The first thing that I noticed when I sat in my 2014 Jeep Compass Limited tester was that it creaked. Like an arthritic square dancer, it emitted a kind of groan as soon as I stepped into it. This is the kind of sound you normally expect from something well-used…..not a model fresh off the assembly line.
The second thing was that the tire pressure monitor flashed incessantly – never shut off, actually – and told me that two of the tires were at 19.2 kilopascals, another was at 18.6 and the fourth at 22 kp. A quick check with my trusty tire gauge revealed that this was incorrect….judging from the monitor, the tire pressures actually varied from day to day. Not a big thing, but unnecessarily irritating.
The third item was that the 2.4 litre four cylinder “world engine” powering the Compass needs to be put out to pasture. This engine, co-utilized by Mitsubishi and Hyundai, is unrefined, loud, and down on useable power. Compared to, oh, Honda’s 2.4 litre four cylinder, it’s the beauty and the beast. Just about every competing manufacturer in this segment of the market has a superior – and smoother – four-banger in their line-up.
That said, the Compass does have an excellent 4WD system and can actually handle rough conditions with the best of them. Indeed, look into its spec sheet and if reveals a detailed list of departure angles, ground clearance, and “breakover” angles….it is a Jeep, after all and is definitely meant to be taken off-road. There are two settings: Freedom Drive I with a full-time 4×4 system, and Freedom Drive Off-Road, with a “crawl” feature. This latter set-up has a low range capability and is accessed via a chrome lever located behind the emergency brake on the transmission hump. If you have some serious off-terrain that needs overcoming, the Compass is arguably the pick of the litter in the compact SUV market.
Unfortunately, while the Compass may have a state-of-the-art 4WD system, my 4X4 version also had a CVT transmission. This, along with the engine, is the vehicle’s undoing. The engine develops 172 horsepower, which is in the ball park, but this cannot be classed as a road warrior by any stretch. That said, you can get either a six-speed automatic or five-speed manual, depending upon the model. I say, don’t even consider the CVT….over the long haul, it’ll drive you nuts. For what it’s worth, the six-speed automatic is all-new for 2014.
As far as interior elbow room goes, the Compass features 1517 litres of cargo space with the back seat folded down and will seat five. Comparatively, a Honda CR-V has 1054 litres, while a Toyota RAV4 has 2080. Both of these Japanese segment leaders have more power than the Compass, and feature livelier road performance.
They also offer better fuel economy….though not by a heck of a lot. Interestingly, you’d think the CVT transmission in the Limited would be thriftier in town…..you’d be wrong.
So if you’re in the market for a compact SUV, the Compass will take you off-road much more confidently than just about anything else, but you’ll pay for that ruggedness when it comes to around-town duty….which, let’s face it, is where most SUVs spend the majority of their time. You’ll get decent cargo room – although not the best in class – and competitive, but, again, not the best, fuel economy.
Price-wise, the Limited starts at $25,745, and you can toss in another $2500 for the off-road package (which also includes leather interior and Sirius satellite radio). By the time the dust settles, you’re up and over $30,000 before taxes and extras. Just for the sake of discussion, the base Sport 4X2 Compass starts at $17,745, but has a smaller 2.0 litre engine with a manual gearbox. Comparatively, a CR-V is more expensive off the top, starting at $25,990, while a FWD RAV4 starts at $23,870
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.4 litre four cylinder
Drive: Four-wheel drive
Horsepower: 172 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 165 ft. lb. @ 4400 rpm
Base Price: $25,745; as tested: $30,040
Fuel Economy: 10.3 city; 8.7 hwy. (Regular)
Alternatives: Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander, Chev Equinox, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sportage