Jeep has its fair share of huge successes – models like the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, in particular, come to mind. But smooshed between the slightly larger Cherokee and pint-sized Renegade, the Compass fails to capture the same success of its larger siblings, especially in a segment teeming with much better alternatives.
Sure, we credit the Compass for using the brand's impactful styling cues, as well as adopting the latest and greatest version of FCA's Uconnect. And this Jeep’s trail-readiness, which easily exceeds many others in the segment, makes it a bit more appealing. But outside of that, the outdated powertrain, flimsy interior, and hefty asking price make the Compass a pretty poor options. And this one costs $38,390 as tested; it ain’t cheap.
The Compass looks rugged, sharing a lot visually with the best-selling Grand Cherokee. Frankly, all Jeeps look sort of similar, but it's a good look nonetheless. In the case of our Compass High Altitude tester, the seven-slat grille gets a unique granite coloring, integrated headlights, and a silver exterior finish with a contrasting black roof over gunmetal grey wheels, making for an appropriately macho look. The only way it could get any tougher is with the optional Trailhawk package.
Uconnect, in virtually all FCA products, gets great marks from us. The base Compass gets a standard 7.0-inch screen, but the optional ($1,995, part of the Customer Preferred package) 8.4-inch Uconnect display in our tester may be one of the best in the segment. The home screen layout is clean and easy to navigate, touch responsiveness is immediate, and there's both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as a baked-in navigation system.
Even without splurging on the full-fledged Trailhawk model, the Jeep Compass can tackle moderately challenging off-road courses. Better so than most of its competitors, at least. The available "Selec-Terrain" traction management system lets you choose from a few different drive modes: Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud, and Rock. There's a part-time four-wheel-drive system as well and even hill descent control, both features rare for the class.
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Fuel economy notwithstanding (the two-wheel-drive Compass gets a pretty good 32 miles per gallon on the highway), Jeep's 2.4-liter four-cylinder feels extremely antiquated. It's sluggish, loud, unrefined, and produces a measly 180 horsepower. The nine-speed automatic isn't great either; the gearbox is slow to shift and exceptionally harsh. At least Jeep still offers a six-speed manual (though, it’s only available on certain trims).
Apart from the awesome center screen, the Jeep Compass has a really cheap interior. There's are some flimsy knobs, faux chrome trim, and a lot of hard plastic surrounding the center screen and atop the door panels. The black leather seats are… fine, but don’t feel up to snuff quality-wise with other options in the class, and they’re not super supportive either. It’s all rather expensive, too; the stitched leather steering wheel is part of the $1,995 Customer Preferred package, and the leather seats are an extra $595 as part of the Luxury Seat package.
The base Jeep Compass Sport starts at $22,105. Where alternatives like the CR-V and RAV4 now cost more than $25,000 each to start, the cheap Jeep is one of the more affordable vehicles of the bunch. But options are what hurt the Compass, as it doesn’t offer as many standard features as its competitors. While the base Compass High Altitude FWD costs $30,895, our tester costs $38,390 with add-ons. The Preferred package, which includes things like 19-inch wheels, leather, the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a few other features, is $1,195. The sunroof is $1,595, advanced parking equipment is $795, a power liftgate costs $725, and a few others hike the price even further. That's a significant chunk for change for a car that feels less competitive than most of the alternatives.
Gallery: 2020 Jeep Compass High Altitude: Pros And Cons
2020 Jeep Compass High Altitude