There are some vehicles that leave you scratching your head, wondering why is anyone buying them. A perfect example is the previous-generation Jeep Compass. The model had a long list of negatives ranging from a very cheap interior to powertrains that could be beaten by a snail. But a number of folks bought the Compass and its sister car, the Patriot, in droves. It offered the looks and the image of owning a Jeep vehicle without the downsides of owning something that provided a rough ride or was too expensive.
Almost a decade later, we have the new Compass which hopes to right the wrongs of the previous model. We spent a week in the Limited trim to see if Jeep was able to.
First impressions seem promising when it comes to the exterior. There is a lot of Grand Cherokee in the Compass’ shape with similar profiles, angled front end, and rear tailgate. Our Limited tester came with 18-inch aluminum wheels and two-tone paint that helps make the model pop. Compared to the last Compass, the new model is slightly shorter (173.2 vs. 175.1-inches).
A big complaint about the Compass/Patriot was their interiors. It was easy to tell they were built to the lowest cost possible with cheap plastics, a short list of standard features, and odd design decisions. The new Compass thankfully fixes many of those mistakes. Step inside and it becomes quite clear that Jeep focused on making the Compass a special place to be in. Again, there is a lot of Grand Cherokee influence with a similar dash design and the extensive use of soft-touch materials. We like the contrasting trim pieces around the vents that help make the interior not feel as dark. One thing we’re not so keen on is the low placement of HVAC and audio controls in the center stack. It is a bit of reach to adjust the temperature or change the volume.
In terms of seating, you feel that you’re sitting on top of the Compass, not inside it. This is due to Jeep raising the seats to provide the high-riding experience of an SUV. The front seats provide decent support for long trips and optional power adjustments make it easier to find the right position. In the back, there is plenty of legroom for those over 6-feet. Headroom is tight for taller passengers if you get the optional panoramic sunroof. Cargo space measures out to 27 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 61 cubic feet folded.
Our test Compass came with the 8.4-inch UConnect system. Recently updated for the 2018 model year, the system features an updated interface and integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unlike other FCA vehicles equipped with UConnect, the system in the Compass was problematic. For starters, the system had trouble trying to pair an iPhone 7 Plus via Bluetooth. The system would try to connect to the phone for about 30 seconds and then give up. On the third attempt, UConnect froze and I had to shut off the vehicle and walk away for a minute before the system turned off. After doing some troubleshooting, I realized that I had too many UConnect pairings on my phone and deleted them all. After this, the system was able to connect to connect to my phone with no issues. Yes, this is only a problem to those of us who review a number of new cars. But other problems with this system would pop up such as the system taking a few moments to bring up certain functions, being unable to find my iPod or iPhone when plugged in, and the system crashing when I was trying to bring up navigation. I believe these most of these issues are isolated to this vehicle, but it doesn’t leave a good impression with the new version of UConnect.
There is only one engine available for the Compass, a 2.4L four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Our Limited came equipped with a nine-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive models have the choice between a six-speed manual or automatic. This engine has been a weak point in many Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ vehicles we have driven and the Compass is no exception. Acceleration is very anemic as the engine takes its sweet time to get up to speed. The engine is also very noisy when accelerating but thankfully quiets down when cruising at a steady speed. The nine-speed automatic is well-behaved for the most part as it smoothly and quickly upshifts to help boost fuel economy. There is some hesitation when it comes to downshifting.
Fuel economy is not a strong suit for the Compass. EPA ratings for the nine-speed and AWD combination stands at 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. Our average for the week landed at 23 MPG.
The tall height may hint that the Compass is a bit of handful when cornering, but the model is surprisingly agile. There is some lean when cornering, but the Compass feels planted and controlled. The steering feels nicely weighted and responds quickly to inputs. In terms of the ride, the Compass’ suspension is able to smooth over most bumps with no issue. We sadly didn’t get the chance to try the Compass’ off-road capability. AWD models come with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system that offers four different driving modes that alter various settings. Those who have taken the Compass off the beaten path say it is surprisingly capable.
The second-generation Jeep Compass is worlds better than the original model. A lot of the changes made to this model have been for the better with a sharp-looking exterior, pleasant interior, and surprising driving dynamics. But there are two issues that hold the Compass back from reaching greatness. First is the 2.4 four-cylinder engine which feels sluggish and fuel economy is somewhat poor. FCA really needs to come up with a replacement for the 2.4 ASAP. Second is the price. The Compass Limited starts at $28,995 and our as-tested price came to $34,955. This makes a bit of a poor value, especially when the Hyundai Tucson Limited we reviewed a few weeks ago was only $300 more. Given the choice, we would pick the Hyundai.
Despite the changes made by the Jeep, the Compass is relegated to mid-pack. If they can get a new engine and work on the value argument, then the Compass could be a real threat.
Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Compass, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: Limited 4X4
Engine: 2.4L MultiAir 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400
Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25
Curb Weight: 3,327 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico
Base Price: $28,995
As Tested Price: $34,955 (Includes $1,095 Destination Charge)
19" x 7.5" Polished Black Pocket Aluminum Wheels - $895.00
Advanced Safety & Lighting Group - $895.00
Navigation Group - $895.00
Safety and Security Group - $745.00
Beats Premium Audio System - $695.00
Power Liftgate - $495.00
Compact Spare Tire - $245.00