2013 Jeep Compass Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 13, 2013

The 2013 Jeep Compass is affordable and makes good practical sense—but its disappointing interior appointments and lack of refinement limit its appeal.

The Jeep Compass is more rugged now than it was when it was first introduced. While the Compass was originally panned for its homely styling and chintzy interior, the automaker tweaked the design modestly a couple of years ago—just enough to make it over as 'mini Grand Cherokee' but not enough to remedy the low-rent feel that's evident from the first time you get inside. 

Although the 2013 Compass still looks a little awkward from some angles, the nips and tucks worked wonders, and it's now even somewhat attractive on the outside. With that last refresh, the Compass also got a spruce-up inside; but unlike the extensive makeover given to the interior of the Dodge Journey crossover, this one still looks cheapish.

Even though the makeover worked wonders for first impressions, it did nothing to improve the Compass' performance, which is adequate but not at all inspiring. We recommend getting the 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine over the 158-hp, 2.0-liter four, mainly because the larger engine makes 24 pound-feet more torque—a difference you can feel in the Compass, especially off the line. If you like manual transmissions, go for the relatively nice five-speed here; otherwise this model continues to be saddled with continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVTs) that respond slowly when you need a quick burst of power (or power out of a corner) and tend to bring out these engines' very coarse, loud character. Gas mileage used to be reasonably against competing models a few years ago, but it's lagged behind newer designs; for 2013, Jeep has boosted the highway mileage of five-speed models to 30 mpg.

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There remain two different four-wheel drive options; those who want AWD for snowy or muddy driveways are going to be fine with the Freedom Drive I system, but the step-up Freedom Drive II system gives this vehicle a level of off-road ability that's unusual in crossovers this size. It gets a special version of the continuously-variable transaxle that engages in off-road mode, a one-inch higher ride height, skid plates, and a full-size spare. It gets rugged appearance upgrades, too, but it's enough for some off-road situations with logs and boulders, and it's enough of a real deal to earn Jeep's Trail Rated badge.

The 2013 Compass feels like a small car, riding several inches higher than it otherwise would. Ride quality is on the harsh side, but harder impacts and harder cornering bring out a softness and bouncing that's not always welcome. Chrysler has made several attempts to tamp down engine noise, but it's still one of the louder vehicles in this class from inside the cabin.

That said, the packaging is quite good. The interior is well laid-out and comes with a number of innovative features, like a rechargeable flashlight and outward-facing tailgate speakers. But due to seats that fall short on comfort and support, the Compass merely does the job; the rear bench in particular is one of the hardest, flattest ones we've tested in such a vehicle. Cargo space is limited—both because the cargo floor is surprisingly high, and simply because there isn't much space behind the rear seats.

The Compass' equipment list is best compared to that of an affordable small car. Power accessories, fog lamps, and alloy wheels are included in all models, while Latitude and Limited models get extras like remote start, Bluetooth, tailgate speakers, a universal remote, and a media center with 30 gigabytes of storage. Automatic climate control and 18-inch alloys are reserved for top Limited models.
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2013 Jeep Compass

Styling

The 2013 Jeep Compass looks better than before, though it's still not one of the most stylish crossovers.

The Compass was originally panned for its homely styling and chintzy interior, but that changed a couple of years ago, when Chrysler tweaked the design modestly, just enough to give it a makeover as a 'mini-Grand Cherokee' but not enough to overcome the rather low-rent look and feel of the interior.

Although the 2013 Compass still looks a little awkward from some angles, the nips and tucks worked wonders, and it's now even somewhat attractive on the outside. The proportions are the same as before, with the boxy wheelwell outline and smooth rear-pillar upkick preserved. The front end is essentially a smaller, softer version of the Grand Cherokee's, while the taillamps have also been softened. Overall, the Compass has a vaguely sleeker, classier look from some angles, but from others there's still a hint of ungainliness.

With that last refresh, the Compass also got a spruce-up inside; but unlike the extensive makeover given to the interior of the Dodge Journey crossover, this one still looks cheapish. It's a straightforward and functional look—and it's appealing in appearance if not always touch. The Compass doesn't quite get the total makeover that several other Jeep and Chrysler products have received over the past year or two. There are better materials and a cleaner look, but it definitely feels done on a budget. Optional leather seats get contrasting piping—which is an odd ode to luxury vehicles in one that has plenty of obvious plastic-chrome accents.

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5

2013 Jeep Compass

Performance

Sluggish, subpar powertrains make the Compass feel uninspired, even though it can be optioned with impressive trail ability. .

A couple of years ago Chrysler invested some money in making the Compass better-looking, but it didn't complete the task by also making it better-performing. As it stands, the Compass ends up being adequate but uninspiring in some respects, downright disappointing in others—even though its horsepower numbers and specs look respectable.

We recommend getting the 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine over the 158-hp, 2.0-liter four, mainly because the larger engine makes 24 pound-feet more torque—a difference you can feel in the Compass, especially off the line. If you like manual transmissions, go for the relatively nice five-speed here; otherwise this model continues to be saddled with continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVTs) that respond slowly when you need a quick burst of power (or power out of a corner) and tend to bring out these engines' very coarse, loud character.

For the most part, the Compass drives like a high-riding small passenger car. With its underpinnings shared mostly with the Dodge Caliber, it handles at And that's really what it is; with car-based underpinnings at least partly shared with the Dodge Caliber, the Compass handles and maneuvers very well—especially at city speeds.

But here's where the Compass stands apart from its more carlike cousin: If you give it the right options, you'll end up with a vehicle that's worthy of its Jeep badge. There remain two different four-wheel drive options; those who want AWD for snowy or muddy driveways are going to be fine with the Freedom Drive I system, but the step-up Freedom Drive II system gives this vehicle a level of off-road ability that's unusual in crossovers this size. It gets a special version of the continuously-variable transaxle that engages in off-road mode, a one-inch higher ride height, skid plates, and a full-size spare. It gets rugged appearance upgrades, too, but it's enough for some off-road situations with logs and boulders, and it's enough of a real deal to earn Jeep's Trail Rated badge.

Review continues below
5

2013 Jeep Compass

Comfort & Quality

The cabin of the Compass is sorely lacking in flair and refinement, though it hits the mark for functionality.

From the driver's seat, the 2013 Compass feels like a small car—one that rides several inches higher than it otherwise would. And while it's a roomy vehicle with a versatile layout, considering its very compact exterior, cargo space is surprisingly limited and refinement is lacking.

That said, the packaging is quite good. The interior is well laid-out and comes with a number of innovative features, like a rechargeable flashlight and outward-facing tailgate speakers. But due to seats that fall short on comfort and support, the Compass merely does the job; the rear bench in particular is one of the hardest, flattest ones we've tested in such a vehicle.

Cargo space is limited—both because the cargo floor is surprisingly high, and simply because there isn't much space behind the rear seats.

Ride quality is on the harsh side, but harder impacts and harder cornering bring out a softness and bouncing that's not always welcome. Chrysler has made several attempts to tamp down engine noise, but it's still one of the louder vehicles in this class from inside the cabin.

Review continues below
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2013 Jeep Compass

Safety

There aren't any up-to-date crash-test results for the Compass, although its safety-feature list is good.

The Compass has only been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), where it received middling crash ratings. Side crash and rollover ratings received four out of five stars, while frontal impact only received three. The overall NHTSA rating is three out of five stars.

Side curtain airbags, Brake Traction Control, Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, front-seat side airbags, active head restraints, and a driver-controlled three-mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP) are all included as standard features, and an Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with rough-road detection are all included.

The very closely related Jeep Patriot has earned Top Safety Pick status from the the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and it's earned top 'good' ratings in all categories—as well as Top Safety Pick status. And we read that as a good sign for the Compass. 

Outward visibility is the one issue we've noted with Compass models in the past; you'll want to check on vision during parking and lane changes.

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2013 Jeep Compass

Features

Sticker prices are quite low, and you get a lot for the money in the 2013 Compass.

Provided you're not springing for the top-level 2013 Compass with Freedom Drive II off-road capability, The Compass' equipment list is best compared to that of an affordable small car.

Air conditioning, power accessories, heated mirrors, fog lamps, keyless entry, cruise control, and fog lamps are included at the base level, along with illuminated cup holders and a removable/rechargeable light. All models also have the 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks.

Latitude and Limited models get extras like remote start, Bluetooth, and a media center with 30 gigabytes of storage. Automatic climate control and 18-inch alloys are reserved for top Limited models. A tailgate speaker system remains offered as part of the nine-speaker premium sound system.

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2013 Jeep Compass

Fuel Economy

Those who expect the Compass to return the gas mileage of a small car will be disappointed.

The 2013 Jeep Compass returns mileage figures that might be a little disappointing. Or they may not; it does depend on your point of reference.

It may be a bit surprising to some shoppers that a vehicle this compact only returns mileage figures soundly in the 20s. Only for 2013 Jeep has eked a little more highway mileage out of its five-speed manual model, managing 30 mpg on the highway, but that's the best it gets. EPA City ratings range from 20 to 23 mpg.

With 4WD and the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package, the Compass gets a miserable 20 mpg city, 23 highway—that's on par, or even worse, than some much larger SUVs with more space and serious towing ability.

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April 29, 2015
2013 Jeep Compass FWD 4-Door Sport

I like everything about it except the driver seat is too low.

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I previously had a Jeep Cherokee and liked sitting up high but the mileage is much better with the Compass. I had to buy a dashboard compass because my Jeep Compass did not have a compass.
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