You know how the old adage goes: "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything." But every car deserves a review, however unloved it may be. And that’s how we end up discussing the 2015 Jeep Compass compact crossover.
In fairness, Jeep has made sure the Compass has a few things going for it, most notably rock-bottom pricing and above-average off-road ability when equipped with a few special options. But that’s where the positives end. Those off-road options result in being stuck with an unpleasant continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and dismal fuel economy as part of the deal. Then there’s the weak base engine, disappointing crash-test results and generally unrefined character that put this crossover at the back of the pack.
If you’re looking for alternatives within the Jeep family, there are two new arrivals: the sleek, satisfying 2015 Jeep Cherokee and the upstart 2015 Jeep Renegade. The Subaru XV Crosstrek provides comparable off-road chops and more polish in other respects, while superior on-road performers are plentiful, including the sharp-handling 2015 Mazda CX-5 and the rewarding, high-tech 2015 Ford Escape. If cost is your top concern, the Nissan Rogue Select is similarly value-oriented, and it’s a considerably more pleasant car all around. We can think of a few nice things about the 2015 Jeep Compass, but its competitors simply are nicer across the board.
The 2015 Compass’s 2.0-liter engine keeps the cost down, but that’s where the good news ends. Rowdy and underpowered, with disappointing fuel economy for such modest output, this engine is well past its prime. The 2.4-liter engine, on the other hand, has enough pep to stay with most competitors, and fuel economy barely suffers, though the refinement level isn’t much higher. A word of caution to those drawn to the Altitude Edition’s cool blacked-out styling: If you go with front-wheel drive, you’re stuck with the smaller engine and the CVT, a truly miserable tandem. Fortunately, the Altitude (like the High Altitude) is also offered with all-wheel drive for 2015, which brings the larger engine and the more likable (if somewhat slow-shifting) 6-speed automatic.
Ride quality is another weak spot for the Compass. The basic suspension design was sourced many years ago from the underwhelming Dodge Caliber hatchback, and it struggles to cope with today’s well-worn urban roads. Expect a nervous, bouncy drive on such surfaces, with more impact harshness than you’ll feel in most rivals. Handling is also below average, with an initial sense of control giving way to excessive body roll and vague steering in corners. At least you can do some respectable off-roading with Freedom Drive II, though other Compasses are unremarkable in this department.
The 2015 Jeep Compass is a five-passenger small crossover SUV available in three primary trim levels: Sport, Latitude and Limited. Two subtrims — Altitude Edition and High Altitude Edition — add features to the Sport and Latitude, respectively.
Standard features for the Sport include 16-inch alloy wheels (upgraded to 17s if the larger 2.4-liter engine is specified), foglights, roof rails, air-conditioning, cruise control, manual accessories (windows, locks and mirrors), 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a tilt-only steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary sound jack. The optional Power Value Group adds power accessories, heated mirrors, keyless entry and additional body-color exterior pieces.
The Altitude Edition package adds 18-inch black gloss alloy wheels, blacked-out exterior trim, "sport mesh" upholstery, heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with sound controls.
The Latitude starts with the Sport’s standard features and adds a bright mesh grille, extended exterior and interior chrome trim, a height-adjustable driver seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 115-volt power outlet and the Altitude Edition’s leather-wrapped steering wheel (with sound controls) and heated front seats.
The High Altitude Edition package lacks the Altitude Edition’s blacked-out trim, but it starts with the Latitude’s equipment roster and throws in 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (plus manual lumbar adjustment) and a sunroof.
The range-topping Limited starts with the High Altitude’s equipment and adds 18-inch wheels, projector headlamps, additional chrome trim, automatic climate control, a driver information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touchscreen (with optional hard-drive-based music storage and navigation), a six-CD changer and satellite radio.
The touchscreen interface (with or without navigation) is optional on Latitude. All four-wheel-drive models are eligible for the Freedom Drive II Off-Road package, which includes the 2.4-liter engine, an engine oil cooler, a special CVT with crawl mode, 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, haul hooks, underbody skid plates, a full-size spare tire, hill-descent control, hill-start assist and (for the Sport trim) a height-adjustable driver seat.
The Latitude and Limited trims are eligible for the Security and Cargo Convenience package. On the Latitude this adds the auto-dimming rearview mirror, a security alarm and the driver information display. The Limited’s version of this package adds remote start, a USB port and Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity. Jeep also offers Bluetooth as a stand-alone option on all trims.
Additionally available on the Latitude and Limited are the Sun and Sound package (including a sunroof, a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system, two flip-down tailgate speakers and satellite radio) and the Trailer-Tow Prep package (including an engine oil cooler, a trailer-tow wiring harness and a full-size spare).
Jeep upgraded some of the Compass’s interior materials last year, including available accent stitching on certain trim pieces, but industrial-grade plastics are still the order of the day. Moreover, Bluetooth and USB connectivity remains optional, even on the upper trim levels, and the base Sport has to make do with crank windows and manual locks. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re eyeing a low-priced Compass — it might not be equipped with the features you expect.
The front seats are cozy enough and adequately supportive for longer drives, though the seatback cushions might be a little narrow for larger adults. Rear legroom is tight for this class, reminding us more of a compact hatchback than a high-riding crossover. In terms of infotainment, the optional 6.5-inch touchscreen is older and less user-friendly than the 8.4-inch "Uconnect" interface found in most other Jeep and Chrysler models.
The Compass does offer some clever interior features, such as a cooled glovebox and those distinctive speakers that flip down and out from the raised liftgate for beach parties and the like. However, the maximum cargo capacity of 53.6 cubic feet pales in comparison to competitor crossovers. Behind the second row, the Compass’s 22.7-cubic-foot cargo hold is also relatively stingy.
Standard safety features for all 2015 Jeep Compass models include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. All front-wheel-drive models except the Limited feature rear drum brakes, while the rest of the lineup gets disc brakes front and rear.
In SUVS brake testing, the Compass came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 121 feet, which is average for this class of vehicle.
In government crash testing, the 2015 Jeep Compass received four stars (out of a possible five) for overall crash protection, with an unusually low three stars for total frontal crash protection and five stars for side crash protection.
The 2015 Compass’s base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. It’s only offered on Sport and Latitude trims with front-wheel drive. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on the 2.0-liter Sport, while the 2.0-liter Latitude comes only with a 6-speed automatic.
Front-wheel-drive Altitude and High Altitude models are equipped with the 2.0-liter engine and a CVT.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 26 miles per gallon combined (23 city/30 highway) for the 2.0-liter Patriot with the 5-speed manual. The 6-speed automatic drops those numbers to 23 miles per gallon combined (21/28). The 2.0-liter Altitude and High Altitude rate 24 miles per gallon combined (22/27) with their CVT.
Optional on the front-wheel-drive Sport and Latitude and standard on front-wheel-drive Limited is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that produces 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. This engine is also standard on all Compasses with all-wheel drive. The 5-speed manual is once again offered on the Sport, but otherwise the 6-speed automatic handles the shifting — unless you specify Freedom Drive II, which substitutes a CVT with a crawl mode.
With the manual and front-wheel drive, the 2.4-liter Patriot is rated at 25 miles per gallon combined (23 city/29 highway). Add the 6-speed automatic and you’re looking at 23 miles per gallon combined (21/27). With all-wheel drive, the 2.4-liter Patriot returns 24 miles per gallon combined (22/27) with the manual, 23 miles per gallon combined (21/27) with the 6-speed automatic and a woeful 21 miles per gallon combined (20/23) with Freedom Drive II’s CVT.
In SUVS testing, an all-wheel-drive Compass with the 2.4-liter engine and 6-speed automatic transmission went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 9.4 seconds, an average time for this class.
Optional flip-down tailgate speakers; above-average off-road capability with Freedom Drive II; attractively priced.
Aside from its aggressive pricing, the 2015 Jeep Compass is not a competitive entrant in the compact crossover segment.