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 love the rugged playfulness of a Jeep. That go-anywhere, do-anything aura really speaks to me. Like its larger siblings, the 2020 Compass has what it takes to go off the beaten path and get you out into the wilderness. Unfortunately, as a daily driver, this compact crossover is less appealing.
The Jeep Compass slots between the subcompact Renegade and larger-but-still-compact Cherokee. It's available in seven trims, from the base Sport to the top-level High Altitude. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is optional. Three different transmissions are offered -- including a six-speed manual -- but no matter which model you choose, every version is powered by the same, naturally aspirated, 2.4-liter I4 engine.
This engine is... not great. With 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque attempting to motivate this 3,600-pound SUV, acceleration is sluggish at best. What's more, the nine-speed automatic transmission used here is lazier than a Sunday afternoon. It's slow to downshift when I need power, and way too eager to upshift for the sake of fuel economy. The six-speed automatic could be better here, with longer ratios and fewer gears to move between.
The Good The 2020 Jeep Compass has rugged good looks and off-road capability that bests other vehicles in its class.
The Bad The 2.4-liter I4 engine is pretty weak, and the nine-speed automatic transmission isn't tuned for smooth, around-town driving.
The Bottom Line Jeep's handsome Compass offers good value in its lower trims, but all loaded up, it can't match other compact SUVs in terms of interior space, standard safety tech and on-road dynamics.
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