ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: If there's any better example of why true “car guys” shouldn't be permitted the helm at car companies, it's the Jeep Compass. Any self-respecting car lover -- let alone a Jeep fanatic -- would have had the tooling for this thing destroyed years ago. Assembly lines would have been razed to the ground and plowed into the earth, which would have then been contaminated with whatever the Industrial Age equivalent of salt is (asbestos, perhaps).
But Jeep execs didn't do that. No, they slapped a “Trail Rated” badge on the thing and kept on cranking it out. That's gumption. That's what it takes to run one of the world's largest automakers, apparently.
Anyway, maybe that's harsh. But there's something about the Compass that inspires snark. It is a grim reminder of a dark, desperate time in Detroit's history; it can't hold a candle to the Grand Cherokee, or Wrangler or even the new Cherokee (from what I've seen of it).
To be fair, the interior of this Compass felt quite a bit nicer than the one in the last Compass -- or was it a Patriot -- that I was in. The Latitude package does get a more upscale interior than the plastic-heavy Sport, but it might also be a reflection of the overall increase in quality we've seen across the Jeep lineup. Unfortunately, it smelled -- badly -- of off-gassing materials, to the point where I could taste it in my mouth. New-car smell is one thing, but I'll pass on new-car taste.
I don't think much needs to be said about the styling except that you can't see the exterior from behind the wheel.
It's a dog at high speeds -- spotted an interesting car on the expressway (a manufacturer-plated Ford Ranger T6) and wanted to get a closer look, and I really, really had to flog the Compass to catch up. The powertrain protested the entire way; though I did close the gap between the pickup and me, I can't remember the last time I felt so helpless behind the wheel.
What's the reward for all of this? I would say cheap 4WD, but the sticker on our tester is more than $27,000. Poor fuel economy (21 mpg EPA combined) doesn't even help make the noisy, fun-annihilating CVT more bearable. Subarus offer the same combination of four powered wheels and so-so fuel economy, but they seem to have more character and lower sticker prices.
Jeep, bring on the Cherokee.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: So they're still making this thing? I thought it was sent off to pasture a while back. I know it received a refresh a few years ago, making it look a little bit better, like a mini Grand Cherokee. That helped, but I still can't see a good reason for picking up a Jeep Compass.
They're not as inexpensive as I thought they should be, though this one does have a good handful of options. If Jeep could sell it for less than $20K, I think it would have a lot more buyers. Currently there are a lot of similar vehicles for less.
It's also “Trail Rated.” And you can tell by the badges, jacked-up stance and the gigantic wheel wells. But seriously someone here should take this thing off-road, and see what it can actually do. I know we all just want to make fun of the little truckster.
And there's good reason! The center console feels dated, though thankfully, it's lost the blue-green LEDs all over the dash and gauges. The ignition is definitely from a Chrysler Sebring circa 1999, and the rest of the controls could easily be as old.
The 2.4-liter is anemic unless you put your foot to the floor, and the CVT is about as annoying as they come. Mileage only came out to 20 mpg, though I did continually feel the need to floor it, especially when merging onto the expressway.
It has a high seating position, and I know people like that. There is a modicum of space in the back, with a good amount of height for tall things. Jeep fans looking for a little better mileage, less style and less resale value should definitely look to the Compass. Not my cup of tea.
2014 Jeep Compass Latitude
Base Price: $24,990
As-Tested Price: $27,305
Drivetrain: 2.4-liter I4; 4WD, continuously variable transmission
Output: 172 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 165 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,345 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 20/23/21 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 21.1 mpg
Options: Parkview rear back-up camera, UConnect, 6.5-inch touchscreen display, 40 GB hard drive with 28 GB available, remote start ($795); Freedom Drive II off-road group including bright exhaust tip, hill start assist, all-terrain tires, brake lock differential, hill descent control, full-size spare, transmission and engine oil pan skid plates, fuel tank skid plate, tow hooks, engine oil cooler, “Trail Rated” badges, all-season floor mats, trailer tow wiring harness ($550); security and cargo convenience group including security alarm, tire-pressure monitoring display, auto-dimming rearview mirror, electronic vehicle information center, universal garage door opener and soft tonneau cover ($495); Uconnect voice command including Bluetooth, auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone, remote USB port, SiriusXM satellite radio with one-year subscription ($475).
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