- More refined six-speed automatic
- Affordability and value
- Poor gas mileage
- Limited cargo space
- Safety questions
The 2015 Jeep Compass is now as good as it's going to get, a competent small crossover with few surprises.
The 2015 Jeep Compass has been living on borrowed time for many model years; yet this somewhat ill-conceived vehicle has, over time, become much closer to what would have made it the sort of resounding success it could have been when first introduced nearly a decade ago.
In recent years this model has morphed from an odd econobox Jeep hatchback into a kind of mini-Grand Cherokee—tripling its sales and giving it a lease on life it's still enjoying in its ninth model year.
But the 2015 Compass remains in showrooms, including all the updates it's received over the years. Today, it offers a presentable interior, a smooth powertrain, and predictable handling, making it much more in tune with what buyers expect from a small crossover.
The 2011 exterior updates went a long way to downplay the exterior awkwardness of the original 2007 design. The rounded front end--using actual Grand Cherokee light units, no less--still clashes somewhat with the angular roof and chopped-off rear, but from the front, it now looks presentable. A Billet Silver textured grille dresses up the Sport and Latitude trims, while Limited models get projector halogen lamps with black and chrome bezels.
Then, on the inside, Jeep's interior team completely revamped the upholsteries and trims. Gone were the grim black hard plastics and cheap cloth seating fabrics; now there's available Saddle Brown perforated leather upholstery with accent stitching, for instance--or a sport mesh-and-vinyl with accent stitching.
The first few years of Compass were known for their coarse, buzzy engines and sluggish continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Refinement has improved, but the base powerplant on the Compass remains a 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, while top Limited models come with a 172-hp, 2.4-liter version.
As for transmission, a five-speed manual gearbox is standard on the Sport, while a six-speed automatic and a pair of CVTs are offered throughout the range. The automatic has a high top gear for lower revs at highway cruising speeds, as well as a low 4.21 first gear for stronger launches—and AutoStick manual control as well. But Jeep still offers CVTs throughout the Compass lineup--and a CVT is required to get the model's most capable four-wheel-drive system.
Gas mileage for the Compass 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 21/27 with automatic and 4WD or just 20/23 mpg with the toughest Freedom Drive II package.
Little has been done to improve the ride, which is on the harsh side, and more like that of an economy car than those of other compact crossovers. All versions have acoustic laminated front windshield glass, which incrementally helps subdue the Compass model's ongoing issues with engine noise. The seats are only adequate at best with respect to comfort; the rear bench in particular is one of the hardest, flattest seats we've tested in such a vehicle. And there’s not that much cargo space behind the rear seats.
Front active head restraints, electronic stability control, and Hill Start Assist are standard on all models of the 2015 Compass. But with three-star frontal results from the federal government and no updated IIHS rating, it's tough to make a call on overall occupant safety.
The 2015 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. Jeep also offers Altitude and High Altitude packages, which include more feature content.
Standard features across the 2015 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.
Changes for 2015 include navigation being made available on the mid-level Latitude as an option, and a conventional dome light replacing the removable flashlight unit on earlier models. Eco Green Clear Coat replaces Rugged Brown in the exterior paint selection.