The 2013 Compass is offered in three different levels--Sport, Latitude, and Limited. Within all three of these, between base front-wheel-drive form, the available Freedom Drive I full-time active 4-wheel-drive system, and the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package and its upgrades, the Compass spans a wide range of ability from what's essentially a city-friendly tall small car up to a surprisingly serious and able off-roader.
Sport and Latitude models of the Compass include a 158-horsepower, 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, while the 2.4L four in Limited models (and optional on the others) makes 172 hp and 165 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are offered with a manual transmission or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) at the base Sport level but only with the CVT at Latitude and Limited levels. Versions with the manual gearbox perform somewhat more efficiently, with EPA ratings of up to 23 mpg city, 30 highway for the smaller engine and 23/28 mpg for the larger one. Jeep says that the CVT provides better fuel economy than a typical four-speed automatic.
The most noteworthy option in the Compass--and what sets it apart from other small crossovers--is the availability of the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package. It includes a special version of the CVT with a true low range that engages in off-road mode, plus many of the features you'd find in traditional SUVs, like skid plates and tow hooks, as well as fog lamps, a raised suspension, all-terrain tires and a full-size spare. Other models with 4-wheel drive get the Freedom Drive I system, which is an active, road-oriented system that will help send engine power to the wheels where it can best be used. Both 4x4 systems include a four-wheel-drive lock mode to help power through deep snow, mud or sand.
The Compass otherwise has a layout that bears some commonality with small cars and its compact size combined with relatively responsive handling, great maneuverability and ease of parking altogether make this a good city vehicle. Rear seatbacks are split 60/40, and they flip forward to a flat floor. Manual-transmission models include Hill-Start Assist, while active front head restraints, anti-lock brakes, and side-curtain airbags covering front and rear occupants are included in all models.
Base Sport versions of the Compass come about as well-equipped as small-car models in this price range, with power windows and locks, power heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, and alloy wheels. Illuminated cupholders, projector for lamps and a rechargeable flashlight system for the cargo area are among the other standout features included here. Latitude models add remote start, heated front seats, a height-adjustable driver's seat, recline adjustment for the backseat, steering-wheel audio controls and a 115-volt power inverter, while at the Limited level you get leather seats, 4-wheel disc brakes, a 6-way-adjustable driver's seat, automatic climate control, an information center and an upgraded sound system with 6-disc changer. Limited models can be distinguished on the outside by their bright exhaust tip and additional rear-fascia brightwork. A 9-speaker system with liftgate speakers, navigation with SiriusXM Travel Link, and a UConnect Bluetooth hands-free calling interface are highlights from the options list.
I was headed down Market Street in San Francisco in the 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk when it happened. To my right a string of parked cars lined the curb. To my left, a 60-foot long tandem Muni bus stretched fore and aft of my little SUV. In front of me was what looked to be the shortest lane merge in the city.
Not wanting to follow the bus and what was sure to be its many stops, I gunned the 2.4-liter engine. The nine-speed transmission jumped down a few gears and I accelerated. Barely. My lane was quickly coming to an end as I willed the Compass forward, feeling the rpms climb ever so slowly to overtake the bus. Just as my lane ran out, I cleared the behemoth and scooted ahead, a few droplets of sweat now gracing my brow.
We were happy to get our first look at the all-new 2017 Compass at last year'sas the last generation was looking rather long in the tooth. This new version takes the place not only of the old Compass but also the Patriot as well. It slots in well just above the little and looks like a baby with its sleeker front end. Fortunately it doesn't wander into polarizing design language like the Jeep Cherokee.
The Good The Trailhawk trim's off-road capabilities are better than anything in its class. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
The Bad Adaptive cruise control is not offered and driver aids are only available in packages. Acceleration could be snappier.
The Bottom Line While we'd like to see more safety features standard, the new Compass is a fine way to runaround both the city and the country.
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