Although this year's new six-speed automatic transmission improves the driving experience, the 2014 Jeep Compass still falls behind most other small crossovers in performance, fuel economy and overall refinement.
Compact crossovers have to cover a lot of ground. They need to be able to carry your mountain bike at a moment's notice. They need to offer enough all-terrain capability to get you to work during a snowstorm. They need to be roomy and comfortable for you and a couple of kids. They need to offer a semblance of style along with a decent number of tech features. Yet for all that, we're not willing to pay that much for them. The 2014 Jeep Compass is an example of a budget crossover that tries to check every box while keeping the bottom line low.
First off, it's a Jeep, and Jeeps are known for off-road supremacy. The Compass does have quite a bit more all-terrain capability than most other compact crossover SUVs, but that only comes about when you add some extra-cost features. And even if so equipped, it's a good bet you'll be calling your friend with a Wrangler to pull you out of a ditch if you attempt anything really challenging. And so like most other small crossovers, the Jeep Compass is mainly intended to give you enough traction and ground clearance to get to work after a snowstorm.
This year's new six-speed automatic transmission is a welcome replacement for last year's continuously variable transmission (CVT) on most versions of the Jeep Compass. When paired with the 2.4-liter engine, it improves both acceleration and fuel economy. That said, the 2014 Compass still feels rather slow in normal driving, and gas mileage remains below average with the new automatic transmission. Moreover, persistent engine drone and tire noise make for a noisy cabin, and the Jeep rides harshly over bumps and ruts.
With so many capable rivals in this class, it's certainly worthwhile to explore all your options. If enhanced off-road capabilities in a small crossover are a must-have, we'd suggest taking a look at the similarly priced 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek. For the majority of crossover SUV owners who rarely, if ever, leave the pavement, the 2014 Ford Escape, 2014 Honda CR-V and 2014 Mazda CX-5 are some of the best choices in this class. If up-front cost is your main concern, the 2014 Nissan Rogue Select (the renamed old-generation version of the Rogue) has a low starting price like the 2014 Jeep Compass but it offers a much better overall package.
A five-passenger small crossover SUV, the 2014 Jeep Compass is available in three trim levels: Sport, Latitude and Limited.
Standard features for the Sport include 16-inch alloy wheels (17-inch wheels if optioned with the larger 2.4-liter engine), foglights, roof rails, air-conditioning, cruise control, 60\/40 split-folding rear seats, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 115-volt household power outlet and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The optional Power Value Group adds full power accessories, heated mirrors, keyless entry and additional body-color exterior pieces. The Altitude Edition package adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a body-color rear bumper, mesh cloth seat upholstery, and heated front seats.
The Latitude gets the above features as standard (with smaller 16-inch wheels for front-wheel-drive and 17s for all-wheel drive) and adds chrome exterior and interior trim, a height-adjustable driver seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. For the Latitude, the optional High Altitude Edition package adds 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (plus manual lumbar adjustment) and a sunroof.
The range-topping Limited includes the High Altitude equipment along with different 18-inch wheels, automatic climate control, a driver information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, and HD and satellite radio. The touchscreen interface is optional on the Latitude and includes an onboard hard drive with 28GB of digital music storage; on the Limited, this music server is combined with an optional navigation system.
The Freedom Drive II Off-Road group can be added to all four-wheel-drive trims. It includes 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, tow hooks, an off-road driving mode, an engine oil cooler, underbody skid plates, a full-size spare tire, hill-descent control, hill-start assist and a height-adjustable driver seat for the Sport trim.
The Latitude and Limited trims are eligible for the Security and Cargo Convenience group. On the Latitude this adds the auto-dimming rearview mirror, a security alarm and the driver information display. The Limited's version of this option group also includes remote start, a USB input and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. Jeep also offers Bluetooth, the USB port and satellite radio bundled as a separate option for all trim levels.
Also offered on the top trims is the Sun and Sound group (a sunroof, an upgraded nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system, two flip-down tailgate speakers and satellite radio for the Latitude trim) and the Trailer Tow Prep group (oil cooler, trailer tow wiring harness and full-size spare).
Regardless of which engine you choose, the Compass is not especially quick or invigorating to drive. Unquestionably, the new six-speed automatic transmission improves performance on models with the 2.4-liter engine. Even so, 2.4 versions of the 2014 Jeep Compass feel rather underpowered in normal driving in spite of a class-average 0-60-mph time. The engine makes its best power at higher revs, so the automatic transmission's frequent (and often slow) shifts can be bothersome when you're passing at highway speeds or merely trying to maintain speed on uphill grades. Equipping the Compass with the CVT results in downright sluggish acceleration and forces you to plan well ahead for passing maneuvers.
Making matters worse is a persistent drone from the 2.4-liter engine, regardless of the transmission. It escalates to a racket under hard acceleration, and combined with the Jeep's excessive wind and tire noise, you'll be reaching for the radio volume knob to drown it all out. Ride quality is another weak spot, as the Jeep's suspension struggles to cope with bumps and ruts, resulting in a harsh, bouncy ride over most pavement. This lack of composure also detracts from the crossover's handling abilities when you're going around turns.
On the front-wheel-drive Sport and Latitude trim levels, the 2014 Jeep Compass is outfitted with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. From here, three transmissions are available. A five-speed manual transmission is standard for the Sport, while a six-speed automatic or a CVT are optional. The Latitude has the six-speed automatic as standard. The CVT is a required option on Sport and Latitude models with the Altitude and High Altitude packages.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 26 mpg combined (23 mpg city\/30 mpg highway) for a front-wheel-drive Compass with the 2.0-liter engine and a five-speed manual. With the six-speed automatic, mileage falls to 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city\/28 mpg highway), while the CVT version rates 24 mpg combined (22 mpg city\/27 mpg highway).
Optional on the front-wheel-drive Sport and Latitude is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. This engine is standard on all-wheel-drive models (which Jeep calls four-wheel drive) and all Compass Limited models.
Equipped with the 2.4-liter engine and the five-speed manual, the front-drive Compass is rated at 25 mpg combined (23 mpg city\/28 mpg highway). Add the six-speed automatic and you're looking at 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city\/28 mpg highway). With four-wheel drive and the 2.4-liter engine, the 2014 Compass is rated at 25 mpg combined (23 mpg city\/28 mpg highway) with the manual and 23 combined (21\/27) with the six-speed automatic.
The optional Freedom Drive II Group provides a more serious 4WD system with low-range gearing and hill-descent control, but requires that you also select the 2.4-liter engine and CVT. With the CVT, fuel economy is quite poor at 21 mpg combined (20 mpg city\/23 mpg highway).
In Edmunds testing, an all-wheel-drive 2014 Jeep Compass with the 2.4-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds, which is an average time for this class.
Standard safety features for all 2014 Jeep Compass models include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is included with the Limited trim and available on others. The Freedom Drive II Off-Road group adds hill-descent and hill-start control.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Compass came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, which is average for this class of vehicle.
In government crash testing, the 2014 Jeep Compass received four out of a possible five stars for overall crash protection, with three stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side crash protection.
Jeep has upgraded the interior materials in the Compass for the 2014 model year, and this is especially noticeable in loaded Latitude and Limited models, which have attractive stitching and leather work. However, there are still plenty of hard plastic surfaces, and features like Bluetooth and a USB input, which come standard on most rivals, remain optional even on the upper trim levels.
Although the seatback cushions might be a little narrow for larger adults, the front seats are comfortable and offer adequate support for longer drives. The rear seat is also well cushioned, but legroom is tight for this class.
The Compass does sport some clever features, such as a cooled glovebox, a rechargeable LED cargo light that pops out for use as a flashlight, and optional speakers that flip down and out from the raised liftgate to enhance outdoor listening. At 62.7 cubic feet, the Compass' maximum cargo capacity is respectable. It's considerably more than the Subaru XV Crosstrek's 51.9 cubic feet and slightly less than the Escape's 66.3 cubes.
Comfortable front seats; a few clever features; reasonably capable off-road when properly equipped.
Sluggish acceleration; disappointing fuel economy; noisy, rough ride; tight rear legroom; minimal storage space.