The Car Connection Jeep Compass Overview
The Jeep Compass is part of the automaker's two-prong approach to compact crossovers. It slots in below the Cherokee and above the subcompact Renegade in Jeep's lineup.
While the Cherokee goes after the heart of the market—crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester—the Compass is aimed at smaller vehicles like the Subaru Crosstrek, the Hyundai Tucson, and the Kia Sportage. It's a smart approach for Jeep that was frankly long overdue.
The Compass is all-new for 2017, replacing a model that reached its sell-by date about a decade ago (and yet was kept on the market).
MORE: Read our 2017 Jeep Compass review
The new version will be sold alongside the outgoing model and both are listed as 2017s—a real head-scratcher. That doesn't make a lot of sense to us, either, but we strongly recommend opting for the new 2017 instead of the carry-over 2017.
It rides on a stretched version of the smaller Renegade's platform and is built in four plants globally (American Compasses are sourced from Mexico), which potentially could make it the most mass-produced Jeep ever at least in terms of assembly locations. All Compasses share the same 180-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine and a choice of three transmissions are on offer—6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, and 9-speed automatic. Front- and all-wheel drive variants are available as are four trim levels.
Like other Jeeps, a Trailhawk variant is aimed at off-roaders. Here, it has a suspension lift and its own bumpers that allow it to scale more sharp inclines than the decidedly street-oriented standard Compass models.
Jeep Compass history
The Compass was a new vehicle wearing an equally new nameplate for the 2007 model year. It and the Patriot were derived from Dodge's Caliber hatchback; Compass styling was out of the Jeep norm, a bit chunky and awkward, and appearing more like a five-door hatchback than a utility. Though a front-drive-based model, it was offered all-wheel drive from the start and was able to hang with other small light off-roaders. The styling didn't win too many fans at first, especially among Jeep faithful, and noisy engines, an unloved continuously variable transmission (CVT), and a dark, cheap-feeling interior kept it from achieving success early on.
The concept on which the Compass is based dates all the way back to 2002. When the production version arrived five years later, the concept's V-6 had given way to a transversely mounted four-cylinder engine—a choice of two of them that remain in the Compass to date. Neither the larger 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower engine nor the 158-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes the Compass particularly quick. Energetic drivers will get more acceleration with the 5-speed manual gearbox, while the CVT drains the life out of the engine while amplifying its noisy, rough feel. For 2014, a proper 6-speed automatic was substituted for the CVT in most models. There's an all-wheel-drive option, though it adds more weight and complexity than it may be worth for those who plan on staying on-road.
Though there is a traditional Jeep seven-slot grille up front, the Compass represented a big design departure from the rest of the Jeep lineup, and its original look didn't find many fans. Things improved somewhat in 2011, when the entire front end was restyled to give the Compass a mini-Grand Cherokee look—at least from the front. For the sake of cost savings, the Compass even uses the larger crossover's headlamp units. It also gained much-improved interior materials and smoother, simplified cabin trims in that update.
Along with the host of improvements the Compass received for 2011, it also received the Patriot's Freedom Drive II system, which gives this vehicle a level of off-road ability that's unusual in small crossovers. Jeep gives the system its Trail Rated seal of approval, which means it's ready for more difficult off-roading, helped along by skid plates and the like. It was originally going to be reserved for the Patriot, which was being positioned as the more off-road-friendly model of the pair.
The Compass offers good head room and lots of leg room for front passengers, with seating for five. The cushions can feel a bit flat, however. The cabin is airy, and the second row of seats can fold flat to create a long load floor for extra gear. The recent round of updates included the addition of more sound deadening, providing a quiet experience compared to many other crossovers of this size.
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. The ride is nicely controlled, with only minor harshness on broken pavement. It drives much more like a Grand Cherokee than a Wrangler, which is not surprising given its car-based origins.
Standard safety features on theinclude side curtain airbags, traction control, a driver-controlled electronic stability program, brake assist, roll mitigation, and anti-lock brakes 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.
A feature aimed at tailgate partiers, the speakers located in the cargo area can drop down from the hatch to aim out, turning the Compass into a big mobile stereo. Early model years also offered a removable dome light that doubled as a flash light, but it was replaced with a conventional fixed unit for 2015. Options include a remote-start system, automatic climate control, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, 19-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, a moonroof, and upgraded sound with a six-disc CD changer.
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 by now, but it returned for 2017 with pared down trim levels. Production ended in late 2016.