If you’re looking for a compact SUV, the Jeep store is pretty good place to look, as there are three SUVs from which to choose. The 2019 Jeep Compass is the middle child of that group: Larger than the subcompact Renegade, but less refined and comfortable than the similarly sized Cherokee. It’s also not available with its big brother’s engine upgrades, which, in our view, is the main reason you’ll want to think twice about the Compass. Its only engine choice is not a great one.
Besides that, though, the Compass has a lot working in its favor. It comes well-equipped, including a larger standard touchscreen for 2019, is generally pleasant to drive and is arguably the best-looking of its compact siblings. Plus, its off-road capability — especially the Compass Trailhawk — gives it a distinct advantage over most non-Jeep competitors. See the 2019 Jeep Compass models near you
Of course, there are a great many of those competitors out there, and if you’re not particularly enamored by Jeep’s style and off-road capability, cross-shopping outside that Jeep store is definitely recommended.
What’s New for 2019?
The Compass now comes standard with a larger, 7-inch touchscreen, while adaptive cruise control is added to the options list. There are also two new appearance packages for 2019. The Upland edition adds some Trailhawk design cues to the base Sport trim, while the High Altitude adds special styling elements to the Limited.
What We Like
Unmistakeable Jeep styling; ample user-friendly tech; distinctive, off-road-ready Trailhawk version
What We Don’t
Meager performance and unremarkable fuel economy; unresponsive 9-speed transmission; limited small item storage
The standard engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. It has a stop/start feature to save a little gas when idling. The default transmission is a 6-speed manual in the lower trims, while a 6-speed automatic is the alternative for front-drive versions. All-wheel-drive models offer a 9-speed automatic.
Despite this drivetrain variety, fuel economy really doesn’t change much. A front-wheel-drive Compass with the automatic returns an estimated 22 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. Four-wheel-drive versions are pretty much the same as that, regardless of transmission. The front-wheel drive and the manual pairing does yield a slight uptick to 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined. All are unremarkable for the segment.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Jeep Compass is a compact 5-seat crossover that comes in Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk trim levels.
The Sport ($21,295) comes with 16-inch steel wheels, hill-start assist, black door handles, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a backup camera, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a 115-volt power outlet, a 7-in touchscreen, a USB port, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker audio system. With optional all-wheel drive, the Sport includes Selec-Terrain traction settings that include Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud. The Tech Group adds roof rails, rear parking sensors, body-colored door handles, proximity entry, push-button start and satellite radio. The Upland Edition adds Trailhawk-inspired design elements, including 17-in alloy wheels.
The Latitude ($24,595) adds its own 17-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, fog lamps, ambient LED cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth/vinyl upholstery and the Tech Group equipment. This trim is not available with the manual transmission. The Altitude Special Edition adds to the Latitude equipment a variety of black exterior design elements, including 18-in wheels.
The Limited ($27,795) adds 18-in alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, remote ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a manual height-adjustable passenger seat, a heated steering wheel and an 8.4-in touchscreen.
The Trailhawk ($28,795) has standard all-wheel drive with low-range gearing and a crawl mode, a more off-road-appropriate suspension, greater ground clearance, hill-descent control, skid plates, tow hooks (two at the front, one at the back), all-season on/off-road tires, unique 17-in wheels, a full-size spare, special styling and all-season rubber floor mats. Inside, the Trailhawk builds on the Latitude’s equipment with cloth/leather upholstery and the 8.4-in touchscreen. The Leather Interior Group basically adds all the Limited’s extra equipment.
Optional on the Sport, Latitude and Trailhawk is the Cold Weather Group that adds a windshield wiper de-icer, heated front seats, heated steering wheel and all-season floor mats (if not already equipped). Optional on the Latitude and Trailhawk is the Popular Equipment Group that adds Limited’s upgrade seat adjustments and an auto-dimming mirror. A compact spare is optional on non-Trailhawk trims.
The top three trims are eligible for several other packages. The Safety and Security Group adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning, rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and remote ignition. To that group you can add the Advanced Safety Group, which includes lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, and when equipped with the automatic transmission, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. The Premium Lighting Group adds bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights and LED taillights. Other options on these trims include a tow package, a power liftgate, a panoramic sunroof and integrated navigation.
Standard safety features include anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control and seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knees). The top three trims can be equipped with forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic warning system.
The Compass received four stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) including 4-star frontal and five-star side crash ratings. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a Top Safety Pick for its best-possible crashworthiness and crash prevention scores. Its headlights were rated Marginal (second-worst).
Behind the Wheel
If there’s a reason to think twice about the Compass, it’s the engine. Although its 180 horsepower seems perfectly competitive for the segment, the resulting acceleration ultimately is not, and it sounds coarse and unrefined when in operation. Not helping things is the 9-speed automatic paired with all-wheel drive. This transmission is incredibly slow to respond to throttle inputs and often chooses the wrong gear. Passing maneuvers can be frustrating. We’d say avoid it, but then not many people want a manual transmission or a front-wheel-drive Jeep.
This is really a shame, since the Compass is otherwise a pleasant little SUV to drive. Now, it’s not as cushy or refined as the similarly sized Cherokee, nor as agile as some compact SUV rivals, but it’s otherwise confident and secure. You also sit quite high, which is often a reason people want an SUV in the first place.
And to take that a step further, a big reason people want a Jeep in the first place is its off-road ability (or at least the perception of it). For this, the Compass Trailhawk legitimately delivers. No, it’s not a Wrangler, but for a compact crossover, it’s exceptional. Besides its low-range gearing and crawl mode, the Trailhawk enjoys ground clearance of 8.5 inches (versus 7.8 or 8.2 in other trims), an approach angle of 30.3 degrees, a breakover angle of 24.4 degrees and a departure angle of 33.6 degrees. These are pretty good figures for something that still works well on the street. Just be mindful that the Trailhawk’s off-road-oriented suspension does make the ride a bit rougher and the handling a bit worse in comparison to other trims.
Inside, the Compass is handsome and well-equipped, especially in terms of its abundant, user-friendly technology. Materials quality is merely acceptable, though, and you won’t find the sort of clever small item storage up front as you’ll find in many compact SUV competitors. There’s also less space for larger items. Cargo capacity runs to 27.2 cu ft. with the rear seats in place, or 59.8 cu ft. when they’re folded down. Many competitors have at least 10 cu ft. more, which is significant.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Subaru Crosstrek — For those more interested in the Compass’ capability, space and price than its Jeep style, the Crosstrek is an excellent choice that comes well-equipped — including standard all-wheel drive.
2019 Jeep Cherokee — If you’re OK paying a bit more for greater refinement and a stronger engine, upgrading to the similarly sized Cherokee is probably a good idea. Although both were updated for 2019, you can see how they generally compare in our article from last year explaining the differences between the Compass and Cherokee.
2019 Kia Sportage — The value-rich Sportage provides a better on-road driving experience and a higher-quality interior than the similarly sized and priced Compass. Its warranty is also longer.
Used Honda CR-V — Admittedly, there’s no rugged Jeep-like coolness to the CR-V. But if anyone is looking for a good, reliable used compact crossover, this does the job. A certified pre-owned (CPO) version comes with a decent warranty.
The Trailhawk represents the Compass at its most distinctive and therefore appealing. Alternatively, the new Upland Edition could be a good call: It offers much of the Trailhawk’s look, but trades capability and equipment for a lower price point. Find a Jeep Compass for sale