A competitive entry gets a conventional automatic
The Jeep brand has lived a storied life from its inception back in the 1940s for use as both military and civilian vehicles.
The Jeep brand has lived a storied life from its inception back in the 1940s for use as both military and civilian vehicles. The trademark vertical grille used across the lineup is makes for an unmistakable road presence. The brand heritage has always promoted a rough-and-tough sort of image, thanks to products like the Wrangler, Cherokee, and Grand Cherokee. All three of those cars spent a lot of time in the 80’s and 90’s in more or less the same form, never straying too far from the original Jeep roots and DNA. As the Chrysler brand grew, diversification was inevitable; not only to improve sales but to stave off what appeared to be a stagnant product lineup.
Smaller crossover SUVs have been the name of the game for many years now, but does this go against what Jeeps have traditionally stood for? Jeep has added the Patriot, a basic and boxy tall wagon that competes on the value end of the spectrum, and the Compass, which follows more of the more modern trends of what crossovers typically look like. I was handed the keys to a 2014 Jeep Compass Limited 4×4. This Jeep doesn’t come adorned with any sort of “Trail-Rated” badges anywhere, but does this matter to the intended customer?
The Compass was introduced to the North American market back in 2007. Jeep instituted a major facelift in 2011, making the Compass look more like the Grand Cherokee – a truck that gets points for its handsome looks. The Limited trim gets leather seating surfaces, handsome 18” wheels, added fog lamps, and upgraded projector low-beam headlamps. The remaining changes are under the skin: the interior tosses away the trademark bargain-basement Chrysler interior of the past for something a little more appropriate for today. Higher-quality materials and soft-touch surfaces improve the perception of quality, but there are still many hard surfaces if you look closely.
My tester came equipped with the $1200 UConnect integrated navigation system, always a useful feature. The navigation function itself doesn’t get a physical button, but rather just an icon on the screen, which seems like a bit of an afterthought. Voice integration is commonplace nowadays, but what stood out is the sheer depth of the voice menus. The Uconnect throws a laundry list of commands at you in quick succession and it’s up to you to figure out what you need. The Sun/Sound option package adds a nifty flip-down rear speaker that is handy for tailgate parties. One item that stood out was the very small glovebox compartment. It is barely wide enough to fit a standard sheet of paper lengthwise. However, Jeep does give you an added space above the glovebox to put belongings in.
Powering the Limited 4×4 model is a 2.4L four-cylinder engine producing 172 horsepower and 165 lb-ft of torque. Coupled to a new six-speed automatic transmission, the Compass moves with adequate urgency, while not setting any records. Selectable four-wheel-drive is available, but no dedicated low-range transfer case is offered. Slightly curious is the move away from a CVT transmission in specific models, except for those with the additional “Freedom-Drive II” off-road package. One could assume this is due to customer feedback, or simply because the CVT impacted the driving experience in such a negative way that we are used to seeing across the industry.
Noise-Vibration-Harshness (NVH) control was not what I would consider class competitive. The Compass is rated at 10.0L/100km in the city, and 7.4L/100km on the highway – I managed 10.8L/100km in mixed driving (about 75% city driving). I disabled four-wheel-drive in the centre console in the hope of improving efficiency, but this did not seem to have much of an impact. Luckily, the Compass takes regular fuel.
Jeep prides itself on offering good value with the Compass. At a starting price of just over $17,000 for the base model, you still get a versatile, spacious, and stylish (front-drive) crossover SUV for not a lot of money. Once you start checking those boxes, is where impressions can change. My tester was loaded to the gills but was missing the Freedom-Drive II option package and the CVT. This included the aforementioned Sun/Sound group, trailer towing package, Security and Cargo convenience group, Uconnect, and an upgraded spare tire. As tested, the Compass comes up to $34,425 – almost double what the starting base price is. This sort of pricing puts it right in the line of fire with many newly-released offerings from Hyundai and Subaru – many of whom offer more power, and more space, though sometimes at the expense of top-end features. Other vehicles offer things such as HID headlamps and importantly, the option of more horsepower.
At the end of the day, it comes down to your own priorities and expectations – it is easy to mix and match with the option boxes to balance your wants versus your needs. The Compass is due for an overhaul after being on the same platform for six years. If other new Jeeps in the stable are of any indication, the next Compass (or whatever comes to replace it and the Patriot) should be worth a good solid look. As it stands, the 6-speed automatic transmission makes a drastic improvement on the current model, allowing it to remain competitive in our steadily growing market.
2013 Jeep Compass Limited 4×4 Gallery