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2015 Jeep Compass: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2015

The 2015 Jeep Compass may not be as well-regarded as its big brothers, but it still has 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 SUV lags behind almost every crossover on the market. To be fair, the Compass model's recently upgraded exterior and interior designs help smooth over some of its more glaring shortcomings, while the available 6-speed automatic transmission is an improvement over the disappointing continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

Resembling 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 that it has potential off-road capability, which is a rarity in this class. With the all-new Renegade just around the corner, though, we recommend waiting a bit longer to get the entry-level Jeep of your dreams.

What's New for 2015?

The 2015 Compass is essentially unchanged.

What We Like

Reasonable base price; respectable off-road capability with Freedom Drive II

What We Don't

Unrefined engines; poor crash-test scores; old-fashioned drum brakes on lower trims; questionable resale value

How Much?

$19,990-$27,190

Fuel Economy

The base Compass engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 158 horsepower and 141 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is mandatory with this engine. Generally, it's available with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic, though the limited-production 2.0-liter Altitude and High Altitude models come with a CVT. With the manual, fuel economy is rated at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, while the automatic yields 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy. The CVT returns 22/27 mpg.

Also offered is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes 172 hp and 165 lb-ft. Front-wheel drive is standard, but two different all-wheel-drive systems can be specified, including the off-road-ready Freedom Drive II, which retains the CVT's services and features simulated low-range gearing. All other 2.4-liter Compass models get either the 5-speed manual or the 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy starts at 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with the manual and front-wheel drive, dropping to 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with the 6-speed automatic. All-wheel drive knocks the manual down to 22/27 mpg and the automatic to 21/27 mpg. The Freedom Drive II setup yields a woeful 20 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with its CVT.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Jeep Compass is available in base Sport, mid-grade Latitude or top-of-the-line Limited trim.

The Sport ($19,990) starts with 16-inch (2.0-liter engine) or 17-in (2.4-liter engine) wheels, fog lights, cruise control, air conditioning, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel and a 4-speaker audio system with an auxiliary audio input. Power accessories are an extra-cost option.

The Latitude ($23,890) classes things up with chrome trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary controls, heated front seats (including driver height adjustment), reclining rear seatbacks and a 115-volt power outlet.

The Limited ($27,190) tacks on the 2.4-liter engine (optional on other trims), 18-in chrome wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a universal garage-door opener, leather seats (with driver power adjustments), a trip computer, automatic climate control, a touchscreen interface, a rearview camera and an upgraded sound system with satellite radio.

The Freedom Drive I all-wheel-drive system adds all-season versatility on paved roads, while Freedom Drive II adds simulated low-range gearing, skid plates, an oil cooler and other off-road-oriented driving aids. Other options include a sunroof, a touchscreen infotainment interface with digital music storage, a navigation system (Limited only), a USB port, Bluetooth, a rearview camera and premium Boston Acoustics audio (with flip-down tailgate speakers).

Safety

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 six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain).

In government crash tests, the 2015 Compass was awarded four stars overall, including five stars for side impacts but just three stars for front impacts.

Behind the Wheel

The Compass may look cool on paper and in pictures, but it quickly loses its luster once you experience it in the real world. Neither engine accelerates well, and both are rather crude and loud. The new 6-speed automatic is more satisfying than the CVT, but a heavy foot still 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. 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. If you opt for Freedom Drive II, you might like driving the car, but that means you're stuck with the CVT.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Kia Sportage -- The Sportage presents a sleeker package with a more modern interior, better handling and solid fuel economy.

2015 Ford Escape -- The Escape handles like a Focus on stilts, which is essentially what it is, and its technology offerings are top-notch.

2015 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.

Used Jeep Wrangler -- None of the three crossovers mentioned above have any off-roading pedigree, but if that's what you're after, why not 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.

AutoTrader's Advice

Despite its lackluster CVT, we'd suggest taking a look at the Freedom Drive II off-road package, since there's little else to recommend this Jeep given the strength of its competition.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Jeep Compass: New Car Review - Autotrader