2018 Jeep Compass Review

2018 Jeep Compass - All-new for 2018, Compass impresses with features and off-road cred.

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The Jeep Compass is a compact crossover that was redesigned in late 2017. It's slightly smaller than the Jeep Cherokee but larger than the Jeep Renegade. Sold only as a 4-door wagon, it seats 5 passengers and comes with front- or all-wheel drive. Competitors include the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Rogue.

Four trim levels are offered: Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk. All are powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower. Three transmissions are offered depending on model: a 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic or 9-speed automatic. All, save the Trailhawk, are available with front- or all-wheel drive. The Trailhawk gets standard all-wheel drive with a low range that's geared for off-road use. Towing capacity is 2000 pounds when properly equipped.

The Sport starts at $21,095 and includes 16-inch wheels, air-conditioning, 5-inch Uconnect system, Bluetooth connectivity, USB port and a six-speaker sound system. Latitude is priced at $24,395 and has larger wheels, upgraded cloth and simulated leather seat upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and keyless ignition and entry. The $29,195 Limited adds 18-inch wheels, remote start, upgraded exterior trim, 8.5-inch Uconnect touchscreen, satellite radio, automatic dual-zone climate control, upgraded driver information display, power driver seat, heated front seats and leather upholstery.

The Trailhawk is $28,795 is a unique model that adds the following off-road gear: 17-inch wheels with off-road-oriented tires, raised suspension, unique front fascia, Selec-Terrain system, red tow hooks front and rear, underbody protection, and matte-black hood accent. Popular options include navigation, sunroof, Beats audio system and power liftgate.

With a 0-60 MPH time of just 10 seconds, the Compass is one of the slowest vehicles in the class. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder provides marginal acceleration away from a stop and decent passing response -- aided by the slick-shifting 9-speed automatic. The engine isn't the smoothest in the class, either, but at least it cruises quietly.

On the flip side, the Compass gets great fuel economy. EPA numbers for the Trailhawk are 22 MPG city, 30 MPG highway and 25 MPG overall. Those numbers are better than most in the class and bolstered by real-world fuel economy that can easily top the EPA numbers. In routine suburban commuting it's possible to see 28 MPG overall and 35 MPG on the highway is quite possible if you keep speeds at 65 MPH or below. Regular-grade fuel is fine for the 2.4-liter engine as well.

Like most vehicles in the class, the Compass' all-wheel-drive system provides instant traction and quickly transfers power to the wheels with the best grip. It's a welcome feature during Chicago's snowy winters. The Trailhawk offers a substantially improved all-wheel-drive system with a low gear range as well as a lot of off-road goodies like a raised suspension, skid plated and tow hooks. It's not as capable as a Wrangler, but certainly more capable than any other compact crossover.

Compass rides with more composure than most compact crossovers. The suspension does a good job of filtering out minor road imperfections and softening hard impacts. There's little rebound or head toss, as well. Still, everything is not perfect, there's a bit more body lean in quick maneuvers than most competitors for one. The steering is firm at highway speeds and feels well connected to the road around town. Brakes seem overly touchy, but are easy to modulate once you get accustomed to the pedal action.

Road and wind noise are fairly well muffled. The engine kicks up a racket in hard acceleration, but quiets nicely when cruising. Though others may offer a bit more ride comfort or handling prowess, it's hard to match the Compass' peaceful demeanor overall.

Compass offers a roomy interior that's packed with features. Materials are appropriate for the class and the optional touchscreen is brilliant. The dashboard layout is fairly conventional with a twin-dial setup and center stack that boasts traditional dials and buttons for most controls. Android Auto and Apple Car Play integration is very smooth.

With minimal padding and side bolstering, the front seats are just so-so. They do offer good comfort but lack any real support. Head and leg room are great as is outward visibility and entry/exit. The back seats offer adult room, though three abreast is a squeeze. 

Rear seats up, there's 27 cubic feet of cargo space, not class leading by any stretch, but still pretty good. Seats down and that number grows to more than 60 cubes. The opening is tall and the load floor is flat. Interior storage abounds with lots of open and covered bins throughout.

Bottom Line -- Compared to the model it replaces, the new Compass is a world beater. It's significantly better in every conceivable way. Compared to the competition, it's more than competitive and is the only compact to offer true off-road ability. Demerits are mostly limited to the underpowered engine. If you are looking for an affordable go-to utility, the Compass is hard to beat.



Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and hardcover automotive titles.

In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on ABC TV, Fox News, and Speed Channel as an automotive consultant. Previously, he was a regular on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show and now fills in for Paul Brian on the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.

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