The 2012 Jeep Compass continues with the junior Grand Cherokee look it adopted for 2011. The compact SUV remains a car-based 4-door hatchback that shares underpinnings with the Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber. It was the brand’s first-ever model available with both front- and 4-wheel drive. The Compass offers ride, handling, step-in height and fuel economy more akin to a car’s than a truck-based SUV’s. A 158-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is standard, but performance with the larger 172-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is much more satisfactory. Although a 5-speed manual transmission is available, most Compass SUVs were built with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that provides good fuel economy and performance but tends to cause the engine to drone during acceleration, which takes some getting used to.
The Compass will carry five passengers (only four comfortably) and 22.7 cu ft. of cargo (up to 60.7 cu ft. with the rear seat and front passenger seat folded flat). Standard safety gear includes dual front airbags, overhead airbags, electronic roll mitigation, stability and traction control and 4-wheel anti-lock brakes. Front-side airbags are optional. Available innovative features include a 115-volt charge port, a rechargeable and removable cargo-area flashlight and detachable lift-gate speakers for tailgate parties.
The Jeep Compass is a good choice for buyers looking for bare-bones utility, car-like driving manners and available 4-wheel drive in a low-cost compact package. See the 2012 Jeep Compass models for sale near you
What We Like
Car-like ride; decent fuel economy (for a Jeep); Grand Cherokee-like styling; standard stability control and overhead airbags; Uconnect infotainment system; fold-down front seat
What We Don’t
Buzzy engine; disconnected feel of the CVT; hard plastic interior trim; numb steering
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
Standard on Compass Sport and Latitude models with front-wheel drive is a 2.0-liter double-overhead-camshaft (DOHC) 4-cylinder with 158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque. Using the new EPA formula, it’s rated at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with the CVT and 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with the 5-speed manual transmission. The 2.0-liter engine runs regular unleaded fuel.
Standard on Limited models as well as the Sport and Latitude with 4WD is a 2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder with 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. With standard front-wheel drive, the 2011 Compass received an EPA rating of 23 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with the 5-speed manual transmission and 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with the CVT. Four-wheel-drive models are rated at 22 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with the 5-speed manual and 21 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with the CVT. Versions with the optional trail-rated Freedom Drive II 4WD system get a 20 mpg city/23 mpg hwy rating. The 2.4-liter engine also runs on regular unleaded.
Two Compass 4-wheel-drive systems are available. Freedom Drive I is a full-time active system similar to those found on many cars that can be driven year-round. A lock mode for the center coupling provides extra traction in deep snow and sand. It’s not officially trail-rated by Jeep, however, and isn’t intended for serious off-road use. Freedom Drive II is trail-rated for more serious off-road use and includes low-range gearing, skid plates, a raised ride height and all-terrain tires.
Standard Features & Options
The 2012 Compass is available in the Sport, Latitude and Limited trims.
Standard amenities on the Sport include air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, deep-tint glass, cloth seats, a carpeted cargo load floor with fold-flat storage, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary jack, a front-center console with a split-lid sliding armrest, a tilt (not telescopic) steering wheel with audio controls, variable intermittent wipers, a removable and rechargeable interior flashlight, illuminated cupholders, a 60/40-split fold-flat rear bench seat, 215/60R17 tires wrapping 17-inch alloy wheels, a compact spare tire, fog lamps, bright roof side rails, a rear-window wiper/washer and power windows, heated mirrors and door locks.
The Latitude gains standard heated cloth front seats, a driver’s height adjuster, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 115-volt outlet, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a reclining 60/40-folding rear seat and the option of a power sunroof, a trip computer, an auto-dimming mirror, SiriusXM, a 9-speaker Boston Acoustics stereo with removable speakers, a HomeLink garage-door opener, a cargo security shade and Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth. Four-wheel-drive models get 4-wheel disc brakes.
Moving up to the Limited adds standard leather seat trim, a leather-wrapped parking brake handle, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, SiriusXM, an AM/FM/DVD/MP3 stereo with a 6-disc CD changer and HD Radio, 215/55R18 tires on 18-in alloy wheels, a tire-pressure monitor, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a HomeLink garage-door opener. A voice-command navigation system with a touchscreen is optional.
An optional 2,000-lb Trailer Tow package includes an engine-oil cooler, a full-size spare and a rear wiring harness.
It may look like a smaller version of the Grand Cherokee, but the Compass doesn’t enjoy the same strong resale values of other Jeep models. But that’s good news for savvy buyers looking for a used compact 4-door hatchback bargain. Unlike other Jeeps, the Compass is seldom taken off the pavement, so the undercarriage is less likely to get banged up.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following recalls for the 2012 Compass:
The occupant restraint control module may short-circuit, preventing the front and side airbags as well as the seatbelt pretensioners from deploying in a crash, increasing the injury risk.
A software error may delay the deployment of the side airbags and seatbelt pretensioners in a rollover, increasing the injury risk.
A defective fuel tank tube may block fuel flow, stalling the engine and increasing the crash risk.
A damaged rollover valve in the fuel tank may lead to leakage in a crash or rollover, increasing the fire risk.
Recall repairs are required by law, even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
The NHTSA did not rate the 2012 Compass for frontal and side impacts but gave it four stars for rollover performance. However, it gave the 2010 model, equipped with optional front-seat side airbags, four stars for frontal impact and rollover performance and five for side impacts.
The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did not rate the 2012 Compass for front impacts or roof strength but gave it a Good rating for its head restraints and seats, as well as side impacts with optional side airbags. It received a Marginal rating for side impacts without the side airbags.
Fiat Chrysler covered the 2012 Compass with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, including roadside assistance, a 5-year/100,000-mile corrosion-perforation warranty and a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The 2012 Compass is too old to qualify for certified pre-owned status.
Other Cars to Consider
2012 Ford Escape — This top-selling urban runabout is offered with a 171-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder or a 240-hp 3.0-liter V6. There’s also a hybrid version with an EPA rating of 34 mpg city. The Escape has carlike road manners and a roomy interior, plus optional Active Park Assist. Both FWD and AWD are offered.
2012 Subaru Forester — All Forester models come with standard AWD and have a good reputation for all-weather traction and durability. The roomy crossover wagon is available with a regular-fuel 170-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder or a premium-fuel 224-hp 2.5-liter turbo.
With styling that mimics Jeep’s Grand Cherokee flagship, the Compass looks more upscale now. It offers a lot of interior room for its size and decent fuel economy. Overall, it represents a good all-around transportation buy. It’s most fun with a 5-speed manual, but few were sold that way, so you may have to settle for one with a CVT automatic. Stick to the 2.4-liter engine, as the slight fuel economy advantage of the 2.0-liter isn’t worth the drop in performance when merging, passing and climbing steep grades. While the base Sport includes standard niceties like cruise control, remote keyless entry and power windows, mirrors and door locks, look to the midlevel Latitude model for upgrades such as heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and the option of a sunroof, SiriusXM and voice command with Bluetooth.
Always get a Carfax vehicle history report. Select a Jeep that’s seen obvious care and stay away from modified examples. Check with the dealer to make sure the Compass you’re looking at has had its safety-recall items addressed.