The 2016 Jeep Compass is a relic from another era. Introduced nearly a decade ago, the Compass—and its blockier Patriot twin—precede both Chrysler’s bankruptcy and its subsequent tie-up with Fiat. The compact crossover is a stark reminder of how far Chrysler and Jeep have come, especially when compared with the similarly sized (and priced), Fiat-era Jeep Renegade and Jeep Cherokee with which it shares the showroom floor.
Not The Best Choice
Despite the Compass’s clear inferiority, though, consumers continue purchasing the small SUV. Through the first half of 2016, sales are up 80 percent year-over-year, with Jeep moving nearly as many Compasses as it did Renegades. Steep discounts are likely fueling this craze.
VIEW 31 PHOTOS
Of course, the Compass isn’t entirely bad. For instance, the chassis—after years of incremental improvements—now is fairly refined. In fact, not a single squeak or rattle was heard from the Compass’s low-rent, hard-plastic interior during its entire stay with us. This is especially impressive given that the little Jeep’s ride is as supple as a mule stumbling down the Grand Canyon.
The Compass doesn’t look half-bad, either. Our test vehicle was dipped in Recon Green paint and adorned with 75th Anniversary Edition–specific bronze-colored 18-inch wheels, roof rails, tow hooks, badging, and miscellaneous trim. By opting for the celebratory model, buyers also get toys such as a power sunroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and remote start. The package also requires the Power Value Group, which adds automatic headlamps, body-color door handles, and a handful of other items. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic is the sole powertrain choice in the 75th Anniversary Edition, and our test vehicle routed its torque through Jeep’s light-duty Freedom Drive I all-wheel-drive system. (Front-wheel drive is standard.) A more off-road-ready Freedom Drive II system with low range that’s paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is also available on the Compass, but not on the 75th Anniversary Edition—a strange omission given Jeep’s off-road history. A less powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on front-wheel-drive, non–Anniversary Edition models.
All told, choosing the diamond-anniversary Compass will set customers back $27,615 before options. (Front-wheel drive costs $1400 less.) A $995 backup camera was our test vehicle’s only option and brought along a 6.5-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system. While we like UConnect in other FCA products, the Compass uses an earlier version with low-resolution graphics and a frustrating Bluetooth system that requires users to connect a mobile device via voice commands. It replaces the standard push-button stereo system and raised the as-tested price to $28,610—a mighty sum for a tiny crossover lacking navigation, automatic climate control, a proximity key, seat-height adjustment (and the driver’s seat is mounted extremely high), leather seats, or seat heaters. For what it’s worth, TrueCar estimates an all-wheel-drive Compass like our test car can be purchased for more than $6500 below sticker. Nevertheless, a Honda HR-V EX-L with navigation can be had for $26,890 and includes all those features the Jeep lacks. Plus, the all-wheel-drive HR-V provides an additional two cubic feet of cargo space with its rear seats folded and another half cubic foot with its rear seats in use. Compared with its showroom-floor competitor, the Renegade, the Compass affords three cubic feet more cargo space with the rear seats down. Raise the seatbacks, and the Compass betters its Italian-made sibling by more than four cubic feet. Rear-seat legroom is similarly advantageous, with the Compass providing its occupants an extra four inches to stretch out.
VIEW 31 PHOTOS
Slow and None Too Steady
Surely, then, the Compass must offset its lack of feature content with noteworthy performance, right? Wrong. Despite its engine producing a respectable 172 horsepower and 165 lb-ft of torque, the Compass proved to be at the slow, and loud, end of its class. Zero to 60 mph takes 9.5 seconds, and the jaunt from 50 to 70 mph is a 7.2-second affair. Those figures trail a far-less-powerful, 141-hp HR-V EX-L AWD by 0.2 and 0.5 second that we featured in a small-crossover comparison test in 2015. While the Compass was comparably quiet on the road and at idle, its coarse four-cylinder roared to redline at a screeching 79 decibels—five more than what we recorded in a Renegade 4×4 with the same powerplant. On the plus side, the Jeep’s six-speed automatic transmission (introduced in the 2014 Compass) is a better day-to-day companion than the previous CVT, even if it’s slow to swap cogs and made only a small dent on the Jeep’s performance times. (The last all-wheel-drive, 2.4-liter CVT-equipped Compass we tested hit the 60-mph mark in 9.6 seconds.)
Unfortunately, the Compass doesn’t struggle only to get up to speed; it labors to come to a halt, too. Stopping from 70 mph takes a long 188 feet—25 feet more than the all-wheel-drive Fiat 500X we featured in our small-crossover comparo. Even worse, repeated stops resulted in significant brake fade—not the sort of thing you want in a vehicle that NHTSA rates at three (out of five) stars for frontal crash protection. Fuel economy also disappoints, as the EPA rates the Compass at a paltry 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. For comparison, the CVT-equipped, all-wheel-drive Subaru Crosstrek is rated at 26/34 mpg and a 4WD Renegade achieves as high as 24/31. Our Compass matched the EPA combined rating of 22 mpg.
Thankfully, the Compass’s days are coming to an end, as a single all-new vehicle designed to replace both it and the Patriot is expected to arrive before the end of the year.