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's 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 of all things Jeep. The company evidently took this early criticism to heart, because a 2011 upgrade brought revised styling and newfound off-road ability that edged the Compass closer to "real Jeep" status. Still, the Compass left a great deal to be desired, due to subpar engines, modest cargo capacity and relatively crude driving dynamics.
The Jeep Compass took a big step forward with its 2017 redesign: The current model boasts a roomy cabin, superior off-road capabilities and handsome sheet metal. The Jeep Compass faces stiff competition among today's compact, car-based SUVs, but it's worth a look if you're on the hunt for a small crossover that's at home on both paved streets and mountain trails.
Current Jeep Compass
The Jeep Compass received a redesign that appeared as a late 2017 model. While the new Compass looks very similar to the outgoing model, it raises the bar significantly when it comes to driving dynamics, offering responsive handling and amenable ride quality.
Jeep's Compass is a compact SUV offered in Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk trim levels. Sport models come equipped with a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker stereo. The Latitude adds enhancements such as larger wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and it's eligible for a broader range of option packages. With the Limited, you get amenities such as an 8.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration and heated front seats. The Trailhawk model is purpose-built for venturing off the paved path, and it comes with AWD, a raised suspension, underbody protection shields and a Selec-Terrain traction control system that's built to accommodate mountain adventures.
All Compass models are motivated by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 180 horsepower and 175 lb-feet of torque. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic and a nine-speed automatic, and buyers have a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).
In reviews, we've praised the driving dynamics of the current Jeep Compass. This little SUV has a composed demeanor on the road, with carlike steering and braking. Ride quality is significantly improved relative to the previous generation, and the suspension soaks up bumps and rough roads. The cabin's control layout is intuitive, and wide door openings facilitate easy ingress and egress.
Used Jeep Compass Models
The first generation of the Jeep Compass lasted from 2007 to 2016, and there have been significant changes made during this period. From 2007 to 2010, the Compass featured different exterior styling that was less indicative of other Jeep models. It was rounder, a little more avant garde, and not particularly appealing. Before an interior overhaul for 2009 that addressed both design and materials quality, the cabin was one of the worst on the market.
The Jeep Compass was upgraded yet again for 2011, which was also the first year for that generation's off-road-friendly Freedom Drive II equipment and "baby Grand Cherokee" styling. The six-speed automatic debuted for 2014 as a considerably more civilized alternative to the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), though the underlying shortcomings of the engines were not addressed. In 2015, the Compass expanded the range of trims available with all-wheel drive, and navigation became newly available on Latitude models. For 2016, the Limited trim was dropped, and Sport models added Bluetooth and satellite radio as standard equipment.
Every front-wheel-drive Jeep Compass Sport or Latitude model from the first generation came with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produced 158 hp. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 172 hp was standard on the Limited and all four-wheel-drive Compasses. It was optional on the others. A five-speed manual transmission was standard on the Sport, but a six-speed automatic transmission could be specified instead. The Latitude and Limited came standard with the six-speed automatic.
Of the two available four-wheel-drive options, the light-duty Freedom Drive I system operated in front-wheel-drive mode under normal conditions and automatically sent power to the rear wheels only when needed. The Freedom Drive II Off-Road package (available on 4WD versions) included hill ascent and descent assist and a host of other all-terrain equipment, but unfortunately it required the undesirable CVT — which also came standard with the optional Altitude and High Altitude packages.
In reviews, we found this generation of the Jeep Compass to be one of the least appealing compact SUVs. At its core, this Compass shared its underpinnings with the thankfully departed Dodge Caliber hatchback and suffered from the same weak and noisy engines. Acceleration was slow regardless of which engine you opted for, though the six-speed automatic did improve on the CVT's whiny, sluggish operation. In terms of refinement (or lack thereof), the 2.4-liter was almost as rough and loud as the 2.0, and neither achieved impressive fuel economy.
To be fair, the Freedom Drive II package made the Compass an unusually capable crossover in the dirt, but if that's what you're after, there are superior used alternatives, including Jeep's own Cherokee. And aside from Freedom Drive II, there's little else to recommend the first-generation Compass over its peers. Rear passenger space was adequate overall, but legroom was tight back there relative to the norm, and the harsh, bouncy ride haunted both seating rows. Maximum cargo space behind the front seats also trailed the pack.