2015 Jeep Compass Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 25, 2015

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.

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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.

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2015 Jeep Compass

Styling

The Jeep Compass is looking like an outlier at best, otherwise quite outdated.

In 2011 Jeep took a big step toward righting the homely awkwardness of the original Compass design—although the boxy wheelwell outline and out-of-proportion upkick in the rear flanks remain. On the outside, the 'mini-Grand-Cherokee' look succeeds as a whole; the result is a vehicle that still has some awkward angles yet fits much better into the market today than when it was introduced.

The Compass's profile is somewhat trapezoidal with soft details, making it look more cute than ute. The Grand-Cherokee-like grille, headlights, and hood are the highlights of the design, and of course they're some of the newest elements. Last year also brought some detail changes, like a new grille treatment.

That last retouch—sort of a 'lite' version of the revamp given to other Chrysler vehicles in recent years—simply wasn't enough to overcome the rather low-rent look and feel of the cabin, however. Upholsteries and trims were revamped then, with available Saddle Brown perforated leather upholstery with accent stitching, for instance, or a new sport mesh-and-vinyl with accent stitching. Overall, it's a straightforward and functional look—it's appealing in appearance if not always feel. 

For 2015, Eco Green Clear Coat replaces Rugged Brown on the exterior-color list.

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2015 Jeep Compass

Performance

Drivebility of the Compass improved significantly last year with a new six-speed automatic transmission.

The Jeep Compass offers two engines, with a somewhat-confusing menu of three different available transmissions.

The base engine on the Compass remains a 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder ‘World Engine,’ while top Limited models and all-wheel-drive versions come with a 172-hp, 2.4-liter version; a five-speed manual gearbox is standard on the Sport, while a six-speed automatic and a CVT are 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. It's also as much of an improvement in drivability as you might think; in a short spin, we found the automatic transmission in the Compass to be not only more responsive, but more settled. We'll add more impressions on the new automatic as soon as we can spend more time with one.

We've found manual-gearbox versions of the Compass to have decent drivability, although a notchy shifter and imprecise clutch behavior sapped some of the enjoyment. The Compass is somewhat unique in that it is available with four-wheel drive and a manual transmission (Sport model).

And that CVT no one particularly loves is required equipment when selecting the top off-road gear, the Freedom Drive II four-wheel-drive system. The CVT includes an integrated low range for semi-serious off-roading.

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2015 Jeep Compass

Comfort & Quality

A drab cabin lacks flair or refinement but hits the mark in functionality.

While the Compass has seen many improvements over the years, it could still use a little attention inside.

The interior is well laid-out and comes with a number of neat features, like outward-facing tailgate speakers. From the driver's seat, the Compass feels like a small car—one that rides several inches higher than it otherwise would. Front seat comfort is merely adequate; the rear bench 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, a compromise that must be made for the small exterior size.

The ride is a bit on the harsh side, more like that of a small car than other compact crossovers. All models get acoustic laminated front windshield glass, which should incrementally help tamp down this model’s ongoing issues with engine noise.

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2015 Jeep Compass

Safety

All the essentials are here, although there's a lack of recent crash-test information.

Safety equipment is good for the 2015 Compass—although you might be missing some of the latest active-safety protection if you're one to want the latest tech features.

Brake Traction Control, Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, Hill Start Assist, active head restraints, and a driver-controlled three-mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP) are all included as standard features, as are anti-lock brakes with rough-road detection.

Of the two agencies that crash-test vehicles in the U.S., only the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) retains ratings for the Compass.

The NHTSA gives the Compass three stars for frontal crash and four stars for rollover, as well as four stars overall and five for side crash.

Although the Compass hasn't been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the very closely related Jeep Patriot has earned top 'good' ratings in all categories except the small overlap front test, where it is rated 'poor.' We see that as a mostly positive counter to the federal ratings.

You'll want to check outward visibility during lane changes and parking—it's not horrible, but some drivers will find the lower seating position and high beltline make seeing out difficult.

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2015 Jeep Compass

Features

The 2015 Jeep Compass packs in a lot of features and value for the money.

It's best to think of and equip the Jeep Compass like a small car. On that level, it's competitive in pricing and features—provided you're not springing for the top-level Freedom Drive II package and its off-road capability.

Standard features across the 2015 Compass lineup include air conditioning, power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, fog lamps, 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.

Jeep also offers two packages that slot into the lineup with extra feature content. The Altitude, priced between Sport and Latitude, includes a blacked-out exterior appearance, with 18-inch black alloy wheels, as well as heated front seats and cloth-and-vinyl upholstery. The High Altitude package, priced between the Latitude and Limited, includes leathr seating, a sunroof, a six-way power driver's seat, and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels. Both the Altitude and High Altitude are available with either front or all-wheel drive.

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.

The Compass also offers two all-wheel-drive options. The Freedom Drive I system is the more basic of the two, providing rear-wheel torque when needed. The Freedom Drive II system is a bit more serious and is paired with a low-range-equipped CVT.

Changes for 2015 include navigation now available as an optional feature on the Latitude.

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2015 Jeep Compass

Fuel Economy

Think the compact Compass might return anything close to small-car gas mileage? You'll be disappointed.

Gas mileage for the Compass isn't great compared to other models its size. Newer models in the segment, some of which are larger than the Compass, have made improvements that the little Jeep hasn't kept up with.

Mileage ranges from 23 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 CVT and the tough Freedom Drive II package.

Those wanting a small fuel-efficient Jeep may want to check out the new Renegade, which will offer a nine-speed automatic in some versions.

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February 17, 2016
For 2015 Jeep Compass

It's ok nothing fancy

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I've only put on 6000 mi ok so far not enough power gas mileage isn't very good small gas tank not bad in snow overall been ok so far Seems cheaply made in some ways well see how it goes
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September 28, 2015
For 2015 Jeep Compass

Great Jeep

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to all of the so called experts, pull your head out of your ass. The 2015 Jeep Compass is a great vehicle for the price. At less than $25,000.00 with air conditioning and cruise control, four wheel drive... + More »
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September 26, 2015
2015 Jeep Compass 4WD 4-Door Limited

I'm not happy with my 2015 Jeep Compass

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I bought a jeep compass 2015 8 weeks ago, yesterday when I went to use my jeep would not turn on,how is possible for a new jeep with only eight weeks old, giving me problems, I'm paying a lot of money for this... + More »
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7.0
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Styling 6.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 7.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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