2018 Jeep Compass FWD Automatic
Jeep built its reputation on Off-Road capacity, but you won’t find track rated badges on this 2018 Jeep Compass. The compact Compass crossover deserves that honor when equipped with its active drive layer all-wheel-drive system, a set-up exclusive for the Trailhawk trim, while less Off-Road-oriented sport, width, height, and limited Models spec would be easier with a system called Active Drive. This compass did limited without even that $1500 upgrade, though, so it’s strictly front-wheel drive and most suitable for roaming the urban jungle unlike the Rubicon Trail.
Previous all-wheel drive also means skipping the ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission. Instead, the front-wheel-drive model pairs the 180-HP 2.4-liter inline-four with a Aisin-delivered six-speed automatic. That sounds like a downgrade, but actually not. Whereas the nine-speed often struggles to find the right gear, the six-speed Automatic selects gears with assuredness. Its relaxed upshifts and apathetic back switching are far from ideal, but the six-speed is definitely the more polished of the two automatic.
At city speeds, the front-wheel-drive compass feels much powerful, and the compact crossover darts in and out of traffic with balance and precision thanks to its small footprint and fast, well-weighted steering. Stretch the compass legs, though, and the powertrain is less amiable, as the four-cylinder motor limited low-end Punch and the six-speed gearbox’s restraint to switch over can pass maneuvers an exercise in courage. Our test car requires 6.6 seconds to accelerate from 50 to 70 mph, which is 1.3 seconds longer than both a front-wheel-drive Mazda CX-5 and an all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V.
Blow the Inside
On slippery pavement, the compass rewards its driver and passengers with a well-cushioned suspension and a hushed cab. Rougher roads, however, cause the structure to Shimmy and domestic plastics to crack. Our test example suffered from a particularly nasty beeping of its 60/40 Split-folding rear bench chair.
Racket aside, the rear of the compass borders are impressively spacious considering the small size of the vehicle. At 173.0 inches long, the compass is 10.5 inches shorter than a Toyota RAV4, but the Jeep offers more than an inch of extra rear leg space compared to the Toyota. In addition to comfortable accommodations, the compass also handles the backseat passengers on their own USB port and an available 115-volt extra plug.
Front-Seat occupants will be less impressed. Middling Plastics Mar’s dashboard and door panels, interior stowage is limited to a handful of small spaces, and climate controls are mounted too low on the dashboard to be ergonomically friendly. The main selling point of the cab is the infotainment system, especially the large 8.4-inch touchscreen unit that comes standard on the limited. (Lesser trims have a 5.0-inch unit as standard; a 7.0-inch display is an optional upgrade, and a navigation-equipped 8.4-inch unit can be had at all but the entry-level sport.) Equipped with the latest version of Fiat Chrysler UConnect infotainment software, the larger touchscreens feature logically placed controls and quick response times. The units also include Android car and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Less Than zero
The compass is also devoid of driver engagement, lacking the finesse of more vivid competitors such as the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5. Pushing the compass along winding roads feels like work, not fun. Making business worse is a sensitive brake pedal that makes it difficult to modulate a smooth end. Despite this, the Jeep 176-foot stop distance from 70 mph is par for the compact class.
Nor is fuel efficiency a strong point for this version of the compass. The 22-MPG city EPA estimate matches that of its heavier, nine-Speed-equipped all-wheel-drive counterpart. On the highway, the front-drive Automatic Compass deserves a 31-mpg rating compared to the AWD-model 30 mpg. We have a disappointing 28 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel economy run. The relatively larger, heavier, and more powerful all-wheel-drive variants of the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 both returned 32 mpg on the same line, while an all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Tiguan 33 mpg managed.
In addition to being more fuel-efficient, the Honda, Mazda, and Volkswagen better the cargo capacity of the compass, which is 27 cubic meters from four cubes to the CX-5, six to the three-row Tiguan, and 12 to the CR-V. At least the Jeep upright behind hatch allows users to make the most of the available space.
The Jeep especially offers more cargo space than other similar size crossover SUVs such as the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, the Nissan Rogue Sport, and the Subaru cross trek. Like the compass, those three competitors all cast shadows larger than those of subcompact crossover SUVs, but shorter than those of the compact crossover SUVs.
To start $22,440, the compass slots neatly between the smaller, $19,890 Renegade and the larger, $25,840 Cherokee. The tested Compass Limited had a $29,040 base price-which includes the automatic transmission which is a $1500 extra on lesser models-and $5165 value of options. ADD-ons included a compact spare wheel for $245, a $595 Power Truck, a Beats audio system for $695, the $745 Security and security group (rear parking sensors and Blind-Spot monitoring with rear Cross-Traffic Alert), the $895 Advanced Safety & Lighting Group (Automatic high beams, HID headlights, LED rear lights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automated emergency braking, and Lane-leaving warning), $895 for a set of 19-inch wheels and tires instead of the standard of the Limited 18-inch units, and the $1095 navigation-equipped 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
The AS-tested price of $34,205 looks steep next to the bigger and better drive front-wheel-drive Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, which is above $33,625 and $32,610. The Honda and the Mazda also include items that are not available on the compass, such as adaptive Cruise Control and a memory driver’s seat.
Although handsome, the front-wheel-drive Jeep compass with its six-speed automatically misses the heady all-wheel-drive stance, stick-shift version or Trailhawk compass off-road prowess. Priced as a compact Crossover SUV, but measuring a half-size smaller, the compass lacks the value and dynamic performance of segment leaders.