The 2013 Jeep Compass compact crossover may not be as well regarded as its big brothers, but it still claims to have the heart and soul of a Jeep, albeit in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package. When it comes to overall refinement, however, Jeep's compact crossover still lags behind almost every crossover on the market. To be fair, the Compass's recently upgraded exterior and interior design helps smooth over some of its more glaring shortcomings.
Bearing a notable resemblance to the popular Grand Cherokee SUV, the Compass looks tougher than your average compact crossover. And like every Jeep model, this one offers Trail Rated status, meaning it can perform capably off-road -- a rarity in this class.
Interested in the 2013 Jeep Compass? Here's what you need to know ...
What's New for 2013
The Compass is unchanged for 2013.
What We Like
Reasonable price; respectably off-road capable with Freedom Drive II
What We Don't
Unrefined engine and transmission; poor crash-test scores; old-fashioned drum brakes on lower trims; questionable resale value
The base engine in the Compass is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 158 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is the only layout offered. It's available with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic (CVT). With the 5-speed, it returns 23 miles per gallon city/30 mpg hwy, while the CVT yields 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.
Also offered is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes 172 hp. The same transmissions are featured along with two all-wheel-drive systems, including the CVT-only Freedom Drive II with simulated low-range gearing. Fuel economy starts at 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with the manual and front-wheel drive, dropping to 20 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with Freedom Drive II.
Options & Standard Features
The 2013 Jeep Compass is available in base Sport, mid-grade Latitude or top-of-the-line Limited trim.
The Sport ($20,490) starts with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, cruise control, air conditioning, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel and a 4-speaker audio system with an auxiliary audio input.
The Latitude ($22,790) classes things up with a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary controls, heated seats (including driver height adjustment), reclining rear seat backs and a 115-volt power outlet.
The Limited ($25,490) tacks on the 2.4-liter engine (optional on other trims), 18-in wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seats (with driver power adjustments), automatic climate control and satellite radio.
Specifying the Freedom Drive I all-wheel-drive system bumps prices up by $1,900, accounting for the high end of the price range cited above. Freedom Drive II, which adds simulated low-range gearing, skid plates, an oil cooler and other off-road-oriented driving aids, is available at additional cost, as are a sunroof, a touchscreen infotainment interface with digital music storage, a navigation system (Limited only), a USB port, Bluetooth and premium Boston Acoustics audio (with flip-down tailgate speakers).
Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes with 4-wheel discs on all-wheel-drive models but inferior rear drums on front-wheel-drive models (except Limited FWD), stability control and four airbags (front and full-length side curtain). Front-seat side airbags are optional.
The Compass received a subpar three stars overall in government crash tests, including three stars for frontal impacts and four stars for side impacts.
Behind the Wheel
The Compass may look cool on paper and in pictures, but it loses its luster once you experience it in the real world. Neither engine accelerates well, and each is rather crude and loud. The CVT transmission doesn't help, as a heavy foot yields more noise than forward progress. While the Compass delivers a fairly smooth ride, its steering is vague, with lots of play in the wheel and slow response time. Glancing around the cabin, the interior appointments are unimpressive, as well. The Compass has some neat features, but it's not exactly a car that makes you want to take the long way home -- unless you have Freedom Drive II, we suppose.
Other Cars to Consider
Kia Sportage -- The Sportage presents a sleeker package with a more modern interior, better handling and fuel economy.
Ford Escape -- The Escape handles like a Focus on stilts, which is essentially what it is, and its technology offerings are top-notch.
Mazda CX-5 -- The CX-5 is the most rewarding compact crossover to drive on pavement, and its fuel economy puts the Compass to shame.
Jeep Wrangler -- None of the three crossovers mentioned above has any off-roading pedigree, but if that's what you're after, why not just get the real thing? The iconic Wrangler continues to be a best-seller because there's no substitute for its go-anywhere, fun-in-the-sun skill set.
We suggest taking a serious look at the Freedom Drive II off-road package. There's honestly little else to recommend this Jeep, given the strength of its competition.