By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 4.8
The 2012 Jeep Compass and its corporate sibling, the Patriot, are anomalies for the Jeep brand. Born not of hunting, fishing or the Great Escape, they were based on the Dodge Caliber, which resulted in two small crossover utility vehicles that are neither fish nor fowl. As a Jeep, the 2012 Compass falls woefully short in terms of off-road capability (although it's not bad on slippery surfaces), while as a small 5-door it's only mediocre in its efficiency, utility and fun-to-drive factors. Even with the significant improvements thrown at the model in 2011 and the availability of 4-wheel-drive (4WD) models as well front-wheel drive (FWD), the 2012 Jeep Compass is a product of the old Chrysler Corporation and not really up to being categorized as a true Jeep.
The 2012 Compass is an accessory for those whose idea of "off-road" extends no farther than a dirt parking lot at the football stadium. Just don't expect it to be a genuine Jeep.
If you are a true Jeep enthusiast looking for an entry-level price point and a modicum of economy, you'll ultimately be disappointed by the car-based credentials of the Jeep Compass; a base Grand Cherokee would provide you with a far more capable choice. If your needs and tastes lean toward a car-based crossover, we'd suggest a Subaru Forester if you want something more expansive, or a Nissan Juke if you'd like something more expressive.
After receiving a full menu of aggressive updates in 2011, there's little that's new for the 2012 Jeep Compass.
Driving Impressions The beauty of a car-based crossover is its on-road composure, and both the steering and suspension of the Jeep Compass provide decent connectivity to the road. That...good news, however, is diminished by Jeep's continued use of the CVT automatic transmission; we suggest you opt for the base Compass with the manual transmission.
Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package
With Freedom Drive II the 2012 Compass achieves Jeep's "Trail Rated" moniker, a credible achievement given its car-based roots. With what Jeep describes as a second-generation CVT with low range, in combination with all-terrain tires, a 1-inch higher ride height and full-size spare tire, you can, indeed, get off the beaten path.
Sun and Sound Group
Combine nine Boston Acoustic speakers with two articulating liftgate speakers and Sirius Satellite radio and you can have the music for a hearty party. Whether at the beach - and with either 4-wheel-drive option the 2012 Jeep Compass can deal with some sand - or at the trailhead, the optional sound system makes it easy to share the good times and good sounds with your friends.
The interior of the 2012 Jeep Compass includes soft-touch materials on the door trim, a comfortable center armrest and a steering wheel that provides a decent feel and grip. Other details include a Uconnect media center with iPod interface, available Sirius satellite radio and navigation, illuminated cup holders, liftgate speakers and fold-flat rear seats. The end result is not unattractive, but pricing for a well-equipped 2012 Jeep Compass can easily climb into the high $20,000 range.
At their launch in 2007 both the Compass and Patriot wore front fascias with strong family resemblances to the Jeep Wrangler, with 7-slot grilles and one round headlight per side, but the 2012 Jeep Compass now more closely follows the look of the Grand Cherokee. However, while it looks less like the Dodge Caliber upon which it's based, you still can't think of it as looking like a real Jeep, and the architecture remains saddled with a relatively narrow track that will accept little more than smallish tires. In short, as a Jeep it still looks too much like an entry-level hatchback.
Offered in three trim levels - Sport, Latitude and Limited - the 2012 Jeep Compass is not without features, both standard and optional. The availability of a 5-speed manual (Sport only) is a nice surprise, especially for those not wanting Chrysler's optional continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The 4-wheel independent suspension is another bonus and, to Jeep's credit, even base Sport models of the 2012 Compass offer numerous standard comfort and convenience features, including air conditioning, power door locks, a removable and rechargeable flashlight and Uconnect media center.
The availability of Freedom Drive II gives the 2012 Jeep Compass the semblance of a low range for aggressive off-roading. You won't, to be sure, want to go boulder hopping (there simply isn't enough ground clearance), but you'll be surprised and delighted with the capabilities of the Compass, when so equipped, to deal with slick surfaces and bad weather. Beyond that, we'd mention the All-weather Capability Group, which includes all-season floor mats, engine-block heater, all-terrain tires and tow hooks; the All-weather Capability Group may be the best way to make this "pretend" Jeep feel more like the real thing.
The base engine for the 2012 Jeep Compass is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder of 158 horsepower. We recommend the optionally-available 2.4 liter, which makes 172 horsepower and is standard with the up-market Limited trim level and mandatory if you select either of the two 4-wheel-drive packages.
158 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
141 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/29 (FWD, manual), 23/27 (FWD, automatic)
172 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
165 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 (FWD, manual), 21/27 (FWD, automatic)
22/28 (4WD, manual), 21/26 (Freedom Drive I 4WD, automatic), 20/23 (Freedom Drive II w/Off-Road package, 4WD, CVT)