Saturday, October 18, 2014


All new 2014 Jeep Compass comes in three versions: base Sport, midlevel Latitude and top-end Limited, each with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The standard engine (except in Limited) is the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, with a 5-speed manual transmission. 

The Compass Sport 2WD ($18,495) and Sport AWD ($20,495) come standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 fold-flat rear seats, foglamps, heated power mirrors, rear window wiper/washer, cruise control, power door locks and windows, 130-watt 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary audio jack, roof rails, and P215/70R16 tires (P225/60R17 with the 2.4-liter engine). 

The Latitude 2WD ($22,195) and Latitude AWD ($24,195) add heated mesh cloth seats, fold-flat front passenger seat, height adjustment to the driver's seat, 115-volt outlet, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated controls. The new 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, with the 2.0-liter engine. The 2.4-liter engine is optional ($495) for the Sport or Latitude model. 
In fairness, the Compass does have a few things going for it, most notably rock-bottom pricing and above-average off-road ability when equipped with a few special options. But that's where the positives end. Those off-road options result in being stuck with an unpleasant continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and dismal fuel economy as part of the deal. Then there's the weak base engine, disappointing crash-test results and generally unrefined character that put this crossover at the back of the pack.

If you're looking for alternatives within the Jeep family, there are two new arrivals: the sleek, satisfying 2015 Jeep Cherokee and the upstart 2015 Jeep Renegade. The Subaru XV Crosstrek provides comparable off-road chops and more polish in other respects, while superior on-road performers are plentiful, including the sharp-handling 2015 Mazda CX-5 and the rewarding, high-tech 2015 Ford Escape. If cost is your top concern, the Nissan Rogue Select is similarly value-oriented, and it's a considerably more pleasant vehicle all around. We can think of a few nice things about the 2015 Jeep Compass, but its rivals are quite simply nicer across the board.

The 2015 Jeep Compass is a five-passenger small crossover SUV available in three primary trim levels: Sport, Latitude and Limited. Two subtrims -- Altitude Edition and High Altitude Edition -- add features to the Sport .
Standard features for the Sport include 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control  foglights, roof rails, , manual accessories (windows, locks and mirrors), 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a tilt-only steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. heated mirrors, keyless entry and additional body-color exterior pieces.

This Altitude Edition package adds 18-inch black gloss alloy wheels, blacked-out exterior trim, "sport mesh" upholstery, heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

New Latitude starts with the Sport's standard features and adds a bright mesh grille, extended exterior and interior chrome trim, a height-adjustable driver seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 115-volt power outlet and the Altitude Edition's leather-wrapped steering wheel (with audio controls) and heated front seats.

With High Altitude Edition package lacks the Altitude Edition's blacked-out trim, but it starts with the Latitude's equipment roster and throws in 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (plus manual lumbar adjustment) and a sunroof.

New range-topping Limited starts with the High Altitude's equipment and adds 18-inch wheels, projector headlamps, additional chrome trim, automatic climate control, a driver information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touchscreen (with optional hard-drive-based music storage and navigation), a six-CD changer and satellite radio.

The touchscreen interface (with or without navigation) is optional on Latitude. All four-wheel-drive models are eligible for the Freedom Drive II Off-Road package, which includes the 2.4-liter engine, an engine oil cooler, a special CVT with crawl mode, 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, tow hooks, underbody skid plates, a full-size spare tire, hill-descent control, hill-start assist and (for the Sport trim) a height-adjustable driver seat.

The Latitude and Limited trims are eligible for the Security and Cargo Convenience package. On the Latitude this adds the auto-dimming rearview mirror, a security alarm and the driver information display. The Limited's version of this package adds remote start, a USB port and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. Jeep also offers Bluetooth as a stand-alone option on all trims.

Additionally available on the Latitude and Limited are the Sun and Sound package (including a sunroof, a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system, two flip-down tailgate speakers and satellite radio) and the Trailer-Tow Prep package (including an engine oil cooler, a trailer-tow wiring harness and a full-size spare).

The 2015 Compass's base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. It's only offered on Sport and Latitude trims with front-wheel drive. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the 2.0-liter Sport, while the 2.0-liter Latitude comes only with a six-speed automatic.

Note that front-wheel-drive Altitude and High Altitude models are equipped with the 2.0-liter engine and a CVT.

The EPA estimates fuel economy at 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway) for the 2.0-liter Patriot with the five-speed manual. The six-speed automatic drops those numbers to 24 mpg combined (21/28). The 2.0-liter Altitude and High Altitude rate 24 mpg combined (22/27) with their CVT.

Optional on the front-wheel-drive Sport and Latitude and standard on front-wheel-drive Limited is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. This engine is also standard on all Compasses with all-wheel drive. The five-speed manual is once again offered on the Sport, but otherwise the six-speed automatic handles the shifting -- unless you specify Freedom Drive II, which substitutes a CVT with a crawl mode.

Standard safety features for all 2015 Jeep Compass models include front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags antilock brakes, stability and traction control,  All front-wheel-drive models except the Limited feature rear drum brakes, while the rest of the lineup gets disc brakes front and rear.

In government crash testing, the  Jeep 2015 Compass received four out of a possible five stars for overall crash protection, with an unusually low three stars for total frontal crash protection and five stars for side crash protection.

Jeep upgraded some of the Compass's interior materials last year, including available accent stitching on certain trim pieces, but industrial-grade plastics are still the order of the day. Moreover, Bluetooth and USB connectivity remains optional, even on the upper trim levels, and the base Sport has to make do with crank windows and manual locks. That's something to keep in mind if you're eyeing a low-priced Compass -- it might not be equipped with the features you expect.
Front-seat occupants get plenty of room. That's a familiar Jeep hallmark: efficient use of space. Back-seat riders endure somewhat hard seatbacks, but should be satisfied otherwise, especially with the amount of headroom. Even the center rear position would be satisfactory, except for a cupholder console on the floor that prevents passengers' feet from finding much space. Cargo space is modest, beneath the cargo cover.
The Compass does offer some clever interior features, such as a cooled glovebox and those distinctive speakers that flip down and out from the raised liftgate for beach parties and the like. However, the maximum cargo capacity of 53.6 cubic feet pales in comparison to rival crossovers. Behind the second row, the Compass's 22.7-cubic-foot cargo hold is also relatively stingy.

The 2015 Compass's 2.0-liter engine keeps the cost down, but that's where the good news ends. Rowdy and underpowered, with disappointing fuel economy for such modest output, this engine is well past its prime. The 2.4-liter engine, on the other hand, has enough pep to stay with most competitors, and fuel economy barely suffers, though the refinement level isn't much higher. A word of caution to those drawn to the Altitude Edition's cool blacked-out styling: If you go with front-wheel drive, you're stuck with the smaller engine and the CVT, a truly miserable tandem. Fortunately, the Altitude (like the High Altitude) is also offered with all-wheel drive for 2015, which brings the larger engine and the more likable (if somewhat slow-shifting) six-speed automatic.

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