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After many years of struggling in the economy-car doldrums, the Jeep Compass has finally found its groove. For the past seven years, it's mostly been a right idea plagued by poor execution--a rally-ish hatchback saddled with torpid acceleration and lackluster manners.
Over a series of light updates in the past two years, the Compass finally has a presentable interior, a smooth powertrain, and settled handling. It's much more in tune with what buyers expect from a small crossover.Visually, the ‘mini-Grand Cherokee’ makeover that the Compass received for 2011 took a big step toward righting the awkwardness of the original Compass design that had been introduced for 2007. The result was a vehicle that hit the mark in exterior appearance but still left much to be desired because of its coarse, buzzy engines and sluggish continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Now on the 2014 Compass, Jeep hasn’t done anything radical to that look, although it’s refined this small crossover with even more fine details. And even more importantly, the unloved continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is purged from the lineup.
On the inside, upholsteries and trims have been completely revamped, with available Saddle Brown perforated leather upholstery with accent stitching, for instance, or a new sport mesh-and-vinyl with accent stitching. Outside, the Compass gets a Billet Silver textured grille in its Sport and Latitude trims, while Limited models get new projector halogen lamps with black and chrome bezels; taillamps get a new ‘smoked’ inner bezel.
The base engine on the Compass remains a 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder ‘World Engine,’ while top Limited models come with a 172-hp, 2.4-liter version; a five-speed manual gearbox is standard, while the six-speed automatic is offered as a step up across the lineup. The six-speed brings a higher top gear for lower revs at highway cruising speeds, while there’s also a low 4.21 first gear for stronger launches—plus AutoStick manual control. The new automatic is also essentially maintenance-free, with a sealed-for-life design, with no dipstick and no flushes or fills required. It's also as much of an improvement in drivability as you might think; in a short spin, we found the new automatic transmission in the Compass to be not only more responsive, but more settled.
The Compass’s cabin design otherwise stays the same—meaning that you should expect the same ride, which is a bit on the harsh side, and a bit more like that of a small car than other compact crossovers. All models also now get acoustic laminated front windshield glass, which should incrementally help tamp down this model’s ongoing issues with engine noise. The Compass merely does the job with respect to seat comfort (and we don’t see that the seat design itself is different in the 2014); the rear bench in particular is one of the hardest, flattest ones we've tested in such a vehicle. And there’s not all that much cargo space behind the rear seats.
The 2014 Compass is offered in Sport, Latitude, and Limited models, each with a choice between front-wheel drive, the Freedom Drive I full-time active all-wheel drive (with a locking center diff good for snow or sand), or Freedom Drive II, which adds more off-road capability. In previous model years we've found the latter system to be tough enough to churn through sand or get up some of the more rutted trails, but it's still no rock-crawler.
Gas mileage for the Compass still isn't great compared to other models its size. Mileage ranges from 26 mpg city, 30 highway with the base 2.0 engine and manual gearbox, all the way down to 21/23 with automatic and 4WD or ojust 20/21 mpg with the toughest Freedom Drive II package.
Front active head restraints, electronic stability control, and Hill Start Assist are standard on all models of the 2014 Compass. But with three-star frontal results from the federal government and no updated IIHS rating, there are too many unanswered questions about occupant safety to say it's one of the top safety picks.
Standard features across the 2014 Compass lineup include air conditioning, power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, fog lamps, a removable rechargeable flashlight, and illuminated cupholders. Latitude models add heated cloth front seats, a fold-flat passenger seat, 60/40-split reclining rear seats, a 115-volt power inverter, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. At the top of the range, the Limited gets the 2.4-liter engine, plus four-wheel disc brakes, 18-inch alloys, leather upholstery, projector headlamps, a power driver’s seat, an information center, automatic climate control, a universal garage-door opener. Options include a ParkView backup camera, a power sunroof, Uconnect Voice Command (hands-free calling and audio streaming), nine-speaker premium sound with liftgate speakers, and a navigation system with SiriusXM Travel Link.