By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 5.3
While Jeep has made great strides with the exterior and interior enhancement for the 2014 Compass, its overall appeal still falls short of the benchmarks set by the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and Subaru Forester. Wearing the "Trail Rated" badge may impress some, but true Jeep aficionados know this little crossover SUV can't keep up with its big brothers, the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. Riding atop an aging platform, the Compass doesn't deliver the same ride and handling found in many newer products, and although Jeep has addressed part of the performance issue with a new 6-speed automatic transmission, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) remains on 4WD Compass models with Freedom Drive II, the most desirable of the off-road systems.
If you're looking for a compact and fuel-efficient small SUV with rugged looks, passable off-road credentials and a number of unique features not found on the competition, the 2014 Jeep Compass may just pull you in.
If you are serious about going off-road, there are far better vehicles than the Jeep Compass, even in the compact segment. In terms of engine refinement and overall performance, the Compass falls far behind newer models like the Subaru Forester, Ford Escape and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.
The Compass receives an all-new 6-speed automatic transmission, but only on the front-drive and 4x4 Freedom Drive I models. More tweaks to the interior and exterior help somewhat, as do new safety features like standard front seat side airbags and an available rear backup camera.
Driving Impressions The 2014 Jeep Compass offers a choice of two 4-cylinder engines, neither of which strikes us as terribly refined or powerful. The larger 2.4-liter engine would be our first choice,...delivering decent acceleration and fuel economy. Of course, the beauty of a car-based crossover SUV is its on-road composure, and both the steering and suspension of the 2014 Jeep Compass provide decent connectivity to the road. There is a new 6-speed automatic and improved 5-speed manual transmission on the Sport model, both of which greatly improve the Compass performance. Unfortunately, the most desirable off-road package, Freedom Drive II, remains saddled with the somewhat lackluster CVT2 automatic transmission.
FREEDOM DRIVE II OFF-ROAD PACKAGE
With Freedom Drive II the 2014 Compass achieves Jeep's "Trail Rated" moniker, a credible achievement given its car-based roots. With what Jeep describes as a 2nd-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 2014 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 2014 Jeep Compass includes soft-touch materials on the door trim, a comfortable center armrest and a steering wheel that provides 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 Compass can easily climb into the $30,000 range.Exterior
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 2014 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 2014 Jeep Compass SUV is not without features, both standard and optional. The availability of a 5-speed manual (Sport only) is a nice surprise. The 4-wheel independent suspension is another bonus and, to Jeep's credit, even base Sport models offer numerous standard comfort and convenience features, including air conditioning, power door locks, power windows, cruise control, power heated outside mirrors, a removable and rechargeable flashlight and Uconnect media center.
The availability of Freedom Drive II gives the 2014 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 pleasantly surprised 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 – this option package may be the best way to make this "pretend" Jeep SUV feel more like the real thing.
The 2014 Jeep Compass' base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder of 158 horsepower. We recommend the optionally available 2.4-liter four, 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: 23/30 mpg (FWD, manual), 21/28 mpg (FWD, automatic)
172 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
165 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 mpg (FWD, manual), 21/28 mpg (FWD, 6-speed automatic), 23/28 mpg (4WD, manual), 21/27 mpg (Freedom Drive I 4WD, 6-speed automatic), 20/23 mpg (Freedom Drive II w/Off-Road package, 4WD, CVT automatic)
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of roughly $20,000, the base 2014 Jeep Compass Sport occupies the only price point where a Compass purchase can begin to make sense. And, given the pricing difference between it and a comparably-equipped Patriot, you really need to appreciate the looks of the Compass to consider the additional expense. As you go up in trim levels the argument for a Compass purchase grows even more marginal; a Limited starts at just over $26,000 and, with options, can easily climb past $30,000. If a 2014 Jeep Compass is your one-and-only consideration, consult Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price for an idea of what consumers are paying in your area. And, don't regard the Compass as an investment, as the long-term resale value falls short of virtually everything in its competitive segment.