For 2017, the Jeep Compass finds itself somewhere between the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee in terms of exterior styling, taking on the former’s shapeliness and the latter’s facial features.
Compass shoppers have two four-cylinder engines to choose from: a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter base engine or an available 172-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. Acceleration is meager with both, and the standard engine is especially boisterous, with very little power to back up the commotion. Although the 2.4-liter engine delivers more power, it’s not enough to keep the Compass from feeling slow.
There are four different transmissions featured in the Compass. The 2.0-liter engine comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission (CVT), a type of automatic, is optional. Compass models with the 2.4-liter engine come standard with this CVT. Critics suggest avoiding this transmission and opting for one of the other two available automatic transmissions instead. One is a six-speed automatic, which can sometimes shift late. The other is a CVT that’s geared for four-wheel-drive models with the Freedom Drive II upgrade.
In the base Compass with the optional CVT, you can expect 22 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. With the larger engine, the Compass returns 20/23 mpg city/highway. These estimates are below average for the class. If fuel economy is important to you, check out the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, which earns 34 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. However, the Toyota’s starting price is $3,000 more than the price of the top-of-the-line Compass.
Sloppy Ride and Handling
While some automotive journalists say the Compass’ ride is smooth, others disagree, citing a springy ride on less-than-perfect pavement. You’ll notice more road feel comes through than with most competitors. For a smoother ride, test out the Chevrolet Equinox, which critics praise for being comfortable even over rough surfaces.
The Compass also has excessive body roll around turns. To make matters worse, steering is loose and numb. For nimbler handling, check out the Ford Escape.
Front-wheel drive comes standard, and four-wheel drive is optional. The Compass can handle light off-roading. With the Freedom Drive II four-wheel-drive upgrade, you’ll get a more capable Compass, with a CVT that’s tuned for off-roading. Still, for serious off-road ability, you’ll want to opt for more capable stablemates like the Jeep Renegade or Jeep Wrangler.