Most people think of Jeeps as tough off-road vehicles that love to get muddy, but when the Jeep Compass debuted for 2007, it wasn't like other Jeeps. It didn't look rugged, it wasn't trail-rated, and as far as we could tell, it didn't even like dirt. Instead, it was a car-based design built for the majority of small-SUV buyers who wanted a fuel-efficient runabout that was easy to drive around suburbia. Four-wheel drive was available, of course, but it was a single-speed system -- enough to get you through a snowstorm and that's about it.
As you can imagine, Jeep purists didn't much care for the Compass, which they regarded as the antithesis to all things Jeep. Jeep has taken note, and the latest iteration has revised styling and newfound capabilities that edge the Compass closer to "real Jeep" status. Even so, the Jeep Compass faces stiff competition among today's compact, car-based SUVs. Its low price and interesting features may be compelling at a glance, but for those who dig deeper, its weak engine, modest cargo capacity and compromised seat comfort will likely prove significant liabilities.
Current Jeep Compass
The Jeep Compass is a compact SUV offered in Sport, Latitude and Limited trim levels. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning and an auxiliary audio jack. Stepping up to the Latitude gets you heated front seats, a height-adjustable driver seat and a reclining rear seat, while the Limited gets items like leather upholstery, a power driver seat and satellite radio. These are optional on the Latitude, while both upper trims can be had with items like a navigation system, Bluetooth and upgraded audio.
Every front-wheel-drive Jeep Compass Sport and Latitude model comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 158 horsepower. A 2.4-liter 172-hp four-cylinder engine is standard on the Limited and all four-wheel-drive Compasses. It is optional on the others. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Sport, but everything else gets a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Acceleration is slow regardless of which engine you opt for, and the 2.4-liter is almost as rough and loud as the smaller engine. Adding the optional four-wheel drive or power-sapping CVT will have the Compass feeling even more lethargic.
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 (available on 4WD versions) includes a low-range mode for the CVT, hill ascent/descent assist and a host of other all-terrain equipment.
In reviews, we found the Jeep Compass to be one of the least appealing compact SUVs. At its core, the Compass still shares its underpinnings with the much-maligned Dodge Caliber hatchback, and suffers from the same weak and noisy powertrains. Its available off-roading ability may make it stand apart, but there are better vehicles available to venture off the beaten path. Additionally, young families may find this SUV's low cargo capacity problematic when loading up a stroller and a dog. The Compass offers 22.7 cubic feet of space behind the backseat and just 53.6 cubic feet with the seats folded. Both figures are some of the smallest in the car-based SUV segment.
Used Jeep Compass Models
Introduced for the 2007 model year, the Jeep Compass is in its first generation, but there have been significant changes made. From 2007-'11, the Compass featured different exterior styling that was less indicative of other Jeep models. It was rounder, a little more avant garde, and if we're to be honest, not very attractive. Prior to an interior overhaul for 2009 that addressed both design and materials quality, the cabin was one of the worst on the market. It was upgraded yet again for 2011, which was also the first year for the current car's more capable Freedom Drive II equipment. Changes to the engines and transmission over the years have resulted in smoother, stronger acceleration, but this has never been a Compass strong suit, especially with the 2.0-liter engine.
Read the most recent 2014 Jeep Compass review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Jeep Compass page.