2018 Jeep Compass Review

Jeeps like the Compass have a strong reputation and exude a certain attitude that pulls them above other crossovers. In addition, the Compass seems more mature and capable than a lot of its competitors because it looks like a Grand Cherokee that was left in the dryer for too long.

In addition to the looks, that Jeep badge means that this Compass has to be rugged and ready for anything the world throws your way. But because of its market segment, the Compass also has to be a solid daily driver. Let’s see if this Jeeplet can actually be a jack of all trades.

Now in its second generation, the new Compass is a huge departure from the old one and looks like the premium Grand Cherokee, which is a very good thing. The new look is great and no one should be worried about being spotted in one of these cars.

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Fancy trim, but still capable

You’ll notice that the model we have here isn’t the hardcore Trailhawk version of the Compass, which looks beefier and gets a raised suspension as well as unique crawl ratio for its AWD system.

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Instead, this is a fully equipped Limited Compass, and it’s almost as capable. There is 8.2 inches of ground clearance and while it doesn’t have as wild of an approach angle as the Trailhawk, it does have some pretty solid break over and departure angles at 22.9 and 31.7 degrees, respectively.

Beyond the capable setup, the Limited features some cool exterior features like standard 18-inch wheels (although our model is equipped with 19s), LED tail lights, a power tailgate, and a nice two-tone roof. There’s also a huge dual-pane sunroof, which could be considered a low-key callback to the Wrangler’s open-air experience.

Powertrain Details

Under the hood, you’ll find a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes an impressive-sounding 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. Those aren’t insignificant figures and are about on par with some of the competition’s turbocharged offerings. For some reason, though, the Compass never feels as fast or powerful as the numbers would suggest.

Some of the blame lies with the nine-speed automatic transmission, which might just have too many gears to be truly useful. From a stop, the car never feels like it’s in a hurry. In contrast, it has a bit more urgency while in motion, finding a gear for solid acceleration, but overall, the Compass can feel like it’s running out of breath at times. It’s worth pointing out that steady and predictable power delivery is more important in off-roading than speed.

ALSO SEE: 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL Review

The nine-speed at least promises good fuel economy — the car has an EPA rating of 22 mpg city, 30 highway and 25 combined. The vehicle has a start-stop system that helps but could be more refined in operation. 

Can it Off-Road?

But no one wants to get a Jeep for its fuel economy. They either want it so they can say “it’s a Jeep thing” to their friends or for its capability off-road.

That’s a huge advantage over other crossovers out there, which do provide some confidence, but nothing like the type you get with Jeep’s Active Drive full-time all-wheel-drive system. No matter if you get caught in a mudslide, snowstorm, sandstorm, firestorm, meteor shower, or zombie apocalypse, this Compass will be able to handle it. That’s a sense of confidence that’s hard to reproduce in any other car.

This Limited model comes with fashionable 19-inch wheels, which were outfitted with all-season tires, and they’re not set up for any real off-roading. Even the 18s would be better, but the ultimate, go-anywhere, do-anything version of the Compass would be the Trailhawk.

On the Pavement

Still, the Compass rides adequately, and there’s not much to complain about in that regard. During pothole season, those big alloys are certainly taking a beating, but on smooth roads and highways, the ride is just fine.

The steering gives off a feeling of heft and command based on how heavy it is. However, I’m not a huge fan of the meaty steering wheel, but I know that some people prefer it.

Interior Hits and Misses

It’s hard to fall in love with the interior. While the materials are much improved throughout the cabin with a lot of soft-touch plastics, there’s a bit too much hard, cheap-feeling stuff too, which could rattle and scratch easily. The two-tone setup in this tester also wasn’t really attractive and looked like it was inspired by a Rubbermaid bin.

At least the interior is filled with features. There’s the big UConnect touchscreen, which is quick and easy to use (when it’s working), and there’s a nice big screen between the gauges for the driver. The center console is user-friendly enough but looks a bit busy due to a lot of buttons that aren’t that useful.

The Compass lacks cubbies and places to store things like cellphones, wallets, and keys. The door pockets are fairly small, as is the armrest, and this lack of at-hand storage is a big criticism with the Compass.

Additionally, the rear seats are a bit tight, and I’m not thrilled with the cargo space either. Seats up or down, it’s shallow and it also has a pretty high load floor.

Tech-wise, the Compass has most of what you want including forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist, as well as a great reverse camera. I do wish it had adaptive cruise control, though.

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The base Compass starts at $25,490 for a front-wheel drive model, while this fully loaded all-wheel-drive example rings up at $34,405 ($43,890 in Canada). That’s a tough spot because it’s not far from a fully loaded crossover like the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5, both of which have won our Utility Vehicle of the Year award in the past.

The Verdict: 2018 Jeep Compass Limited Review

But those other crossovers just don’t have the reputation for capability that comes with the Jeep badge and nameplate. This is what makes it a Jeep, and for some, that’s worth the price tag, but don’t overlook the fact that this mini-Grand Cherokee has a few drawbacks.

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