TheCarConnection.com’s editors note that the Compass is not particularly quick with the larger 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower engine, let alone the smaller 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 158 horsepower. Interestingly, there is only a 1 mpg highway gain for the smaller engine when equipped with the five-speed manual transmission.
All the Jeep Compass models tested by ConsumerGuide score significantly below the peer averages on their rating scale for acceleration. No V-6 is offered, but there is a choice of two four-cylinder models: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 158 horsepower and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 174 hp. Kelley Blue Book is pleased with 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. Edmunds simply describes even the larger engine as "weak."
While the 2010 Jeep Compass is not available in a Trail Rated version like the Patriot, it offers the optional 2010 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.
Both engine options on the Compass are also available with an optional CVT. The CVT, however, tends to exacerbate the unrefined nature of Chrysler's four-cylinder engines. Jeep does offer AutoStick, which makes the gearbox shift more like a traditional fixed-gear transmission. ConsumerGuide notes slightly better performance from the manual transmission, but mentions one of their test vehicles 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."
The EPA ratings for the Compass range from 21-23 mpg city, and 24-29 mpg highway, depending on engine and transmission configuration. Edmunds mentions the 2010 Jeep Compass might be a viable alternative for suburbanites willing to trade power for fuel efficiency. The CVT is the biggest fuel-drainer, and in manual guise the Compass will return 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, even with the 4x4 system in place. ConsumerGuide rates the Jeep Compass models as 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.
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 while riding pretty well. Edmunds describes the car-derived fully independent suspension as providing a smooth ride with "stable handling around corners." Cars.com mentions the Compass and Patriot are Jeep's first models with four-wheel-independent suspensions. 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 Compass is not sporty in feel, ConsumerGuide considers the steering to be accurate and the brakes to have good feel. Car and Driver characterizes the new Compass from 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.