Redesigning for 2011 transformed the Jeep Compass into a whole new vehicle. Not as in all-new, but gaining an entirely new, real-Jeep character. That's because all the right changes were made, both mechanical and cosmetic. The styling is less original than the first (2007-10) generation; and where Jeeps are concerned, that's a benefit. That early Compass never looked much like a Jeep, and couldn't go off-road like one, either.
The Compass is built like a car and drives like a car. Yet, it possesses much of the versatility and capability associated with a small SUV. Compass has a strong steel structure and a well-planned subframe. Side-curtain airbags and electronic stability control with anti-rollover sensors are standard.
It's still not as rugged as a Wrangler, by any means, or even a Patriot. However, a Compass stacks up well against other entry-level SUVs, including Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4.
Compass is available with two engines and two transmissions, in three trim levels, with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with a choice of two levels of the active 4x4 system.
For 2014, Jeep Compass has been updated inside and out. A new 6-speed automatic transmission became available, standard on 2014 Compass Latitude and 2014 Compass Limited models and optional for the 2014 Compass Sport. A continuously variable transmission (CVT2), with a crawl ratio for off-roading, remains as an option for all three trim levels. Front seat-mounted side-impact airbags became standard for 2014, and a rearview backup camera joined the option list.
With the optional Freedom Drive II off-road package, the Compass earns Jeep's Trail Rated status, making it a worthy choice for moderate off-road treks, even if it could never match the hard-traveling prowess of a Jeep Wrangler with its two-speed transfer case.
Inside, the instruments and controls are well placed and easy to use. There's good interior space all around, with rear seats that fold flat to provide almost 54 cubic feet of cargo space. Options for added versatility include reclining rear seats and a front passenger seat that also folds flat, creating either a table or an eight-foot-long space for storage.
As an alternative to standard front-wheel drive, buyers can choose Jeep's Freedom Drive I or Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package. Freedom Drive I is full-time all-wheel drive, delivering almost all of the torque to the front wheels until more traction is needed at the rear (with up to 60 percent available there). A lock mode may be engaged for snow, sand and mud.
For rugged off-roading there's Freedom Drive II, which is Jeep Trail Rated. It uses a continuously variable transaxle (CVT2) with a low range that engages when Off-Road mode is activated. Included are 17-inch all-terrain tires and aluminum wheels, raised ride height, a full-size spare tire, skid plates, tow hooks, fog lamps and manual seat height adjuster. On the down side, Freedom Drive II is likely to give up 2 or 3 mpg in fuel economy.
The standard engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque, with 5-speed manual shift or coupled to the CVT with Autostick manual mode that the driver can shift up and down through six preset gear ratios. With the 5-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive, the 2.0-liter delivers an EPA-rated 23/30 mpg City/Highway.
The proven 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 172-horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. Standard on the Limited and available for the others, it uses dual Variable Valve Timing (VVT) on both intake and exhaust camshafts. That helps optimize the torque curve at all speeds and produces more power, better fuel economy and smoother, quieter operation.
The 2014 Jeep Compass comes in three versions: base Sport, midlevel Latitude and top-end Limited, each with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The standard engine (except in Limited) is the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, with a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Compass Sport 2WD ($18,495) and Sport AWD ($20,495) come standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 fold-flat rear seats, foglamps, heated power mirrors, rear window wiper/washer, cruise control, power door locks and windows, 130-watt 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary audio jack, roof rails, and P215/70R16 tires (P225/60R17 with the 2.4-liter engine).
The Latitude 2WD ($22,195) and Latitude AWD ($24,195) add heated mesh cloth seats, fold-flat front passenger seat, height adjustment to the driver's seat, 115-volt outlet, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated controls. The new 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, with the 2.0-liter engine. The 2.4-liter engine is optional ($495) for the Sport or Latitude model.
The Limited 2WD ($25,495) and Limited AWD ($27,495) use the 2.4-liter engine and the 6-speed automatic transmission, adding perforated leather-trimmed bucket seats, 6-way power driver's seat, 230-watt 6CD sound system, 18-inch aluminum wheels with all-season tires, and tire pressure display monitor.
One popular option is the Jeep "Trail Rated" Freedom Drive II Off-Road Group ($550). It includes Hill Start Assist, all-terrain tires, Brake Lock Differential, Hill Descent Control, full-size spare tire, oil pan and transmission skid plate, fuel tank skid plate shield, tow hooks, engine oil cooler, trailer wiring harness, and an off-road crawl ratio in the continuously variable transmission (CVT).
An All-weather Capability Group for Sport and Latitude ($395, or $95 with Freedom-Drive II) includes Goodyear 17-inch all-terrain tires, rugged floor mats, daytime running headlights, engine block heater, and tow hooks. A Security and Cargo Convenience Group ($495) includes remote state, a remote USB port, auto-dimming mirror with microphone, security alarm, soft tonneau cover, UConnect voice command, and a universal garage door opener.
Other options include UConnect ($325 to $695); a trailer tow package ($278) with engine oil cooler, full-size spare tire and wiring harness; and navigation ($395) for the Limited model. Leather upholstery ($1,145) and a rearview backup camera ($795) also are available. The backup camera includes a media center with 40GB hard drive and CD/DVD/HD radio. Not all these options are available on the Sport and Latitude.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual front air bags, head-protecting curtain side air bags, seat-mounted front airbags, antilock brakes with brake assist (which applies more brake force than the driver is applying if sensors determine it's needed in a panic stop), traction control, and electronic stability control with rollover mitigation.