By Don Fuller, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 5.1
The 2016 Jeep Compass is a compact- crossover SUV that’s been around a while and, as such, lags behind several newer, fresher competitors. Being car-based, it’s more appropriate as a front-drive, around-town hatchback than as a rugged trail-bopper, even though Jeep offers it in Trail-Rated format. Still, it doesn’t match, for example, the Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, the segment-leading Honda CR-V or even its Jeep family member, the Cherokee, all of which offer much more in the way of refinement, features, technology, on-road manners and daily driving pleasure. Modest in several ways, the 2016 Compass is at least available at an appropriately modest price.
The 2016 Compass offers a low-cost entry into Jeep ownership; if your expectations aren’t terribly demanding, it’s an adequate 5-passenger compact SUV. Jeep does offer the Compass in a Trail-Rated format, although it doesn’t seem to us to be exactly the thing for climbing over boulders.
There are numerous compact SUVs and crossover SUVs that offer generational leaps in refinement, style, features, comfort and driving pleasure compared to the Compass. Some of them cost more money, and they’re probably worth it.
KBB Expert Ratings
New for the 2016 Compass line is a Sport SE Package, which consists mainly of fancier trim and some minor convenience items. Added standard equipment includes Uconnect hands-free and SiriusXM Radio, and automatic headlights on the Latitude trim. Mojave Sand is a new color.
The 2016 Jeep Compass is offered with a choice of two capable but unexciting 4-cylinder engines. Standard is a 2.0-liter of 158 horsepower with a 5-speed manual or optional automatic...
... continuously variable transmission (CVT). We recommend the optional 2.4-liter of 172 horsepower; it’s available with the 5-speed manual, the CVT, a 6-speed automatic with Auto Stick, or another CVT that’s part of the Freedom Drive II 4-wheel-drive (4WD) package. The 2.4-liter has only a slight fuel economy disadvantage, except for the Freedom Drive II package which cuts EPA highway fuel economy down to a discouraging 23 mpg. Being car-based, the Compass rides, drives and steers about as would be expected of a small, front-wheel-drive (FWD) utility vehicle; acceptably, but nothing to generate enthusiasm for the long, curving way home. This vehicle is built to a price and sold for a price, and it drives like it; decently, but not inspiring.
FREEDOM DRIVE II OFF-ROAD GROUP
For the more serious off-roader, this package includes 4-wheel-drive off-road mode, brake-lock differential, engine oil cooler, fuel tank skidplate shield, full-size spare tire, Hill-descent Control, Hill-start Assist, P215/65R17 all-terrain tires, tow hooks, trail-tow wiring and other appropriate features.
SUN AND SOUND GROUP
This optional package offers plenty of both with a power sunroof and a Boston Acoustics premium sound system with nine speakers – including two that are built into the liftgate. The rearward speakers are meant to supply the soundtrack for fun at your next tailgate party.
The 2016 Compass has 5-passenger seating. Front seats are comfortable enough but in the Sport model, there is no driver’s-seat height adjuster and neither of the two trim levels offers a telescoping steering wheel. Rear seats will accommodate two adults reasonably well and three for short trips, and fold flat in a 60/40 split for extra cargo room. Seating material is cloth, with leather an option. The instrument panel is a simple affair and controls are logically placed and easily operated. The optional leather is nicely done, with attractive stitching on the seats and door panels.
Among Jeeps there are those that are square and boxy and those that are rounded off; the Compass is one of the latter and is more akin to the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee – thus, its on-pavement, rather than off-road, flavor. We don’t like the thick pillars, particularly the large, pyramid-shaped pillars at the rear, which seriously limit several areas of important outward vision; lane changes in the Compass will require trust in the mirrors. Along the sides, large fender bulges lend a sort of off-pavement ruggedness to the look.
In its least expensive Sport trim, the Compass has a moderate assortment of standard equipment, including air conditioning, cruise control, power heated outside mirrors, power windows and door locks, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary jack and 16-inch aluminum wheels. Stepping up to the Latitude model brings an automatic transmission, heated front seats, upgraded Uconnect infotainment system, 115-volt power outlet, leather-wrapped steering wheel with built-in audio buttons and several trim and convenience items. The 2.0-liter engine and front-drive are standard on both Sport and Latitude trim levels.
The easiest way to add features to the 2016 Jeep Compass is to upgrade from the Sport to the Latitude model. Beyond that, most of the options are in packages; All-weather Capability Group, Freedom Drive II Off-road Group, High Altitude Package (leather seating, power sunroof and 18-inch chrome-clad wheels), Power Value Group (several power assists), Security and Cargo Convenience Group (which we recommend), Sport SE Package (mainly trim items), Premium Sound Group, Sun and Sound Group and Trailer-tow Prep Group. The 2.4-liter engine and both Freedom Drive I 4WD and Freedom Drive II 4WD are available on both trim levels.
The standard engine for the 2016 Jeep Compass is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder of 158 horsepower with a 5-speed manual transmission. Our recommendation is the up-level 2.4-liter 4-cylinder of 172 horsepower, which should provide a big boost for hauling cargo or merging with freeways. Beyond the 5-speed manual there are three automatics, a 6-speed with Auto Stick and two continuously variable transmissions (CVTs); transmission choice depends upon the engine and selecting either front-drive or 4-wheel drive. The Compass will tow a trailer, just not a very big one, with a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 pounds. Fuel economy can range from a high of 30 mpg highway for the 2.0-liter with 5-speed manual to 20 mpg city for the 2.4-liter with Freedom Drive II 4-wheel drive.
158 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
141 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg (FWD, manual), 22/26 mpg (FWD, CVT)
172 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
165 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/29 mpg (FWD, manual), 21/28 mpg (FWD, automatic), 22/27 mpg (4WD, manual), 20/26 mpg (Freedom Drive I, 4WD, automatic), 20/23 mpg (Freedom Drive II w/Off-Road package, 4WD, CVT)
With a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) right around $20,500 for the base Sport version, the 2016 Jeep Compass is one of the least expensive compact SUVs available. But, going upward in trim and thus price, the Compass becomes difficult to justify against its fresher competition. A base Ford Escape is roughly $2,000 more, much more modern, more fun to drive and uses less gas. A base Chevy Trax is about the same price, distinctly modern and returns better fuel economy. A loaded Compass can top $30,000; that buys a well-equipped, larger and much more modern Jeep Cherokee with roughly equivalent fuel economy. However, if the Jeep Compass is your choice, check with KBB.com’s Fair Purchase Price to see what consumers are paying in your area. Resale value is another sore spot for the Compass, as it tends to depreciate faster than its competitors.