New & Used Jeep Compass: In Depth
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The Jeep Compass is a companion piece to the Jeep Patriot. The compact crossovers share underpinnings, but while the Patriot is styled with more quintessentially Jeep cues, the Compass is themed more like a rally-ready hatchback.
Like the Patriot, the Compass is a rival for vehicles like the Nissan Juke, Kia Soul, and Subaru XV Crosstrek.
MORE: Read our 2015 Jeep Compass reviewThe chunky, awkwardly styled Compass five-door was new for the 2007 model year, derived from the former Dodge Caliber hatchback. Being a Jeep, the hatchback Compass had to be offered with all-wheel drive, making it a light off-roader. But its "Jeep modern" styling didn't really gel, and a noisy powertrain, a disliked continuously-variable transmission (CVT), and its grim, cheap interior gave it very limited appeal.
The concept on which the Compass is based dates all the way back to 2002, but when it was launched five years later, the concept's V-6 had given way to a transversely-mounted four-cylinder engine--two of them, in fact, that remain in the Compass to date. Neither the larger 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower engine nor the smaller 158-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder is particularly quick. Energetic drivers will get more acceleration with the five-speed manual gearbox, but the CVT available through the 2013 model year drained the life out of the engine while amplifying its noisy, rough feel. For 2014, a proper six-speed automatic was substituted for the CVT. There's an all-wheel-drive option, though it adds more weight and complexity than it may be worth.
There may be a traditional Jeep seven-bar grille up front, but the Compass neither looks nor performs like the rest of the Jeep lineup. Things improved somewhat in 2011, when the entire front end was restyled to turn the Compass from its own vehicle into what looked like nothing so much as a mini-version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee--at least from the front. For the sake of cost savings, it even used the larger crossover's headlamp and light units. It also gained much-improved interior materials and smoother, simplified cabin trims.
Along with the host of improvements the Compass received for 2011, it also got the Patriot's Trail Rated Freedom Drive II system, which gives this vehicle a level of off-road ability that's unusual in small crossovers.
The five-seat Compass wins points for good head room and front-passenger leg room. The seats themselves are flat, but the cabin feels spacious. The second-row seats also fold almost flat to expose a larger cargo hold. Chrysler's also fitted more sound insulation over the years, which gives the newest Compass crossovers a slightly quieter cabin.
Handling, however, is a bright spot; the Compass is very maneuverable and steers most of the time with the accuracy and precision of a small car while riding pretty well.
Standard safety features on theinclude side curtain airbags, Brake Traction Control, a driver-controlled three-mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, and Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with rough-road detection. Jeep added active head restraints for 2010, covering both the driver and the front-seat passenger. Front-seat -mounted side airbags are optional, and later years of the Compass come with standard electronic stability control.
The Compass has a few neat standard features, including rear load-bay speakers that drop down from the open tailgate to turn the car into a sort of mobile stereo. Its very extensive options list includes Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius Satellite Radio, 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, a moonroof, and an upgraded audio system with six-disc CD changer. A remote start system and an automatic climate control system are now also offered.
The Compass continued into 2012 and 2013 essentially unchanged, with changes for the 2014 Jeep Compass including a new front-end look and the new six-speed automatic. Chrysler parent Fiat had planned to axe the aging model, but now will keep it in the lineup for at least another year, until a single model replaces both it and the Patriot.