Right from the trailhead, the redesigned Compass comes up short in the white-hot small SUV market, earning the dubious distinction as the lowest-rated model in its class. It doesn't measure up in several ways. Factor in a price that's typically higher than better competitors, and the result is that shoppers should be driven in another direction.
The second-generation Compass shares much of its underpinnings with its smaller sibling, the Jeep Renegade. It draws styling inspiration from the Grand Cherokee, namely in the grille and with its softly squared-off edges. But don’t let the similar looks deceive you into thinking this is a worthy heir to the Jeep off-road legacy. Even the Trailhawk version with its raised ride height and red tow hooks is largely for show.
Most Compasses are equipped with a 180-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with a nine-speed automatic transmission. This disappointing pairing results in slow acceleration, with delayed downshifts and a lackadaisical response. Performance feels even slower than the numbers suggest. Fuel economy, at 24 mpg overall, is par for the class.
Handling is secure, but the steering isn't particularly quick and is rather vague, denying the driver a feel of precision or control. The brake pedal is overly sensitive, making it hard to reach a smooth stop and putting your coffee cup in danger. The jittery ride is neither very absorbent nor entirely well controlled over undulations.
The cabin has a few token soft surfaces but is otherwise austere. The driver's seat is short on support, and the rear seat forces passengers to sit awkwardly. Cabin quietness is undermined by the coarse engine noise.
The UConnect infotainment system is available in 8.4-, or 7-inch sizes. The touch screen is clear, easy to reach, and responsive. It also controls the optional heated seats and steering wheel, which is inconvenient.
All advanced safety features are optional, and they come at a price. Blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic warning, forward-collision warning, and automatic emergency braking are available on a variety of trim levels.
Pricing starts at an enticingly low $22,000. But in reality, with a few desirable features like a power seat, satellite radio, and blind-spot warning, a mid-trim Latitude with AWD will brush against the $30,000 mark, putting it in the neighborhood of more capable, fun-to-drive competitors, such as the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5.