The Car Connection Jeep Compass Overview
The Jeep Compass is a compact crossover SUV and the second half of Jeep's two-front assault on the segment. While the Cherokee tackles trails and mountainsides, the Compass is meant for a more sedate, on-road life.
While the Compass, Jeep goes after the heart of the market—crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester. The Compass excels in off-roading compared to many other crossovers, although that ability may appeal to a minority of shoppers in the segment.
For 2019, the Jeep Compass added two special appearance packages. The 2020 Compass gained active safety tech features as an option across the board—but the Sport lost those features even as options for 2021, when the Compass also lost its manual transmission.
MORE: Read our 2021 Jeep Compass review
The new Compass emerged in the 2017 model year. It's somewhat related to the Renegade and is built in four plants globally (American Compasses are sourced from Mexico), which potentially could make it the most mass-produced Jeep ever, at least in terms of assembly locations. All Compasses share the same 180-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine and a choice of three transmissions have been on offer—6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, and 9-speed automatic. Front- and all-wheel drive variants are available as are four trim levels.
Like other Jeeps, a Trailhawk variant is aimed at off-roaders. Here, it has a suspension lift and its own bumpers that allow it to scale more sharp inclines than the decidedly street-oriented standard Compass models.
Jeep Compass history
The Compass was a new vehicle for the 2007 model year. It and the Patriot were derived from Dodge's Caliber hatchback; Compass styling was out of the Jeep norm, a bit chunky and awkward, and appearing more like a five-door hatchback than a utility. Though a front-drive-based model, it was offered all-wheel drive from the start and was able to hang with other small light off-roaders. The styling didn't win too many fans at first, especially among Jeep faithful, and noisy engines, an unloved continuously variable transmission (CVT), and a dark, cheap-feeling interior kept it from achieving success early on.
The concept on which the first Compass was based dates all the way back to 2002. When the production version arrived five years later, the concept's V-6 had given way to a transversely mounted 4-cylinder engine—a choice of two of them that remain in the Compass to date. Neither the larger 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower engine nor the 158-hp, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder made the Compass particularly quick. Energetic drivers got more acceleration with the 5-speed manual gearbox, while the CVT drained the life out of the engine while amplifying its noisy, rough feel. For 2014, a proper 6-speed automatic was substituted for the CVT in most models. There was an all-wheel-drive option, though it added more weight and complexity than it may have been worth.
Though it bore a traditional Jeep seven-slot grille up front, the Compass represented a big design departure from the rest of the Jeep lineup, and its original look didn't find many fans. Things improved somewhat in 2011, when the entire front end was restyled to give the Compass a mini-Grand Cherokee look—at least from the front. For the sake of cost savings, the Compass even uses the larger crossover's headlamp units. It also gained much-improved interior materials and smoother, simplified cabin trims in that update.
Along with the host of improvements the Compass received for 2011, it also received the Patriot's Freedom Drive II system, which gave it a level of off-road ability unusual in small crossovers. Jeep gave the system its Trail Rated seal of approval, which meant it was ready for more difficult off-roading, helped along by skid plates and the like. It was originally going to be reserved for the Patriot, which was being positioned as the more off-road-friendly model of the pair.
The Compass offered good head room and lots of leg room for front passengers, with seating for five and a second row of seats which could fold flat to create a long load floor for extra gear.
Standard safety features on theincluded side curtain airbags, traction control, and anti-lock brakes with rough-road detection. Jeep added active head restraints for 2010, covering both the driver and the front-seat passenger. Front-seat-mounted side airbags were optional, and later years of the Compass came with standard electronic stability control.
The Compass continued into 2012 and 2013 essentially unchanged, with changes for the 2014 Jeep Compass including a new front-end look and the new 6-speed automatic. Production ended in late 2016.