The Compact Jeep Compass Crossover Offers Off-Road Prowess


The Jeep brand has rocketed to success over the past decade, seeing its sales triple and its availability expand to more global markets. Although the Wrangler is the spiritual successor to the original Jeep, the brand’s family of crossover models easily paces sales.

As of this writing, the Jeep brand is comprised of four crossovers: Renegade (subcompact), Compass (compact), Cherokee (compact/midsize), and Grand Cherokee (midsize) models. Beyond these four and the Wrangler, a Gladiator pickup truck completes the product line. By next year, two more Jeep models should enter the fold: large Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs.


2020 Jeep Compass Review


The 2020 Jeep Compass is a five-passenger utility vehicle priced from $22,105, plus a $1,495 freight charge. It’s available in eight trims: Sport, North Edition, Latitude, Sun & Wheel, Altitude, Trailhawk, Limited, and High Altitude. The top-end Altitude 4×4 starts at $32,395. Fully optioned, your cost may approach $39,000. The good news is that discounts and other incentives should reduce your price by several thousand dollars.



Exterior

The 2020 Compass is now in its fourth model year and returns with only minor changes to feature availability. The previous-generation model shared much with the Patriot, but the two models were consolidated when the replacement Compass appeared in 2017. The new model overlapped with the old one for one year before the latter was canceled.

Jeep elements abound on the Compass, most noticeably with its seven-slat vertical grille. The look, though, is much more subdued than the Wrangler, with rounded edges and a less forceful stance. Still, the Compass has a more robust look than some of its competitors, including the Chevrolet Equinox. The squared wheel wells are just one example of that difference.

The base Compass comes with halogen headlamps, power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, and 16-inch steel wheels. Work your way up through the trim levels and you’ll discover LED lighting, front fog and cornering lights, a black painted roof and black hood decal, 18- or 19-inch aluminum wheels, and various embellishments for off-road driving.

Interior

We like it when a manufacturer’s seating claims hold up. In the Compass’ case, that’s five individuals. The best seats, of course, are upfront, but the rear seat is comfortable and able to hold three. We’ve noticed that in some models legroom is tight in the back. Not so with the Jeep. The Compass’ storage space is average among small crossovers.

The dashboard is layered and includes an instrument panel hood. The look is par for the segment and the materials used are what you’d expect: soft-touch at eye level and hard plastics nearly everywhere else.



The cloth seats are comfortable and sufficiently padded. The available leather seats turn things up a notch.

There is ample storage space in the cabin although the door pockets aren’t a wide as we would like. Also, one curious omission is a place to stuff your cellphone – most competitors have a slot for storing it upright, but not this Jeep. It’s the little things that sometimes loom large with buyers.

Tech

Kudos to Jeep for giving us a tech interface we don’t hate. In fact, the 7-inch Uconnect touchscreen display is one of the better ones out there with its tablet-like layout. Even the base model comes with this system, which is also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatible. Moreover, you’ll find a six-speaker audio package and Bluetooth connectivity.



Happily, Jeep doesn’t stop there. In some models, the system is more robust and features an 8.4-inch display. Other features include satellite radio, HD Radio, navigation, and an Alpine audio system with nine speakers.

Safety

What’s any vehicle without driver-assist safety features? A disappointment for a growing number of consumers who expect them or at least want to have the option to obtain them. Again, Jeep rises to the task here.

The base Sport model doesn’t offer the equipment standard, but you can find these features through a pair of available packages. These features include automatic high beams, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, and active parking assist with front and rear sensors. We must say that many of Compass’ competitors offer at least some of these features standard. The Toyota RAV4 is one example of such a model.

Jeep could also make some improvements in safety testing. This year, the IIHS gave the Compass “good” scores in each of the crash-testing categories. However, its headlights tested marginally or poor, which keeps this model from achieving a “Top Safety Pick” award. As for the NHTSA, the federal group awarded the Compass a 4-star rating overall, based largely on the fair-at-best 3-star rating for rollover crashes. This is an area where families are very concerned and is one we hope Jeep makes improvements going forward.



Performance

Like a few other competitors, including the Nissan Rogue, Jeep offers just one engine choice with the 2020 Compass: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. This engine makes 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, which is slightly better than the Rogue. What’s especially interesting, though, is the choice of transmissions as a six-speed manual gearbox is available for both front- and all-wheel-drive models. Otherwise, the front-wheel-drive Compass has an available six-speed automatic, while the all-wheel-drive model offers a nine-speed automatic.

Power, though, is about average and we found ourselves wanting more at times. The Compass moves forward from a dead stop at a smooth clip and is no slouch when passing. Yet, after spending time with a Chevy Equinox powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the difference was noticeable. On the one hand, the Equinox offers excellent step-off acceleration and passing power. On the other hand, the Compass seems held back by the lack of extra power. We think the additional oomph would be ideal when off-roading, although we didn’t take our Latitude to the trails.

Speaking of off-road, yes you can take the Compass to places most competing models wouldn’t or shouldn’t go. The Compass doesn’t come with a true four-wheel-drive system, relying instead on one of two Jeep Active Drive systems to mimic one. This is especially so with the Trailhawk edition, which utilizes the more advanced of two systems featuring a low first gear that simulates a 20:1 crawl ratio. You’ll also find a rock traction mode for climbing down rocky terrain.

When properly equipped, the 2020 Compass has a 2,000-pound towing capacity.

Competitive Set

The Jeep Compass holds its own in a highly competitive segment, where every manufacturer has at least one entry.

Among the models offered include the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Toyota CH-R and RAV4, Dodge Journey, Chevrolet Equinox, Nissan Rogue Sport and Rogue, Subaru Forester, GMC Terrain, and the Honda CR-V.

Check out all the Jeep vehicles on the brand’s website.



Our Recommendation


Any Jeep Compass above the base model is worth considering. The Trailhawk gives this model an off-road edge, but we wonder how many people would buy one for that purpose? Instead, the slightly larger Cherokee with its 3.2-liter V6 engine is better suited all around for your off-road antics.

Our Latitude test model came with all-wheel drive, but stick with the front-wheel-drive if you live in a warm climate. We’d upgrade with three packages: Popular Equipment Group ($1,095, with a 115-volt outlet, a power driver’s seat with lumbar support, and an improved instrument panel) and the two safety groups ($945 each). We’d also opt for the power liftgate, a $695 upgrade and something our test model didn’t have. Your cost tops $30,000, but the currently available discounting should knock off at least $3,000.


2020 Jeep Compass Specifications


Jeep 2020 Compass
Segment Compact SUV
Price Range $22,105 to $32,395
Destination Charge $1,495
Standard Engine 2.4-liter, I4
Horsepower 180 @ 6,400
Torque (lb.-ft.) 175 @ 3,900
Transmission 6-speed manual; 6- or 9-speed automatic
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 3,184 to 3,633
Wheelbase (inches) 103.8
Length (inches) 173.0
Width (inches) 73.8
Height (inches) 64.6
Headroom (f,r…inches) 39.2, 38.5
Legroom (f,r…inches) 41.8, 38.3
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 56.7, 55.1
Hip room (f,r…inches) 54.1, 49.2
Storage (cubic feet) 27.2, 59.8
Gross vehicle weight (pounds) NR
Towing (pounds) 2,000 (AWD)
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel Regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 13.5
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined) 23/32/26(FWD) 22/31/25(AWD)
Manufacturing Plant Toluca, Mexico

Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.


See AlsoJeep Gladiator Fun Facts

Jeep Compass photos supplied by the manufacturer. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.