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#21

in Affordable Compact SUVs

MSRP: $18,795 - $27,995
Invoice: $18,583 - $26,951
MPG: 23 City / 30 Hwy
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Jeep Compass Performance

Play 2014 Jeep Compass Performance Review Video Video: Compass Performance 2014 Jeep Compass Performance Video Review

Critics agree that the 2014 Jeep Compass isn’t powerful or refined enough to compete with top-ranked affordable compact SUVs. While some reviewers say that the Compass’ new six-speed automatic transmission is better than the available CVT, they still note that it doesn’t transmit power to the wheels as quickly as they would like. Test drivers say the Compass’ mediocre handling and ride quality also detract from the driving experience.

  • "The Compass has some neat features, but it's not exactly a car that makes you want to take the long way home -- unless you have Freedom Drive II, we suppose, though that means you're stuck with the CVT." -- AutoTrader
  • "Riding atop an aging platform, the Compass doesn't deliver the same ride and handling found in many newer products, and although Jeep has addressed part of the performance issue with a new 6-speed automatic transmission, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) remains on 4WD Compass models with Freedom Drive II, the most desirable of the off-road systems." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2012)
  • "Notable weaknesses remain, including lackluster powertrains that fall short in terms of acceleration, fuel economy and overall refinement." -- Edmunds (2012) 

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Jeep Compass comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 158 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic transmission and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) are optional. A 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is optional on lower trims and comes standard on all 4WD and Limited models. The EPA reports that the base Compass gets up to 23/30 mpg city/highway, which is about average for the class. However, the Compass uses a bit more fuel than SUVs like the Buick Encore and Mazda CX-5.

When it comes to power and acceleration, most auto reviewers agree that the 2014 Compass falls short of their expectations. They say that even with the larger engine, the Compass could use more power, and that highway passing and merging can be intimidating maneuvers. One reviewer also writes that while the six-speed automatic is more responsive than the CVT, it still doesn’t make good use of the engine’s power.

  • "Neither engine accelerates well, and both are rather crude and loud. The new 6-speed automatic is more satisfying than the CVT, but a heavy foot still yields more noise than forward progress." -- AutoTrader
  • "It's a dog at high speeds -- spotted an interesting car on the expressway (a manufacturer-plated Ford Ranger T6) and wanted to get a closer look, and I really, really had to flog the Compass to catch up. The powertrain protested the entire way; though I did close the gap between the pickup and me, I can't remember the last time I felt so helpless behind the wheel." -- AutoWeek
  • "The 2014 Jeep Compass offers a choice of two 4-cylinder engines, neither of which strikes us as terribly refined or powerful. The larger 2.4-liter engine would be our first choice, delivering decent acceleration and fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "With the CVT, the engine makes all manner of unsavory noises, and both performance and fuel economy are lackluster." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers note that the Compass falls short with uninspiring handling and a harsh ride. Many also write that a large turning circle makes the Compass more difficult to maneuver than they would like. Still, a couple test drivers note that the Compass has decent road manners for a small crossover.

  • "While the Compass delivers a fairly smooth ride, its steering is vague, with lots of play in the wheel and slow response time." -- AutoTrader
  • "Of course, the beauty of a car-based crossover SUV is its on-road composure, and both the steering and suspension of the 2014 Jeep Compass provide decent connectivity to the road." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "While Compass rides slightly lower than most compact SUVs, it feels no more nimble. A large turning circle hurts close-quarters maneuverability." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "In addition, compared to its newer rivals in this class, the Compass doesn't ride as smoothly, and in spite of its compact dimensions, it doesn't steer or handle particularly well, either. Either of the 2014 Jeep Compass' AWD systems will handle winter roads slicked by heavy rains and snow, and the base AWD/4WD system is all most crossover buyers really need." -- Edmunds

Off-Roading

The 2014 Compass has standard front-wheel drive, but two four-wheel drive systems that can enhance its off-road ability are optional. Freedom Drive I operates similarly to the all-wheel drive systems found in affordable crossovers and is designed for foul-weather conditions such as rain or snow. Freedom Drive II adds low-range gearing, as well as all-terrain tires, skid plates and tow hooks. Most test drivers agree that while models equipped with Freedom Drive II are more suited for true off-road use, other off-road SUVs offer better capability.

  • "As a commuter vehicle sometimes tossed into foul-weather conditions, the Compass is fine. But as a serious off-roader, it just doesn't live up to the Jeep name." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "Should you be looking for some off-roading potential, the Nissan Xterra would be a more capable choice." -- Edmunds (2012)
  • "The result is a surprisingly capable Compass. 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 (2011)
Review Last Updated: 5/13/14

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