept at handling cargo.
Rear seats up, it provides 27.2 cubic feet (771 liters) of space. Fold those backrests down and you’re treated to just shy of 60 (1,693 liters). These figures compare nicely with the space-efficient Honda HR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.
Behind that iconic grille, North American drivers are served just one engine in the Compass. It’s a 2.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder unit that pumps out a respectable 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. According to Jeep, this vehicle is offered with up to 17 different powertrain combinations depending on the market it’s sold in. Reflecting this international flair, the Compass in manufactured in Mexico, Brazil, China and even India for sale in markets around the world. The example tested here was screwed together in Toluca, Mexico.
Fortunately, you can choose between front or all-wheel drive. Jeep Active Drive is optional on all models save the Trailhawk version. This includes a Selec-Terrain system that allows you to tailor the vehicle’s behavior to different surface conditions, optimizing wheel slip, throttle response and other parameters to deliver the best performance in snow, mud or other adverse conditions.
Compass Trailhawk models com standard with Jeep Active Drive Low, which includes a 20-to-1 crawl ratio, underbody skid plates, red tow hooks both front and rear plus a ride-height increase of nearly an inch. They also brandish hill-descent control and more aggressive off-road tires on 17-inch wheels. As the name implies, Trailhawks are trail-rated and can drive through up to 19 inches of water.
Backing up that single engine is a triad of transmissions. A manual or automatic, both with six forward speeds, can be had in two-wheel-drive models or certain versions with four-wheel drive. A nine-ratio self-shifting gearbox is the top offering.
On the subject of fuel consumption, the High Altitude 4×4 model tested here stickered at 22 miles per gallon (10.8 l/100 km) in the city and 30 (7.8 l/100 km) on highway drives. Combined, it’s rated at 25 mpg (9.5 l/100 km).
When equipped with four-wheel drive, the Compass can tow up to 2,000 pounds. Jeep does not recommend towing with front-drive models.
Despite its off-road capabilities, the Compass is quite adept at gobbling up highway miles. The engine is reasonably smooth, unexpectedly efficient and powerful enough, even with three people and a load of luggage onboard.
While not my favorite engine in the world, that MultiAir four-banger gets the job done and returned just shy of 29 miles per gallon after my 1,100-mile round-trip trek to Wisconsin. That’s impressive, especially considering how hard it got driven.
There’s plenty to like about this crossover’s powertrain, however, there is one absolutely loathsome aspect to it: that damn transmission. The ZF-sourced automatic is simply dreadful. Despite having a whopping nine ratios to choose from it’s never in the right one, like, EVER. On the highway, it always feels three gears too high. Passing requires you to bury the accelerator then wait a second or two for it do decide what to do. If a downshift of five is granted, you’ll zip around slower-moving vehicles no problem, then the transmission is back in eighth gear as soon as physically possible. Apparently, ninth is only there for show as I don’t think the vehicle ever actually shifted into it on its own, not even at 80 miles an hour.
Around town, that transmission also makes the Compass feel somewhat lethargic. It’s always upshifting to the highest ratio possible for a given speed. Of course, the result of this prudishness is superb rear-world fuel economy, though it comes at the expense of all driving joy.
Underway, this crossover’s ride is mostly smooth and its interior competitively quiet. Adaptive cruise control also proved to be a godsend while navigating Chicagoland traffic. It’s not the smoothest operator in the business, but it still worked well and saved a mountain of aggravation. This feature should be included in the available $795 Advanced Safety Group options package.
Comfortable, spacious and economical, the Jeep Compass is a competent small crossover. Unfortunately, the overall experience is marred by frustrating performance and a handful of annoying interior elements.
Some of these downsides are much more forgivable at the lower-end of its pricing spectrum. An entry-level Sport model starts around $23,000 and should provide much of the basic goodness found in this range-topping High Altitude model, all for way less cash. But at more than 37 grand, the example tested here is harder to justify.
|Engine /||2.4L 4-cyl|
|Torque /||175 lb-ft|
|Transmission /||6-speed manual / 6-speed automatic (FWD) / 9-speed automatic (4WD)|
|Drivetrain /||Front-wheel-drive / Four-wheel-drive|
Our Final Verdict
The Jeep Compass is a stylish, efficient, well-rounded compact crossover with a low price of entry and plenty of premium features available at the top end of the trim hierarchy. It hasn’t set the world on fire, but it doesn’t necessarily need to in order to succeed; in its all-important and ever-popular size and price class, there are plenty enough buyers to go around.
Where we find fault with the Jeep Compass is its less-than-exceptional interior and its maladjusted available nine-speed automatic transmission, which never seems entirely decided on which gear it should be in at a given moment. Granted, that nine-speed is the path to impressive fuel economy for 4WD-equipped examples of the Compass, and one could certainly argue that the unexceptional material is the price one pays for such a low sticker price.
Regardless, it’s hard to begrudge the Jeep Compass too much. At the end of the day, it’s a competent and economical looker of a utility vehicle. You could do far worse.4