in 2012 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $15,207 - $18,792
Original MSRP: $19,295 - $26,045
MPG: 23 City / 29 Hwy
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2012 Jeep Compass Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Reviewers are quick to note that the 2012 Jeep Compass isn’t the best performer on or off the road. They do say, however, that the Compass is a good option for shoppers who need a crossover and an off-road vehicle.

  • "On a test drive outside Jackson, Wyoming, the Compass was able to keep up with the rest of the Jeep lineup on moderately difficult snow-covered trails that saw steep descents, rocky riverbeds, and muddy hill climbs, even if it had to make a few runs at some obstacles." -- Motor Trend
  • "But what the Compass lacks in power, it makes up for in off-road capability." -- Edmunds
  • "Those Compasses have adequate power away from a stop and around town, but modest reserve power demands careful planning before passing or highway merging." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Jeep Compass’ engine remains unrefined and loud compared with its competitors, reviewers say, but it does have enough pep for off-roading. Among crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage, however, the Compass is average, with enough get-up-and-go from a stop and decent highway acceleration.

The base Compass has a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. An automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is available on the base trim, and standard on higher ones. An available 172-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on Limited models and optional on base and Latitude trims. While the Compass isn’t as refined as other compact SUVs, it does rank near the top of the class when it comes to fuel economy. Two-wheel drive models average up to 23/29 mpg city/highway with the base engine and a manual transmission. All-wheel drive is only available with the 2.4-liter engine, and models with this powertrain average up to 22/28 mpg city/highway with a manual transmission, according to the EPA.

  • "Road noise still penetrates through the Compass' chassis, but there's no significant wind noise coming through the windshield or A-pillars at highway speeds." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Despite improvements for 2011, Compass remains one of the louder vehicles in its class. Wind rush is decently squelched, but road noise is fairly prominent, especially at highway speeds. An unrefined engine growl intrudes during acceleration." -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

The 2012 Jeep Compass doesn’t have the best handling capabilities in the class, but test drivers report that it is better than previous generations. If you plan to drive the Compass around town, reviewers say that most drivers will be satisfied with the Compass because there is little body roll and the brakes are responsive.

  • "Accurate, natural-feeling steering. We detected slight wander in gusty crosswinds. Body lean is moderate in corners. While Compass rides slightly lower than most compact SUVs, it feels no more nimble. A large turning circle hurts close-quarters maneuverability. Brakes have good pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
  • "We wouldn't be afraid to use the Compass to access a somewhat remote fishing hole but don't plan on taking it to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari." -- Edmunds
  • "We were very surprised by how much more responsive the Compass is on a twisting road - don't expect driving dynamics anywhere near a Grand Cherokee, but the Compass now inspires confidence instead of fear when you turn the wheel.” -- Automobile Magazine


The 2012 Jeep Compass isn’t the best off-road vehicle on the market, but it’s still capable. For a more powerful off-road vehicle, try the Jeep Wrangler. Reviewers consider it the best off-road SUV in the class. The 2012 Jeep Compass is available with Freedom Drive II, a more capable all-wheel drive system. Freedom Drive comes with hill descent control and hill-start assist, and has an off-road mode that works well for rock climbing, steep grades and water fording. Freedom Drive comes with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The Compass also has Jeep’s Trail Rated certification, which it earned last year. This means the Compass has undergone tests in five off-road conditions: traction, ground clearance, articulation, water fording and maneuverability. Jeep owns the rights to Trail Rating certification, but Edmunds notes that the label is legitimate because off-road vehicles for the U.S. government undergo the same standards.

  • "Another big improvement to the Compass is the addition of a ‘Trail Rated’ Freedom Drive II all-wheel drive system." -- Automobile Magazine
  • “Compass's off-road capabilities are significantly improved with the newly available Freedom Drive II Off Road Group package." -- Consumer Guide
  • "And we'd already proven, on the easier course, that the Compass was operating at the ragged edge of its off-road ability when we slammed it quite ungracefully up a mud-covered embankment just to prove we could. The Compass made it, but it wasn't pretty." -- Edmunds

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