Full 2013 Jeep Compass Review
What's New for 2013
Base Compass models with a manual transmission eke out an extra mile per gallon on the highway, now coming in at an even 30-mpg rating.
The Jeep brand is famous for a couple of reasons, but never has one of those reasons been exceptional fuel economy. The entry-level 2013 Compass tries to get Jeep personality into the gas-saving game by attaching a few of the brand's signature styling elements and various (optional) off-road components to what is essentially a front-wheel-drive car platform. As often happens when an automaker tries to accomplish two rather disparate missions, the result is a vehicle that serves neither purpose particularly well.
If you're considering a 2013 Jeep Compass to get the kind of serious off-roading ability most of us imagine when we see the Jeep badge, know that the Compass really isn't the right tool for the job. Jeep itself sets a narrowly defined parameter here, saying that to operate the Compass in "moderate off-road conditions" you must equip it with a special off-road equipment package. And that's only after equipping the Compass with some other required optional hardware, including the larger of this Jeep's two four-cylinder engines and, well, four-wheel drive.
That's where the Compass hits the crossroads. While the base Compass with a manual transmission earns respectable fuel economy ratings of 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, they're for a vehicle that's essentially a front-wheel-drive car and far from what you might use for moderate off-roading adventures. Not really much of a Jeep at all. Go for the larger engine and all the equipment needed to use the Compass off road and fuel economy estimates plummet to 20/23 -- pretty dismal figures for a compact car and essentially defeating the purpose for buying a compact anything.
The only way the 2013 Jeep Compass seems to make sense is if you're buying it not for off-roading but for just getting around in foul weather. Fair enough; the Compass can do that. But unless you're intent on owning a Jeep for the sake of owning a Jeep, there is a multitude of similar-sized, similar-priced competitors that can ably transport you when the roads get sloppy, while also being markedly more economical and more refined.
Like the Compass, the engine and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) for Subaru's new Impreza-based 2013 XV Crosstrek aren't particularly impressive, but the Crosstrek does fine off-road and delivers vastly better fuel economy ratings and a more enjoyable overall driving experience. Or for better all-around performance for a little more money, consider other top compact crossovers such as the 2013 Ford Escape, which offer more utility and refinement and equivalent road-oriented all-wheel-drive capability.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Jeep Compass is a five-passenger compact SUV that's offered in three trim levels: Sport, Latitude and Limited.
Standard equipment on the entry-level Sport model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated mirrors, roof rails, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a tilt-only steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Stepping up to the midrange Latitude model gets you heated front seats, a height-adjustable driver seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a reclining rear seat, a household-style 115-volt auxiliary power point and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
The top-of-the-line Limited trim level adds the larger 2.4-liter engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer, satellite radio and a six-CD changer.
The Latitude and Limited models are available with a number of different packages. The Security and Cargo Convenience Group adds front seat side-impact airbags (available separately on Sport), a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer, remote ignition (not available with manual transmission), a USB audio jack and Bluetooth (available separately on all trim levels). The Sun and Sound Group includes a sunroof and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system with two speakers that flip down from the raised liftgate. The Media Center 430 option adds a touchscreen interface, digital music storage and a USB audio jack. A navigation system with real-time traffic and other information can be added to this on the Limited trim.
The Freedom-Drive II Off-Road Group available on all trims with four-wheel drive includes an upgraded four-wheel-drive system, a low-range mode for the transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, skid plates, tow hooks, an engine oil cooler, hill descent control, hill start assist, and on the Sport, a height-adjustable driver seat.
Powertrains and Performance
Every front-wheel-drive 2013 Jeep Compass Sport and Latitude model comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Sport. A CVT is optional on the Sport and standard on the Latitude. Fuel economy estimates range from 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined for a front-drive, manual-transmission Compass to 22/28/24 for the 2.0-liter engine coupled with the CVT.
A larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque is standard on the Limited and all four-wheel-drive Compasses. The 2.4-liter also can be fitted to the front-drive Sport and Latitude. The transmission choices are the same as with the 2.0-liter, with the Limited getting the CVT standard. Fuel economy ranges from a decent 23/28/25 with the manual and front-wheel drive to the weak 20/23/21 rating for the CVT and four-wheel drive.
Front-wheel drive is standard across the Compass lineup. Of the two available four-wheel-drive options, the light-duty "Freedom Drive I" system operates in front-wheel-drive mode under normal conditions and automatically sends power to the rear wheels only when needed. The "Freedom Drive II" Off-Road package includes a low-range mode for the CVT that Jeep says makes it much more capable of handling fairly rough off-road situations.
In Edmunds testing, a four-wheel-drive (Freedom Drive I) Compass with the 2.4-liter engine and CVT accelerated to 60 mph from a standstill in a slow 10.3 seconds.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Jeep Compass include stability control with a rollover sensor, full-length side curtain airbags and traction control. Antilock brakes are standard on every Compass; however, the front-wheel-drive Sport and Latitude come with rear drums whereas the other trims get rear discs. Front-seat side-impact airbags are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, a four-wheel-drive Compass Limited came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2013 Jeep Compass is relatively roomy for a compact crossover and the interior materials, originally something of a disaster, were markedly improved in a recent makeover that brought comfort and appearance up to an acceptable standard -- although still only about average for the class. And although the front-seat occupants have good legroom and the cabin width is pleasing, rear-seat room is less abundant.
The Compass' instrument cluster is small and the gauge markings are compressed and not particularly distinct. The interior can seem more upscale and contemporary with the optional touchscreen media center, but that touchscreen can be finicky to operate and even expected standard items such as Bluetooth connectivity remain optional. Some too-hard plastics still surround the gearshift in the center console, but secondary controls have a nice appearance and action, particularly the simple, three-dial climate control cluster.
The Compass does sport some clever features such as a cooled glovebox, a rechargeable LED cargo light that pops out for use as a flashlight, and optional speakers that flip down and out from the raised liftgate to enhance outdoor listening. At 62.7 cubic feet, the Compass' maximum cargo capacity is respectable ? considerably more than the Crosstrek's 51.9 cubic feet and slightly less than the Escape's 66.3 cubes.
Even with the larger 2.4-liter engine, the 2013 Jeep Compass feels underpowered and overburdened by its weight. Neither of the Compass' engines really gets to work until you have them well up in the rev range. With the CVT, the engine makes all manner of unsavory noises and although that transmission is meant to enhance efficiency, no four-wheel-drive Compass is very economical. In other words, we're talking the worst of both worlds here: lackluster performance along with mediocre fuel economy.
Unfortunately, there's not much in the way of uplifting ability from the Compass' suspension, either. The ride is often harsh and abrupt and both handling and steering have a front-heavy feel. Either of the Compass' all-wheel-drive systems will handle winter roads and tarmac slicked by heavy rains and snow, but the automatic Freedom I system is all anyone buying a vehicle this far on the "car" side of the crossover spectrum probably needs.