The Jeep Compass is designed as an affordable and efficient alternative to shoppers looking for a carlike drive in a small SUV. The 2008 Jeep Compass models offer only modest power but with a well-controlled ride.
There are two engines available on the 2008 Jeep Compass: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 158 horsepower and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 174 hp. No V-6 is offered. Unfortunately, Edmunds describes even the larger engine as weak. ConsumerGuide only tests all-wheel-drive models, but even with the quicker five-speed manual transmission could merely manage a 0-60-mph time of 9.3 seconds. In fact, all the Jeep Compass models tested by ConsumerGuide score significantly below the peer averages on their rating scale for acceleration. Kelley Blue Book is less critical of the 2.4-liter, stating that the "172-horsepower engine works well in the Compass platform and returns above-average gas mileage" but admitting that "passing takes planning" due to the engine's small size.
Regarding transmissions, apparently the best way to extract performance from this 2008 Jeep is to buy the five-speed manual. ConsumerGuide notes slightly better performance from the manual transmission, but mentions one of their testers had a "ragged clutch action." Kelley Blue Book describes the optional CVT as an automatic that "Takes some getting used to" due to the transmission's ability to keep the engine at a full boil, without the distinct shift points of a traditional automatic transmission. Edmunds describes the optional CVT as noisy, and "Not one of the better applications of this technology."
Kelley Blue Book describes the optional 2008 Jeep Freedom Drive I, which is a full-time, fully automatic all-wheel-drive system that can distribute up to 50 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels as conditions warrant. AutoWeek finds its locking differential superfluous in a street-oriented vehicle such as this, with the standard traction of the 4x4 sufficient for even deep snow. Although the 2008 Jeep Compass is not available in a Trail Rated version like the Patriot, this model offers a simple solution for those who just need additional traction as weather demands.
For fuel economy, Edmunds mentions the 2008 Jeep Compass might be a viable alternative for suburbanites willing trade power for fuel efficiency. ConsumerGuide rates the Jeep Compass models just about average for the class for fuel efficiency, with actual fuel use of regular-grade gas that ranges from 17.2 to 24.4 mpg. The EPA ratings for the Compass range from 21-23 mpg city, and 24-28 mpg highway, depending on engine and transmission configuration.
Although the engine and CVT are not impressive, things get better when it comes to the suspension and ride. Cars.com mentions the Compass and Patriot are Jeep's first models with four-wheel-independent suspensions. Edmunds describes the car-derived fully independent suspension as providing a smooth ride with "stable handling around corners." Ride quality is one area where ConsumerGuide rates the Compass highly, and even with the optional 18-inch wheels, they find the ride to be comfortable and stable. Although the Patriot is not sporty in feel, ConsumerGuide also finds the steering to be accurate and the brakes to have good feel. Car and Driver describes the new Compass from their initial testing in 2007 as "Bred for suburban streets...slaloms like a car," which is a notable achievement for a brand so devoted to off-road prowess.