Avg. Price Paid:$7,852 - $10,392
Original MSRP: $17,475 - $23,205
MPG: 23 City / 28 Hwy
Search Used Listings:

2008 Jeep Compass Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Jeep Compass was new.

The 2008 Jeep Compass receives mixed reviews for its performance, with many reviewers registering disappointment that it's not an off-roader. Still the compact SUV offers an adequate enough on-pavement experience. Edmunds notes that "the Compass can be pleasant to drive in town, as its fully independent suspension provides a smooth ride and stable handling around corners."

U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman says that "maneuverability is great, and the smooth ride and solid workmanship leave competitors like the Ford Escape and the Chevy Equinox looking a bit out of shape." On the minus side, Cars.com asks: "Want a thrilling driving experience? This Jeep doesn't have one, but that's OK; you don't need to peel out at traffic lights if you're driving a Compass." And About.com describes the ride as "frustrating" and "uncomfortable." Automotive.com also explains: "Those who seek softness will find it in the Compass, which usually deals with bumps in the manner of a comfort-oriented car. But even here, a fair amount of quick jolts and side-to-side rocking keep true resiliency out of reach."

Acceleration and Power

The Compass is available in two trims: the Sport and the Limited, which both come with a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine. A less powerful 2.0-liter 158-horsepower I4 is available as a credit option on the base model only.

Engine power receives mixed reviews. The Chicago Tribune gives the Compass' 2.4-liter 172-horsepower engine a thumbs up, saying that "it boasts plenty of power to keep up with or lead the pack. Even steep inclines didn't give it a case of the droops." Cars.com similarly notes that the engine has "adequate pull at all engine speeds." But the Detroit Free Press sings a different tune, warning that the 2.4-liter engine "has its hands full. Acceleration is adequate, but unexciting. Like its stable mate, the Caliber, the Compass would benefit from an extra 20 horsepower." Consumer Guide similarly finds the engine "underpowered and coarse." To combat some of the coarseness, Jeep has recalibrated the drivetrain for 2008.

The 2008 Jeep Compass comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A Continuously Variable Transaxle automatic transmission or CVT2 transmission is optional for either trim. The Limited adds an AutoStick feature to the CVT for manual shifting. Most reviewers prefer the standard manual to the high-tech automatic transmissions.

The Detroit News finds that the "slushy-feeling CVT is not pleasant to use." And Edmunds explains, "Unfortunately, the CVT in the Compass is not one of the better applications of this technology: It frequently holds the engine at high rpm, at which point the four-cylinder's power band has already begun to taper off. The result is sluggish highway acceleration and lots of noise." Cars.com compliments the CVT for its "wide range of gear ratios, but without the stepped shift feel of a conventional automatic," but still points out a drawback: "Even so, the AutoStick manual-shift mode jumps sequentially from one arbitrarily preset ratio to another." New Car Test Drive is one of the few to praise the CVT, noting that the Limited's combination of CVT with six-speed AutoStick "is the best of both worlds, and works more precisely than the manual/automatic transmissions in many expensive sports sedans."

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2008 4WD model with the 2.4-liter engine and automatic CVT transmission at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The same model with the manual transmission is expected to get 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Figures are not yet available for the 2WD Compass with the CVT transmission, but the 2WD with the manual transmission is expected to achieve 23 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. The Detroit Free Press finds that "the Compass' fuel economy is about the same as comparably equipped versions of the Tucson and Ford Escape," and Consumer Guide explains that "fuel economy is good for the class."

Handling and Braking

The Compass, which is one of Jeep's first vehicles to get a four-wheel independent suspension, gets mixed reviews on its handling capabilities. While Cars.com explains that "the Compass handles a lot better than it should," AutoWeek suggests that it has "unrefined manners to a degree not seen since the unlamented Pontiac Aztek." On the plus side, the Washington Post compliments its "excellent urban maneuverability," noting: "It's an easy commuter. City parking is a cinch." The Detroit Free Press also approves of the ride, explaining, "It also corners well and is comfortable and quiet in long highway runs." However, some have complained about tire noise, including Car and Driver, which says, "At times the booming tire roar made the Compass no quieter than the cargo hold of a 747."

Reviewers generally approve of the Compass' braking. Consumer Guide says, "Brakes have good pedal feel," and USA Today adds, "Brakes and steering felt about the way you'd want, responsive without being touchy." However, the Cars.com reviewer found that "during one real-life emergency braking maneuver there was significant shudder from the brakes that had me a bit tense. Brake feel in day-to-day driving, however, was solid."


Designed for the road and not for the trails, the 2008 Compass disappoints many just for the sheer fact that it's a Jeep that's not designed to go off-road. The Sacramento Bee reports, "Suffice it to say that the Compass does not shape up as a rock-crushing trail rider." In fact, the Compass is Jeep's first vehicle that's not trail-rated.

While the Associated Press reports that "this SUV can handle dirt roads and driveways without worry of bottoming out or scraping something underneath," it doesn't appear to get much further. Edmunds notes that this particular Jeep differs from the rest: "It doesn't look rugged, it's not trail-rated, and as far as we know, it doesn't even like dirt." MSN sums it up best by saying: "It's not that you can't take the Compass off-road. It's just that it's not built to be taken too far off-road. The reason for this is a lack of low-range gearing."

Though it lacks off-road ability, the Compass partially makes up for it with optional all-wheel drive. Cars.com calls it "basically a light- to medium-duty all-wheel-drive system." For maximum traction in slippery situations, the system has a lock function that splits power 50/50 between the front and rear axles.

Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

Next Steps: Jeep Compass