2021 Jeep Compass

By December 30, 2020

Small but capable, the compact 2021 Jeep Compass brings the brand’s trademark capability to a segment not known for its off-road talents. In the right trim, it’ll make it further into the backcountry than might be expected, but buyers not interested in such tomfoolery can get more a pedestrian version better suited for the road.

For 2021, the top Trailhawk and Limited trims get numerous active-safety features as standard, including blind-spot monitors, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. An 80th anniversary trim is also new this year to commemorate eighty years of Jeep production. Slotting in between the Latitude and Limited, the 80th Anniversary model includes 19-inch wheels, unique badging and trim, and luxuries like a larger touchscreen and leather upholstery.

The only powertrain available with the Compass is a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 180 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed manual that used to be standard is no longer available; transmissions are limited to a 6-speed automatic on front-wheel drive models or a 9-speed auto on all-wheel drive versions. The all-wheel drive model is rated to tow 2,000 pounds.

With the front-wheel-drive version, gas mileage is rated at 22 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined. All-wheel-drive Compasses return 22/30/25 mpg, those numbers nearly matching the front-drive model thanks to the 9-speed’s extra cogs.

The IIHS awards the Compass its highest rating of “Good” for crashworthiness but considers its headlights subpar. The NHTSA gave the Compass a four-star overall crash rating.

Model Lineup

The Compass lineup spans four trim levels, the most affordable being the $24,310 Sport. Its standard features include a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 16-inch wheels, six-speaker audio, two USB ports, cloth upholstery, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, and a 3.5-inch driver information display.

The Latitude starts at $27,410 and adds body-colored trim, 17-inch wheels, an eight-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, vinyl-and-cloth upholstery, and SiriusXM radio.

The new 80th Anniversary trim is next up. Priced at $29,710, it gets leather upholstery, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation, 19-inch wheels, and unique trim.

The $30,970 Limited is the most luxurious Compass (but not the most expensive). Among its niceties are features such as heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate, 18-inch wheels, two-tone paint, and a battery of active-safety features.

The priciest Compass is the Trailhawk. Starting at $32,555, it gets a shorter final-drive ratio, mandatory all-wheel drive, 17-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, and a small suspension lift that raises the ground clearance to 8.5 inches. Seats revert to unheated cloth but the 8.4-inch touchscreen and the active-safety features remain.

Exterior

The Compass wears a handsome if rather generic shape. The front end employs a tasteful rendition of the iconic Jeep seven-slot grille. Squint a bit and there’s a resemblance to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. We imagine the similarity was deliberate.

The Trailhawk fully realizes the stylistic potential of the Compass with its red tow hooks and all-terrain tires. The unique graphics include a large flat-black segment on the middle third of the hood. Finishing it off is the lifted suspension, which adds a sense of intention missing from the regular models.

Interior

Jeep did a better job with the interior, but there’s still room for improvement. What we do like is the many nooks and crannies for storing anything from pens to iPads. Storage is a high point here.

Also impressive: the infotainment system. Parent company FCA uses its Uconnect software across its portfolio of brands, and for good reason—this remains one of the better infotainment options in the market. It is effortless to use and fast to respond. There is hardly ever a reason to drill down more than two layers to find anything.

The seats are where there’s room for improvement. Thin cushions and a lack of bolstering and support might leave drivers stiff after a long stint behind the wheel.

The back seat is spacious, offering passengers 38.5 inches of leg room and a reasonable 55 inches of shoulder room. Other crossovers of similar size aren’t so generous with their backseat space.

The cargo area is 27 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 60 cubes with them folded.

Driving Impressions

The Compass is about as average as it gets from behind the wheel. Expect no surprises, good or bad. It does exactly what you’d expect it to, with manners that are never very refined but never outright clumsy. We found it rode with composure over both highway surfaces and city streets. Even models with the 19-inch wheels don’t suffer a decrease in ride quality.

The 2.4-liter inline-4 has 180 horsepower, and as such the Compass won’t be rushed. Expect 0-60 mph to take a little under 10 seconds.

The 9-speed automatic on all-wheel-drive models does a good job of managing shifts, but it can occasionally get confused. We still prefer it over the 6-speed, as the acceleration is better and gas mileage is almost equal despite having to drive an extra set of wheels.

The Trailhawk brings off-road cred to the Compass, and out on the trail it can hold its own. There is no genuine four-wheel drive here—you won’t find a transfer case or locking differentials—but Jeep does give the Trailhawk an extra-low first gear that can simulate a crawl ratio. That works nicely with the rock traction mode, which recalibrates engine and transmission parameters for rocky trails.

Final Word

The 2021 Jeep Compass is a unique option in a segment dominated by more pedestrian vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Though most Compass models won’t be braving the beaten path, the capability is there on Trailhawk models. If we were buying, our choice would be the 80th Anniversary edition, as it gets lots of great features for a fair price.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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