2010 Jeep Compass Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 10, 2009

Although the 2010 Jeep Compass strikes out on design, with an anonymous look that fails to be either sleek or rugged, it has decent performance, good safety, and some standout features.

TheCarConnection.com has looked at a wide range of road tests from top-notch sources in order to bring you an accurate assessment of how the 2010 Jeep Compass matches up with other possibilities. And to wrap it all up into a one-page take, the editors or TheCarConnection.com have included their own firsthand driving impressions and advice here in this Bottom Line.

The 2010 Jeep Compass wears a traditional Jeep face, but this crossover struggles to find its own identity among the different Jeep offerings. With a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine and styling that borrows bits from sleeker crossover wagons and rugged traditional Jeeps—plus mechanical underpinnings shared with the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot—the Jeep Compass doesn't leave a strong impression.

Last year, Chrysler tried to spruce up the Compass, which is a good thing since it was a little drab inside. It's still no attention-getter, but these updates included a redesigned instrument panel with a smoother look and chrome accents, an updated center console with a split lid for added storage space, and door trim panels featuring padded armrests.

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. 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. 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.

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For a relatively small, inexpensive vehicle, the Jeep Compass provides comfort that's more than acceptable, with plenty of room for four and even five in a pinch. The roof is tall, and this helps enhance the spacious sensation, though problems do exist inside the cabin of the 2010 Jeep Compass. There are issues with the plastic surfaces, which don't exactly have a high-quality feel. Last year Chrysler added more sound insulation to help reduce noise, while revised suspension tuning helped provide a smoother, more comfortable ride.

Although the Compass has no problem tackling light off-road situations like getting through deep snow or negotiating a two-track to a campsite (with the available Freedom Drive I, which includes a full-time, active four-wheel-drive system), hard-core off-roaders will want to steer clear of the Compass.

Performance in most government crash tests has been good. Standard safety features on the 2010 Jeep Compass include side curtain airbags, Brake Traction Control, a driver-controlled three-mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, and Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with rough-road detection. Front-seat -mounted side airbags are optional. New for 2010 are active head restraints for both the driver and the front-seat passenger, making the Compass even safer.

The very extensive options list on the Compass includes Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius Satellite Radio, 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, a moonroof, and an upgraded audio system with six-disc CD changer. A remote start system and an automatic climate control system are now also offered.

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2010 Jeep Compass

Styling

Despite its Jeep-like face, the Compass deviates from Jeep's traditionally rugged styling.

When it comes to styling, we realize that nothing is ever really objective. That said, there is a general consensus that the 2010 Jeep Compass has an uncharacteristic style that’s not pleasing to most reviewers. Editors at The CarConnection.com prefer the exterior styling of the Patriot to the 2010 Jeep Compass.

The exterior style of the Jeep Compass shares some elements with the entire 2010 Jeep line, including round headlights and the familiar slotted "waterfall" vertical grille. Unlike other Jeeps, however, most viewing angles will reveal uncharacteristically rounded corners and some bloated proportions that are "unusual" and "not rugged," according to Edmunds; "Jeep Modern" is the phrase chosen by Kelley Blue Book. The Washington Post is less diplomatic, calling the car a "tad ugly." Cars.com mentions that the aluminum trim pieces on the bumpers and doors help distinguish the Jeep Compass from the other small crossovers in the segment. Compared to the more rough-and-tumble Jeep Patriot, the Compass is better suited to the buyer seeking a more carlike small SUV, says Kelley Blue Book, adding that the 2010 Jeep Compass "looks exactly like what it is—a cross between a station wagon and a sport utility vehicle, made by Jeep."

Last year, Chrysler tried to spruce up the Compass, which is a good thing since it was a little drab inside. These updates included a redesigned instrument panel with a smoother look and chrome accents, an updated center console with a split lid for added storage space, and door trim panels featuring padded armrests. Still, vast quantities of hard plastic lead the editors of Edmunds to describe the cabin of the Compass as "less inviting" than its Japanese and Korean rivals, a sentiment shared by ConsumerGuide. Cars.com finds more metallic accents, with standard chrome accents added to the door locks, door handles, and radio knobs, which give a little pizazz to the Compass. Jeep equips the Compass with a two-tone interior as well, which helps break up the monotony created by a monochrome interior. Kelley Blue Book has nothing bad to say about the interior, simply referring to it as "contemporarily styled" and "straightforward" in design.

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2010 Jeep Compass

Performance

The 2010 Jeep Compass suffers from subpar powertrains, but it compensates with decent road manners and impressive fuel economy.

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.

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2010 Jeep Compass

Comfort & Quality

Cheap interior materials and lackluster cargo space make the 2010 Jeep Compass tough to love, but it does offer reasonably comfortable passenger space.

For a relatively small, inexpensive vehicle, comfort is more than acceptable in the Jeep Compass, with plenty of room for four and even five in a pinch. The roof is tall, and this helps enhance the spacious feeling, though problems do exist inside the cabin of the 2010 Jeep Compass.

Nearly all testers like the passenger accommodations of the Compass. This model offers plenty of room for four occupants, and five won't be uncomfortable. ConsumerGuide is a fan of the interior space offered by the Jeep Compass, describing the headroom and legroom of this 2010 Jeep as "adult-size." They also like the softness of the seating, faulting only the level of support offered by the flat seats. Cars.com mentions that the standard cloth upholstery is stain-resistant. Edmunds characterizes the interior of the Jeep Compass as spacious and comfortable.

Kelley Blue Book is impressed with the abundance of storage options, stating, "plenty of on-board storage spots are available to stow water bottles, CDs and what-have-you,” but they are the only ones to offer positive comments. ConsumerGuide rates the Jeep Compass about average for cargo room, with the handy fold-flat seats and a removable floor liner for easy cleaning offsetting the marginal space that is available with the seats up. Edmunds is less complimentary regarding its cargo capacity, which is at the lower end of the spectrum for vehicles in this class at only 53.6 cubic feet, even with the rear seats folded.

There are issues with the plastic surfaces, which don't exactly have a high-quality feel. "Cut-rate" is an often-used term when describing the interior of the 2010 Jeep Compass. Edmunds warns that "cut-rate interior materials pose a significant liability," and ConsumerGuide also describes the interior of the Jeep Compass as having a "cut-rate feel." In addition, Edmunds notes the unfortunate "build quality issues" in their Compass test vehicles, with visible edges of poorly fitting interior pieces.

Regarding cabin noise, ConsumerGuide points out some unrefined engine growl when accelerating, although they find wind noise to be under control. Last year Chrysler added more sound insulation to help reduce noise, while revised suspension tuning helped provide a smoother, more comfortable ride, so this might have improved somewhat.

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2010 Jeep Compass

Safety

The 2010 Jeep Compass has good standard safety features and decent crash-test ratings, but poor driver visibility.

The 2010 Jeep Compass isn't remarkable for safety, but it does have respectable crash-test ratings and the safety features that many shoppers for this type of vehicle now expect. Performance in most government crash tests is good.

Standard safety features on the 2010 Jeep Compass include side curtain airbags, Brake Traction Control, a driver-controlled three-mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, and Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with rough-road detection, along with front-seat side airbags and active head restraints.

Although the Compass has not been fully tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the IIHS did rate the Compass "good" for side impact, while the federal government gave it four stars in frontal protection and five stars for side impact.

ConsumerGuide notes faults with visibility, saying, "Visibility to front corners and over-the-shoulder is impeded by thick roof pillars, and to the rear by tall headrests." Kelley Blue Book finds the rear view most obscured, warning, "Drivers must deal with rear quarter blind spots."

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2010 Jeep Compass

Features

The 2010 Jeep Compass has a good—but not great—set of standard features, though its options list is vast.

The 2010 Jeep Compass has a broad range of up-to-date features—including some especially innovative ones such as tailgate speakers—though it loses points here because most of the desirable features are added-cost options. There are also some new optional features for the 2010 model, including a remote start system and automatic climate control.

Although standard equipment on this 2010 Jeep omits some of the features found on its peers (such as power windows), it does come with some unconventional items. Edmunds describes the base Jeep Compass as pretty basic, but they point to the MP3 player input jack as a nicety. Motor Trend likes the sporty 17-inch aluminum wheels, which are much more desirable than styled steel wheels or wheel covers that adorn some other base models.

"A flashlight stands ready in the cargo area, and speakers in the rear hatch can fold down to entertain tailgaters," observes Truckin', pointing to two of the unusual features in the Jeep Compass.

Another noteworthy feature in the Jeep Compass is the center console with a split lid, adding storage space for items such as MP3 players or cell phones. Motor Trend describes this feature as "excellent" and says their editor's iPods and Treos fit the area perfectly, but it might not accommodate larger devices such as the BlackBerry. When it comes to options, however, Edmunds is impressed with the Limited model, which includes leather upholstery and seat heaters. This trim level also offers an optional navigation system and automatic climate control system. There are many available options for both the Sport and Limited. Both trim levels can be outfitted with Bluetooth and upgraded audio, which features Boston Acoustic speakers and a speaker bar that can swivel down for tailgate parties.

There are a number of options grouped together, such as the Rallye Group that adds several appearance upgrades to give the Compass a sportier look. There is also a Security Group option that picks up the new-for-2010 remote start system.

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Styling 6
Performance 6
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